Let's face it, Norwegian cross-country skier Maiken Caspersen Falla is not new to the world of sprinting on skis. After all, she's been the Olympic champion of Sochi 2014 and two years ago in Lahti, she won the world title in the individual sprinting competition. Apart from that, she has also won two gold medals at world championships in the team sprints, as well as one in a relay. She won a silver medal at the individual sprint in the 2018 Winter Olympics, and also won a couple of bronze medals on the road.
The silver medal she won in PyeongChang last year was because she had to settle with the fact that Stina Nilsson was the better skier that day in South Korea. Well, today was the most important race for the sprinters since that South Korean race, and Falla was determined to show revenge on the Swedish skier.
Sprinting in cross-country skiing is not just something like you do within a few seconds like it is in for instance athletics. Girl Power Lady of the Day yesterday, Marie-Josée Ta Lou only needed 7.02 seconds to give her that title. Sprinting on skis is different. The ladies started this morning with a qualification race. Only the first 30 skiers of that race would qualify for the elimination rounds. The finishing order will then divide the skiers over several groups to create a quarter final, a semi final and eventually a final.
Neither of the two favorites were to be found in the top section of the qualification round, however. Another Swedish skier, Maja Dahlqvist, finished first. The second place was for Nadine Fähndrich from Switzerland, whereas yet another Swedish skier, Hanna Falk finished in third place. Falla and Nilsson did make it within the top 30 though, but it wasn't very impressive yet. Falla finished in sixth place, more than 2 seconds behind Dahlqvist, whereas Nilsson only finished in 12th place, almost 4 seconds behind the winner.
Of course these favorites have done it all before, and they know exactly how to approach such events, with multiple short races on the menu. If you know 30 skiers qualify, you probably also know that if you are good enough, you can save some energy for later, by skiing fast, but not giving it all yet in the qualifications. Basically said, after the qualifications, the race was actually going to start.
The quarter finals existed of five races, and each race had six skiers in them. Stina Nilsson had to show her skills already in the first race. The top two of each race qualifies, as well as the two fastest skiers outside of the top two. Nilsson finished second 0.04 seconds behind winner Kristine Skistad, but she was just 0.09 seconds ahead of Sophie Caldwell. In the second quarter final, it was Falla's turn, and she showed that she was ready to take the challenge. She won the race with almost half a second ahead of second placed Jonna Sundling. Mari Eide won race three, Victoria Carl finished ahead of Dahlqvist in race four, whereas Jessica Diggins won the fifth race.
Falla and Nilsson met each other in the first semi final, but the competition was high. With only the last straight line left five of the six skiers were on track to challenge the top two. This forced the favorites to go a bit deeper than they would have hoped for, however they managed to stay ahead of the bunch and qualify for the final. As the other skiers were that close to the top two, also Jonna Sundling and Mari Eide qualified for the final based on their time. The second semi final was (not much) slower. Only two skiers qualified from that race, winner Maja Dahlqvist and Victoria Carl.
One more race to go, six ladies from three countries going to decide who would be the new individual sprint world champion. One German, two Norwegians and three Swedes. They were all potential winners of the gold medal, but only one could win it. The first one to be eliminated was Maja Dahlqvist. Due to some trouble with her skis, she couldn't keep up with the pace and had to let the group go in the beginning of the race. In the final sprint towards the finish Victoria Carl was the next one to let the group go, whereas Jonna Sundling came really close to win a medal, but had to settle with the fourth place. Who did manage to win a medal was Mari Eide, who took the bronze. Falla and Nilsson were side by side on their way to the finish, when Falla pushed forward in the ultimate sprint, eventually finishing 1.66 seconds in front of Nilsson, winning her second gold medal at the individual sprint at the world championships.
American cyclist Ruth Winder won the first stage of the Setmana Ciclista Valenciana. In the final sprint she defeated Soraya Paladin and Karol-Ann Canuel.
It was quarter final day at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Elina Svitolina had no problem with the experienced Carla Suárez Navarro, 6-2, 6-3. Viktoria Kuzmova was unable to win against Petra Kvitova. After a challenging first set in which Kvitova won 6-4, the match was over. Kvitova continued to win game after game to eventually win the set 6-0. We will not see Simona Halep and Karolina Pliskova in the semi finals of the tournament. Both lost their quarter finals in three sets. Simona Halep was defeated by Belinda Bencic, whereas Su-Wei Hsieh surprised Karolina Pliskova to win 7-5 in the third set.