The Women: World Cup victory for Kowalczyk
The Polish top skier Justyna Kowalczyk gave herself an early birthday present, on the day before her 25th birthday, and won the Pursuit race over 7,5 km in classical style and 7,5 km in free technique on the former Olympic venue from 1988 at Canmore (CAN).
Kowalczyk claimed victory on the challenging 3,75 km loops in the Canmore Nordic Centre, clearly 15,9 seconds ahead of the Russian Evgenia Medvedeva. The third place was taken by Olga Rotcheva (RUS), 22,9 seconds behind Kowalczyk.
It was a very tight race in the classic part. The attack of Jusytina Kowalcyzk came in the second part of the free style race, where she made the gap between her and the rest of the field.
For Kowalczyk, it is the second World Cup victory ever in her career after finishing first in the 10 km classic race in Otepää, in the winter season 2006/2007. Evgenia Medvedeva took her third podium place in her career, while her team mate Olga Rotcheva, finished for the first time under the top three in a World Cup competition.
In the lead of the overall World Cup ranking is still Charlotte Kalla, who is not on-site in Canada due to sickness. Virpi Kuitunen from Finland is now only 90 points behind Kalla, after a seventh place finish today. On third place is Arianna Follis (6th in today's race), 154 points behind Kalla.
Justyna Kowalczyk (POL): It was a very nice race. It is my first time here, but I like it very much. I was sick recently so I did not expect such a good result. The course was very hard and very slow, but I guess it was even better for me.
Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS): It seemed like a Slovenian day. Poland first, two from Russia and fourth from Ukraine.
I have had been in first place before, here at the Nordic Centre, and third, and now I am second. Every athlete dreams of being in the podium and I wish I always finish in the top places. I will participate in the 10km, but I am not sure about the sprint. I can't guess what place I will be in but I will be determined.
Olga Rotcheva (RUS): Yes, this is my first podium place after having my baby. I am always fourth or fifth. I am really very happy. I skied well in the Tour de Ski. Did I expect to be so strong after? Yes, I've got a good start, and best results here.
The Men: Nikolai Pankratov won his first World Cup
25-year-old Nikolai Pankratov from Russia claimed his first World Cup victory in the Pursuit race over 15 km + 15 km in Canmore.
In a very tight finish of the Pursuit race, Nikolai Pankratov managed the victory. He finished just 0,4 seconds ahead of the ski veteran, Giorgio Di Centa (ITA). The third place was decided by a photo finish between German skiers, Axel Teichmann and Tobias Angerer. Teichmann was slightly ahead of Angerer, claiming the third place 0,6 seconds behind the winner.
The spectators on-site and in front of the TV saw a challenging and exciting race. At the end, the top 18 skiers crossed the finish line within 9 seconds. The Germans, Italians and Russian managed the course in an excellent way and among the top 18 – Germany had four racers placed there and Russia and Italy three.
While Nikolai Pankratov won this first World Cup race, the second of today's races, Giorgio Di Centa is still waiting for this World Cup success.
In the overall World Cup, the Tour de Ski winner Lukas Bauer is clearly in the lead with 816 points. Due to sickness after the challenging Tour he is not competing in the Canmore World Cup races. Now in second place is René Sommerfeldt, who finished today 18th, with 527 points. Ranked in third is Tor Arne Hetland with 515 points.
In the Distance World Cup, Lukas Bauer is in the lead just 5 points ahead of Axel Teichmann. In third place follows Valerio Checchi from Italy, 147 points behind Bauer.
Nikolai Pankratov (RUS): Yes, even though I had bib number thirteen, I had success today. There was good weather for the Russian team, first and the second was ninth. The Russian team had a victory to be on the podium today, and I needed it. My skis were very very fast, and I think I have enough strength to ski faster.
I have another race, and then I have to rest after all the races. I will have a holiday once I go home.
This course has big big mountains. My coach, Alexey Prokurorov, won here in Canmore at the 1988 Olympics. He told me I can make it on these tracks.
Giorgio Di Centa (ITA): Yes, I like Canmore and Canada very much. It is my second or third time here. I like to take the Italian wax technicians and coaches because they all had a good day.
I have never had a World Cup win so I hope to do it in the next race.
The Classic part was tough. In skating, even if you arrive on the long hill alone, it is almost impossible to be in the lead because of the long downhill going into the stadium.
The course was very good. Congratulations to the men who prepared the track for today.
Axel Teichmann (GER): I found it tough. I did not have the fastest skis. I was hard for me to fight to get in front of the rest of the field. Skating was better and better. It was good, and I was third in the end.
I have the Classic tomorrow and the 15km free style on Friday. I will have a vacation when I go home. It is hard to train on these tracks.
I have been in Canada before, for the 1997 Junior World Championships and again in December 2005, but unfortunately I was sick.