The traditional cross-country skiing season opened on Saturday with a race in Vuokatti, Finland. Two of the country’s most promising skiers won.
Photo: Heidi Lehikoinen
Olli Ahonen (FIN)
The first ski race of the season will be held this weekend in Vuokatti, Finland. On Saturday, it was time for the sprint in freestyle technique, and several of the country’s strongest skiers had solid results.
On the women’s side, Jasmi Jönsuu won the final ahead of Tiia Olkkonen. Jönsuu was the early favorite to win and the fastest in the prologue.
For Olkkonen, the race’s purpose was to gain some confidence ahead of the FIS opener in Muonio next weekend. The 23-year-old says that she has had a good time training with national team veteran Krista Pärmäkoski in the pre-season this year.
“It’s been incredibly inspiring to train with someone who has been my role model since I was little. It’s given my confidence a huge boost,” Olkkonen tells Maastohiihto.com.
Pärmäkoski did not take part in Saturday’s sprint in Vuokatti. She has changed her focus this year and mainly concentrates on distance races. However, she is ready for the prestigious FIS races in Muonio next weekend.
The Norwegian men’s national team, Italy, Germany, several national team athletes from Austria, Canada, and the USA, national groups, and elite skiers from various Nordic clubs and private teams will also be competing. Petter Northug will also compete with the World Cup elite for the first time in five years.
New Finnish sprint talent is on the way
On the men’s side, it was Olli Ahonen who won. After fourth place in the prologue, he went faster and better throughout the day and won the final by a good margin.
The youngster, who made his World Cup debut at Beitostølen last December and is regarded as one of Finland’s most promising sprinters, took the victory at the first race of the season this year. He won the skate sprint far ahead of Lauri Lepistö, while Emil Liekari finished third.
“I don’t know if the conditions were different this year, but I had to fight much harder for the second place I took here last year than today. The plan was to handle it better today,” Ahonen tells Maastohiihto.com.
The races in Vuokatti are the first round of the Finnish National Cup. For many participants, the weekend serves as a dress rehearsal for the first FIS race of the season, which takes place in Muonio next weekend.
However, several national team veterans did not participate in Saturday’s sprint. In addition to Krista Pärmäkoski, Kerttu Niskanen was also missing on the women’s side. Neither Iivo Niskanen nor Niko Anttola participated in Vuokatti. However, they are expected to start at the prestigious FIS races in Muonio next weekend.
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by HEIDI LEHIKOINEN/LEANDRO LUTZ
Photo: Metod Močnik
Photo: Metod Močnik
Ski-Willy Marathon Team Austria during a training camp in Sportgastein.