Swedish, Italian skiers win World Cup-opening sprints in Germany
Swedish, Italian skiers win World Cup-opening sprints in GermanyAnother blockbuster crowd of perhaps 60,000 watched Saturday as Sweden’s Peter Larsson and Gabriela Paruzzi of Italy overcame rainy conditions to win the opening World Cup cross country ski races of the season, sprints on machine-made snow along the Rhine River in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Larsson, who also won the opener a year ago, took the lead with about 200 meters remaining in the 1.5-kilometer race. Czech Martin Koukal, the defending world 50km champion who, coincidentally, trained with the Swedes during the summer, took the early lead in the four-man final but he couldn’t hold off Larsson. Sweden’s world sprint gold medalist Thobias Fredriksson was third and teammate Bjoern Lind was fourth.
Olympic biathlete Jay Hakkinen, who lives and trains in Germany after failing to make the U.S. Biathlon Team this season, was the only U.S. racer in either the men’s or women’s events. He finished 73rd.
Paruzzi edged Russia’s Alena Sidko and Evgenia Hahina with 32-year-old Uschi Disl, a German biathlete who has won Olympic and World Championships medals, finishing fourth. Defending World Cup and world sprint champ Marit Bjoergen was sixth.
The snow for the 800m-loop was trucked to the riverside site from a ski area outside ofthe city. Rain, which threatened — and held down the crowd, which was estimated at more than 100,000 a year ago — but then looked like it might hold off, finally arrived at the start of the semifinal heats, about a half-hour from the finish of the races.