Norwegian dominance of cross-country skiing continued as the new World Cup season opened in Finland over the weekend. From the opening races on Friday through those on Sunday, Norwegian skiers were in the lead, even though one got confused, crossed a finish line too soon and declared herself an “idiot.”
The Norwegian victories began on Friday, when Sondre Turvoll Fossli, age 22, won his first senior World Cup victory in the men’s classic sprint. Maiken Caspersen Falla did the same in the women’s sprint, with fellow Norwegian Ingvild Flugstad Østberg placing second and Norwegian men also claiming the second- and third-place podium spots: Eirik Brandsdal and Petter Northug respectively.
The winning streak continued on Saturday, when veteran Martin Johnsrud Sundby outclassed all his competitors including the much-hyped Northug in the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle race. Sundby continued to lead the pack on Sunday after his performance in the 15-kilometer pursuit, although Niklas Dyrhaug actually won that event. Sundby led the so-called “mini-tour,” with Northug in second place.
Skiing star Therese Johaug also picked up where she left off last season, winning the women’s events both on Saturday and Sunday to lead the statististics in all respects. Both Johaug and Sundby were widely branded as all but unbeatable by commentators, leaving the Norwegians in top position as the ski racing season got underway.
Sunday’s 10-kilometer pursuit for the women turned into a fiasco, however, for Norwegian skier Heidi Weng, an otherwise strong competitor who finished third in the world last year. She got confused at the end of the third lap and skied into the arena, thinking the race was only 7.5 kilometers. She quickly realized her blunder and had to ski out again, to race the remaining 2.5 kilometers, ending up in 13th place in the race itself and ninth overall.
“I am perhaps the world’s biggest idiot now and then,” she told reporters later. She was in position to end second or third, which would have made for an all-Norwegian troupe on the podium, since Johaug won and Østberg finished third. Stina Nilsson of Sweden placed second.