The first races of the World Cup Final weekend, the relays, were both won by Switzerland, always strong on home terrain. Joey Hadorn and Simona Aebersold on the third legs brought their teams home in front by 32 seconds and 1 minute 5 seconds respectively.
The Swiss first team won the men’s relay with two decisive performances, the first from evergreen Daniel Hubmann who came to the first change-over in the lead. Then last-leg runner Joey Hadorn was clearly the strongest of everyone on the hills; he went out 1.32 down on the lead and made a couple of early mistakes (almost 1 minute), but could still bring the team to victory by 32 seconds.
The race started well for Simon Imark, Sweden 2, who got up a good lead in the early stages. Hubmann was running very strongly and surely, however, and gave Florian Howald the best possible start on leg 2. But Kasper Harlem Fosser, Norway, out 1.40 down on the lead, again showed his prowess with a strong performance that brought him just to the front by the end of the leg. Here, all three Swiss teams were close together, just behind.
Sweden 2 got ahead again early on leg 3, but sadly their leg 2 runner Isac von Krusenstierna had been disqualified for mispunching. Norway’s Eskil Kinnerberg was in the lead for parts of the leg, and Sweden 1 (Anton Johansson) also came into contention by the arena passage. Then Hadorn really showed his speed and strength, while Johansson made a mistake heading for the wrong boulder in open ground at control 16. Sweden 1 finished in bronze medal position, 52 seconds down on Switzerland.
In the women’s race Sweden’s Lisa Risby, after a slow start, was strongest on first leg, finishing just ahead of Norway and Switzerland. Second-leg runners Sara Hagstrom (Sweden) and Marie Olaussen (Norway) built up a sizeable gap, but towards the end of the leg home athlete Sabine Hauswirth was the best, bringing the gap down to 15 seconds behind Sweden at the changeover.
Simona Aebersold then ran an excellent final leg for Switzerland, taking over the lead at the half-way mark and never looking like losing it.
As in the men’s race there was a long leg of around 1 km, mainly uphill, in the middle of the race. It offered interesting route choice as well as being physically challenging in the mix of alpine forest and open ground, and with special care needed in the approach to the control. The course as a whole lent itself to some dramatic TV pictures, both around controls and on some of the spectacular Swiss alpine terrain, up to 2,000 m above sea level.
Unfortunately the day’s weather didn’t match the scenery – there was rain throughout and it was very cold.
The next race, tomorrow, is the Individual Middle Distance starting at 9.20.
- Switzerland 1 (Elena Roos, Sabine Hauswirth, Simona Aebersold) 1:45:59
- Sweden 1 (Lisa Risby, Sara Hagstrom, Sanna Fast) + 1.05
- Norway 1 (Tone Bergerud Lye, Marie Olaussen, Andrine Benjaminsen) + 3.00
- Czechia + 11.07, 5. Finland + 11.11, 6. Poland + 13.56.
- Switzerland 1 (Daniel Hubmann, Florian Howald, Joey Hadorn) 1:41:34
- Norway 1 (Magne Dahli, Kasper Harlem Fosser, Eskil Kinneberg) + 0.32
- Sweden 1 (Viktor Svensk, Emil Svensk, Anton Johansson) + 0.52
- Czechia + 1.42, 5. Italy + 2.23, 6. France + 4.20.