At least Pål Golberg‘s victory in the men’s 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint on Friday was a little bit of a nail biter. The 24-year-old Norwegian sat tight and timed his attack perfectly to overtake and outsprint Russia’s Alexey Petukhov and Norway’s Finn Hågen Krogh before the finish of the World Cup final in Lillehammer, Norway.
Skiing in the back three until the final massive climb up toward the stadium, Golberg and the chase group caught the leaders by the base, where Golberg rode his momentum and attacked through the top to move to second behind Krogh. He ended up holding off Petukhov and nipping Krogh for the win in 3:20.51. Petukhov was second, 0.24 seconds back, and Krogh settled for third, just five-hundredths of a second behind the Russian.
Finland’s Juho Mikkonen charged hard late for fourth (+0.56), and Canada’s Alex Harvey slipped from third on the last climb to fifth at the finish (+1.13). Norway’s Emil Iversen finished last in the men’s final in sixth (+4.15).
Marit Bjørgen came out on all cylinders in front of a Norwegian-strong crowd, leaving no question as to who would win each of her 1.3 k quarterfinals and semifinals: a leader from start to finish — it was going to be her. In the final, Bjørgen jolted off the line with the same tactic, leading a train of three other Norwegians throughout the race.
Heidi Weng trailed her initially, then Celine Brun-Lie and Maiken Caspersen Falla, respectively. Germany’s Denise Herrmann and Slovenia’s Katja Visnar were finalists, too, but the two women didn’t see any action near the front.
Bjørgen led her teammates into the stadium, where Brun-Lie won the race for second, edging Weng by 0.04 seconds. Bjørgen capped the day with a 0.76-second victory in 2:55.71 for her second-straight sprint win in as many World Cup sprints this season.
After Weng in third (+0.8), Falla finished fourth (+1.43), Visnar was fifth (+4.43), and Herrmann sixth (+7.57).
Two North Americans qualified for the heats: Sadie Bjornsen of the U.S. and Harvey for Canada.
In the women’s race, Bjornsen qualified in 16th and went on to finish fifth in her quarterfinal behind Norway’s Heidi Weng in first, Herrmann in second, Norway’s Silje Øyre Slind in third, and Norway’s Kathrine Rolsted Harsem in fourth. Bjornsen placed 21st overall.