The first day of the FIS Roller Ski World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk is over. The competition among the best roller skiers were opened by the interval start races. The distance was 12km for ladies and 16km for men. It took place in the Alexander Filipenko Winter Sports Center. Ladies were the first to go.
Polina Bolshakova of Moscow district was the first to hit the track. There were six Russian athletes out of eleven junior athletes alltogether. The best time on the first lap which length was 3 750m showed Ekaterina Belozerova. She had almost five second advantage. But she couldn’t keep it that way for long. Her compatriot Arina Bylinko caught up with Ekaterina and stayed by the side for a long time. During the final meters of the race Arina managed to speed up and crossed the finish line with time 23:44.1, and that was a gold medal. Ekaterina Belozerova finished 4,7 seconds back the winner. The third athlete to cross the finish line was Anna Abrahamsson of Sweden.
“We are friends with Alena in our non-sport lives. We don’t have any strong competition between us. First of all, we are a part of the same team and second – if a person is great, there is no problem being friends with them. This visit to Khanty-Mansiysk is my first one. To tell the truth we don’t like the sharp turn of one particular lap – we weren’t ready for it. But this track is good for work in general anyway”, – told Ekaterina Belozerova.
The winner of the race Arina Bylinko also shared her emotions of today: “This is my first World Cup race. The track is really sharp in terms of turns and I had to be extra careful, but it went really well after all. My coach guided me through it and the last lap I worked as hard as I could”.
Russian strength in numbers continued among women. 11 athletes out of 18 were competing to win points and medals for Russia. After all it was their home leg. From the first meters of the distance Svetlana Nikolaeva demonstrated high speed and kept being the leader through the entire race. She methodically increased the advantage over the nearest pursuers by one second per kilometer, which allowed her to win gold with a result of 19: 49.4. Only at the last turns of the world famous biathlon center Svetlana allowed herself to let the main rival in this race Sandra Shuettsova get a little closer. But to reduce the gap of four seconds during the last 1,250 m was an impossible task for the Czech athlete. The third result was shown by Olga Mikhailova of Russia.
“I decided to work hard from the start to the finish. The distance was not so difficult after all. There were three laps, not too much to put up with, and long downhills gave me a chance to recover. I had a two-second advantage before the last lap and I had to grip my teeth and work” – summed up the winner.
Sadly the leader of the Overall standing Alena Prochazkova didn’t manage to show a result enough to hit the podium. She finished fourth keeping her rank.
The start list of junior men race included 21 athlete. The best among Russians Alexander Grigoriev started 20th. Right after him was the leader of overall cup standings Johan Ekberg of Sweden. The battle between these two athletes was the main intrigue on the first laps of the race. However, in the middle of the race Ekberg slowed down. At that moment the main guide for Grigoriev was Damir Alimbekov who finished with a result 28:31.1. Grigoriev managed to finish 20,3 seconds faster than the intermediate leader. Another Russian athlete Ilya Kuznetsov took third place.
“I didn’t feel well in the morning so this victory wasn’t actually expected. I supposed to be in Top-5. I am very surprised and happy now. On the first lap I was informed about the time of Ekberg, but then he slowed down and I was directed by other athlete. So it came out like this” – said Alexander Grigoriev.
Swedish duet Victor Gustafsson and Robin Norum became gold and silver medalists of men’s individual race. The result of Gustafsson was 26:59.2, while the overall cup standings leader Norum finished 15,9 seconds back the winner. Anton Shatagin of Russia finished third – 27:21.4.
“I am very happy about the race. I started hard and just keeped on pushing then I came up with my teammates so we helped each other a bit. I think Khanty-Mansiysk is awesome and there is a very nice track, probably the best I’ve ever skied on”, – said the winner after the race.
The oldest participant of the event was Gennady Pashkin from Khanty-Mansiysk. Born in 1953 he was 18th at finish. It is to be noted that just a week ago the athlete participated in the regional roller ski competitions on Alexander Filipenko Winter Sports Center and got two gold medals in his age group.
The fist competition day was very lucky for team Russia with three gold, three silver and two bronze medals. Sweden team got three medals while Czech Republic got one silver medal.