Duel of the Kings on the Flüela-Slope
On the upcoming weekend, Davos Nordic offers a complete cross-country skiing World Cup program on Saturday and Sunday, featuring men’s and women’s long-distance as well as sprint competitions. The main focus lies on the duel between Dario Cologna and Petter Northug.
The on-going cross-country skiing season during which neither World Championships nor Olympics take place, holds its very own special charm. The battle for the overall World Cup victory moves to the centre of attention. In fact, the odds-on favourites have already set themselves up. The Norwegian Petter Northug leads the temporary classification of the World Cup followed by the Swiss Dario Cologna. Northug, two times Olympic Champion and seven times World Champion, is the most successful cross-country skier of present times and Cologna, Olympic Champion in Vancouver (CA) over a distance of 30 km and two times World Cup Overall Winner, his most feared opponent. One exciting detail: Neither one has so far succeeded in winning in Davos. Already in November, Cologna has Davos Nordic declared to be his first crucial goal of the season. The 25 years-old from the Grisons lives almost next to the Flüela-Slope. According to experience, the circle of aspirants for the winners of the daily races, is to be drawn much wider. Last years’ winner, for example, was the Kazak Alexej Poltaranin followed by the Russian Alexander Legkow and the Czech Lukas Bauer. Not to be forgotten are the Swedes Marcus Hellner and Johan Olsson. Another one to aim for a top position is Cologna’s team-mate Remo Fischer who showed an astounding first race of the season in Sjusjöen (No) when he became sixth.
The sprint competition on Sunday, taking place in and around the stadium on the clearly laid out Bünda-terrain, promises to be a first-class cross-country skiing spectacle. Emil Jönsson was the one to win in the previous year. It’s not out of the blue that the Swede, two times winner of the overall Sprint World Cup, describes Davos to be his favourite destination: last summer, Jönsson even made Davos his temporary residence in order to optimally train, on a medium-term, for the Olympics in Sotschi 2014 (Russ). In the first Sprint Competition of this season last Saturday that took place in Düsseldorf (GER), the speedy Norwegian Ola Vigen Hattestad excelled, followed by the Russian Alexej Petuchow. The Swiss Eligius Tambornino (8th), Jöri Kindschi (9th) and Martin Jäger (11th) also showed a pleasing performance in Germany.
As for the women, Marit Björgen is the one to beat, not only in the long-distance race, but also in the sprint competition. Last year, the Norwegian won both races in Davos. She is simply the most dominant athlete in women’s cross-country skiing. At the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, she won three gold medals and at the World Championships in her home in country in Oslo last spring, even four gold and one silver medal. The 31-year old invests a lot for her success: she trained up to 90 hours per month in the summer. In the temporary classification of the World Cup, Björgen is followed by two of her team-mates, Therese Johaug and Vibeke Skofterud. Primarily, Charlotte Kalla (Sd), Justyna Kowalczyk (Pol), Kikkan Randall (USA) and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen (Fi) are the ones trying to break through the Norwegian phalanx. But one can also be anxious for the performance of Laurien van den Graaf in the Sprint Competition. The Davos athlete caused the biggest sensation in Düsseldorf when becoming third.
Because the onset of winter has only hit Davos at the beginning of this week, the FIS has not yet made a final decision on the distances for the single races on Saturday. Initially planned were 30 km for the men’s and 15 km for the women’s in free technique. At this moment, 15 km for the men’s and 10 km for the women’s seem much more likely.
Text: Hansruedi Camenisch