Given the choice, who would you ski for: Korea or Norway? Dual citizen and most recently, dual gold medalist at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, Magnus Kim, found the answer easy. He chose Korea.
“They [Norwegians] actually like me representing Korea because people think this is an opportunity to develop the sport,” 17-year-old Kim said in an Yonhap news press release. “In Norway, most people welcome the idea of promoting skiing to other countries.”
The son of a Norwegian and Korean couple, Kim won his second gold medal last Thursday, Feb. 18, in the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle individual start. He completed the 2 x 5 k course in a time of 23:04.8, the next best finisher, Vebjørn Hegdal of Norway, 16 seconds behind.
“I had thought about winning a medal in this event, but I didn’t expect to collect two gold medals and one silver,” Kim said.
Along with Thursday’s gold medal in the 10 k, Kim also collected a silver medal in the preceding classic sprint and a gold medal in the cross-country cross sprint.
Thursday’s bronze medal went to Igor Fedotov of Russia, who finished 54.4 seconds back from Kim’s winning time.
American Hunter Wonders, of Anchorage, Alaska, raced to a top-10 finish in the 10 k for his best finish at this year’s Youth Olympic Games (YOG). He placed eighth (+1:43.7), two-tenths of second behind Finnish skier Remi Lindholm in seventh (1:43.5).
The second North American in the men’s 10 k was Canadian Levi Nadlersmith, who finished in 28th (+3:13.8).
“The Youth Olympic Games has been an amazing experience to be a part of!” Nadlersmith told Cross Country Canada. “I have learned an incredible amount from this opportunity to compete for Canada.”
In the women’s 5 k freestyle individual start, Russia’s Maya Yakunina won her first Youth Olympic Games gold medal, winning the event in a time of 12:58.8.
Though the win was what Yakunina “wanted to achieve” while on course, she stayed focused on the 5 k at hand.
“I tried not to think about the medal. I just wanted to do my best on the course and see what the result would be,” Yakunina said in an interview with Youth Information Service (YIS).
Winning China’s first medal in a YOG cross-country event was Chi Chunxue, finishing 31.1 seconds behind Yakunina’s time to take silver.
“Everyone wants to win gold, but you have to strive and really work hard for it,” Chunxue said to YIS. “Here [at the YOG] I met so many excellent athletes and this will inspire me to work even harder in the future.”
Thursday’s bronze medal went to Finland’s Rebecca Immonenen, who finished 37.1 seconds back from Yakunina’s time.
“It is unbelievable that I won bronze,” Immonenen told YIS. “This means so much to me.”
The two North American women in Thursday’s 5 k, Canadian Annika Richardson and American Hannah Halvorsen both bagged top 20’s, finishing 16th (+1:11) and 17th (+1:15), respectively.
“It was one of those magical days where I found I could access my reserves and my mental toughness easily,” Richardson told Cross Country Canada. “I love that I finished racing here at YOG on a high note.”
The10 k freestyle race on Thursday marked the final individual cross country event for both the men and women YOG competitors.
Friday brought cross-country skiers, ski jumpers and nordic-combined competitors together for the YOG’s first nordic mixed team normal hill/3 x 3.3 k relay.
Each team fielded five athletes: a female jumper, a male jumper, a nordic-combined athlete, a female cross-country skier, and a male cross-country skier. The three jumpers combined jump result determined the nordic-combined skier’s start time in the event’s skiing portion.
The skiing portion included 3 x 3.3 k legs. The first leg was skied by the team’s female cross-country competitor. Leg 2 was skied by the nordic-combined athlete. The third and final leg was raced by the team’s male cross-country competitor.
Taking the gold in the event was the Russian team, with ski jumpers Sofia Tikhonova and Maksim Sergeev, female cross-country skier Maya Yakunina, nordic-combined skier Vitalii Ivanov, and male cross-country skier Igor Fedotov, winning the relay race in 26:16.9.
Yakunina finished Leg 1 in first in a time of 8:45.1. Ivanov jumped to seventh place, Tikhonova jumped to second, and Sergeev ninth.
“This team competition is very important and I’m glad that I was able to do my part well,” Tikhonova told YIS regarding her performance on Friday.
Russia’s combined team jumps put Ivanov on course 35 seconds behind Slovenia, the team with the best jumps of the day, with female jumper Ema Klinec, male jumper Bor Pavlovcic, nordic-combined athlete Vid Vrhovnik, female cross-country skier Anja Mandeljc, and male cross-country skier Luka Markun.
Russia’s Ivanov then skied the sixth-fastest second leg in a time of 8:42.2 and tagged off to Fedotov, who anchored the Russians to first with the sixth-fastest third leg time of 8:14.6.
“Everything was wonderful and I was very happy when I crossed the line,” Fedotov told YIS. “Maya did a great job putting us in [position to challenge] the first position and the ski jumpers also did well.”
Following Russia’s first place finish was team Norway with silver. Female jumper Anna Odine Strøm, male jumper Marius Lindvik, female cross-country skier Martine Engebretsen, nordic combined athlete Lurås Einar Oftebro, and male cross country skier Vebjørn Hegdal made up the Norwegian team. They finished 21.1 seconds behind Russia.
“I saw the other guys were really tired in the long hill and I saw a really big opportunity there,” Hegdal told YIS regarding his relay leg. “ It’s amazing, it’s really cool to take silver as a team.”
Third place went to Germany, just one-tenth of a second ahead of Slovenia in fourth place and four-tenths of a second behind Norway.
Female jumper Agnes Reisch, male jumper Jonathan Siegel, female cross-country skier Anna-Maria Dietze, nordic-combined athlete Tim Kopp, and male cross country skier Philipp Unger garnered the bronze medals for Germany.
“I’m so happy, we had the perfect team and we all worked together,” Unger said to YIS after the race.
The Americans finished eighth (+2:09.8), with ski jumpers Logan Sankey and Casey Larson, Halvorsen, nordic-combined skier Ben Loomis, and Wonders.
Halvorsen skied the seventh-fastest first leg, 58 seconds back from Yukinina’s time. Loomis and Sankey both posted the 11th-best jumps, and Larson jumped to seventh. Their combined jumps put Loomis on course 1:59 back from Vrhovnik. Wonders anchored for the U.S., skiing the second-fastest third leg of the day in a time of 7:59.6.
Sankey wrote on Twitter that she was “stoked for the team event.”
The final day of competition for this year’s YOG included the biathlon mixed relay.
Two women and two men competed for each team, with the women skiing 6 k and the men skiing 7.5 k.
Winning the event gold medal in a time of 1:18:35.6 was the home team: Norway. Out on course first for the team was Marit Øygard, skiing the fifth-fastest first lap in a time of 19:15 after missing three prone shots (0+3) and two standing (0+2).
Øygard tagged off to Marthe Krakstad Johansen, who skied her leg the fastest in a time of 18:42.2 after cleaning prone and missing two in standing (0+2).
Next up for Norway was Fredrik Qvist Bucher-Johannessen, who was the fourth fastest to complete the third leg, skiing the 7.5 k in a time of 20:44.7 after missing three prone shots (0+3) and one standing (0+1).
Guttorn Sivert Bakken anchored Norway to gold, posting the third-fastest fourth leg after cleaning both stages.
“It was an extremely good event, all three of [my teammates] had a really good race and I had the extra time that I needed to get the gold,” Bakken told YIS.
Germany took silver, 7.6 seconds behind Norway, with first leg Juliane Fruehwirt, who missed three prone shots (0+3) and two standing (0+2). Franziska Pfnuer skied the second leg for Germany and cleaned both stages, then tagged Simon Gross, who completed the third leg with one penalty in prone (0+1). The final German was Danilo Riethmueller, who had the fastest-fourth leg in a time of 19:40.3 and one miss in prone (0+1) and two standing (0+2).
“It’s a little bit more emotional, because you fear and you hope with the others when they are at the shooting range. It was so amazing,” Fruehwirt told YIS.
Rounding out the podium was team Italy with the bronze medal. Samuela Comola cleaned both stages then tagged Irene Lardschneider, who cleaned prone and had two misses in standing (0+2).
Italian biathlete Cedric Christille got on course next, skiing the third leg in a time of 20:52.7, with one prone miss (0+1) and two standing (0+2). Italy’s final skier was Patrick Braunhofer, who skied the 7.5 loop in a time of 19:50.4 after cleaning prone and missing one shot standing (0+1).
“We were hoping for a medal since the start,” Braunhofer said to YIS. “When it becomes reality, it is impossible to describe. The first thing I thought arriving at the finish line was that everyone in the team had done a perfect job. Today we really had the perfect race.”
The Americans finished seventh, 6:20.6 behind Norway.
Chloe Levins started first for the U.S., cleaning prone and missing one shot standing (0+1). Levins passed off to Amanda Kautzer, who had a single prone miss (0+1) and two standing (0+2).
The first male on course for the U.S. was Vasek Cervenka, who used all three spares in prone and skied two penalty laps (2+3) and missed one shot standing (0+1).
Anchoring the Americans was Eli Nielsen, who skied a penalty lap (1+3) and one missed shot standing (0+1).
The Canadians placed 16th (+11:04.6), with starter Tekarra Banser, cleaning prone and missing two shots standing (0+2). Banser tagged off to Gillian Gowling, who had four penalty laps followed by two standing misses (0+2).
Leo Grandbois was Canada’s first male on course in a time of 21:12.3, with one missed shot prone (0+1) and two standing (0+2). Ben Churchill anchored the Canadians with two missed prone shots (0+2) and two standing misses (0+2).
— Gabby Naranja