Tove Alexandersson, Sweden and Matthias Kyburz, Switzerland are the first-ever KO-Sprint European Champions after a day of intense racing in the narrow streets, passages and not least steep stairways of central Neuchâtel. In both women’s and men’s classes, 36 qualifiers were cut down to 18 in the Quarter-Finals and then to six in three Semi-Final heats, these six competing in the Final.
The Men’s Final was close all the way, and had a really dramatic ending with 31-year-old Kyburz taking a different route from the others between the last two controls and just gaining a place in the process, holding on in the run-in and pushing compatriot Joey Hadorn into silver medal position. Bronze went to Kasper Harlem Fosser, Norway; all three finished within 3 seconds, and the fifth-placed of the six runners was only 7 seconds down. Earlier on in the race, Kyburz had taken a different route from the rest – said by the planner to be a good option – and taken the lead as a result, then Kasper Fosser did precisely the same in getting to control 9.
The Women’s Final was equally intense, with all three medallists holding the lead at different stages of the race. Alexandersson won by 8 seconds over home athlete Simona Aebersold with Andrine Benjaminsen, Norway third, a further 10 seconds down. The course was the same as the men’s, and Simona Aebersold set off strongly before Andrine Benjaminsen took up the lead. Tove Alexandersson took over first place at control 9 and thereafter showed her class with perfect navigation and very good agility on the steps and slopes.
Earlier, in the women’s Semi-Finals, Elena Roos lost out to Tereza Janosikova, Czech Republic and Vilma von Krusenstierna, Sweden in a sprint finish, in a heat with several runners making significant errors. Sabine Hauswirth, who finished second in her heat, was disqualified for missing a control, so Simona Aebersold was the only Swiss athlete in the Final.
The home nation’s men had a good day and not least in the Final, where Riccardo Rancan placed fourth. Vojtech Kral, Czech Republic won his Semi-Final heat but was just outpaced in the Final.
A damp day meant that the surfaces were slippery and there were a few minor falls on tight corners. The long flights of steps and steep slopes really exposed the varied physical strength and agility of the athletes – both in going up and going down. The terrain was very varied and included areas with tight passages with cafés and shops, hilly town centre streets and castle walls and parkland. The course planning was excellent, with tricky route choices at various stages of the course, and it was constantly fascinating to follow runners’ choices in crucial moments.
Tomorrow is the final race of the Championships, the Individual Sprint. The final 40 women and men in the start lists are the top 40 ranked athletes in the IOF Sprint Rankings. Web-TV is live between 1310 and 1535 CEST.
Knock-Out Sprint Final Results
- Tove Alexandersson SWE 6:49
- Simona Aebersold SUI +0.08
- Andrine Benjaminsen NOR +0.18
- Natalia Gemperle RUS + 0.35
- Vilma von Krusenstierna SWE + 0.38
- Tereza Janosikova CZE + 0.43
- Matthias Kyburz SUI 6:30
- Joey Hadorn SUI +0.01
- Kasper Harlem Fosser NOR +0.03
- Riccardo Rancan SUI + 0.04
- Vojtech Kral CZE + 0.07
- Audun Heimdal NOR + 0.22
Interview with the winners: