Sergey Ustiugov has aggravated an old back injury during the Friday workout at the Olympic Zhangjiakou arena. The 29-year-old was one of the four Russians entered for the 30-kilometer skiathlon on Sunday.
However, following the team’s Friday workout, the Russian coaching staff said that Artem Maltsev will replace Ustiugov for the opening cross-country event at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.
Head coach Markus Kramer initially did not offer any further explanation as to why Ustiugov was pulled from the start list.
But according to Russian web site Championat, an old back injury is the reason why the Russian coaches changed the team roster for the skiathlon.
“Ustiugov has aggravated an old back injury,” Kramer explained. The injury likely occurred during the skate sprint in Davos, Switzerland, in December.
The courses at the Zhangjiakou arena are considered strenuous and challenging. Combined with the draggy, dry snow and cold temperatures, Ustiugov fears racing the 30-kilometer event could further exacerbate the pain and back injury.
Prioritizes the shorter events
After discussing the situation with his coaches and the president of the Russian ski federation Elena Vyalbe, Ustiugov has decided to focus on the shorter events.
The skate sprint is scheduled for Tuesday, February 8, only two days after the skiathlon, where Ustiugov’s goal is to beat Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo.
Additionally, Ustiugov is a shoe-in for the team sprint and an important member of the Russian relay team.
This is Russia’s team to the 2022 Olympics
Two potential replacements
While Ivan Yakimushkin was the first choice to replace Ustiugov to the 30km skiathlon, Yakimushkin’s main focus is the 15-kilometer classic event on February 11. Yakimushkin’s coach argued that the brutal 30-kilometer event does not fit into his overall peaking plan.
With Yakimushkin out of the mix, Artem Maltsev from Kramer’s training group sails up as the ideal replacement. Truly an all-rounder who performs equally well in classic and skate and also handles challenging courses exceptionally well.
Earlier this winter, Kramer said to ProXCskiing.com that he considers the 28-year-old a potential medal candidate, pointing out that Maltsev was the surprise during the 2021 World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany.
“Last season, Maltsev was very good, also in the World Championships. And not just in the relay. He finished fifth in the 15-kilometer race. He’s also an exciting racer, because he’s a real all-rounder. He can be used in every kind of event, from the sprints to the 50-kilometers, and of course in the relays,” Kramer said to ProXCskiiing.com.
Russia’s team to the 30km skiathlon
The 30-kilometer skiathlon takes place on Sunday, February 6. The event starts at 8am, CET. The mass start event opens with a 15-kilometer classic leg, followed by 15-kilometer skate leg.
At the 2018 Olympics, Norway claimed the entire podium: Simen Hegstad Krüger won the gold medal, Martin Johnsrud Sundby earned the silver medal and Hans Christer Holund took home the bronze medal.
Hegstad Krüger tested positive for Covid-19 last week and is still in isolation in Italy. Depending on his test results after his isolation, Hegstad Krüger could make the last half of the 2022 Olympics. Sundby has retired from World Cup-level racing, but Holund is a part of the 2022 Olympic team.
FACTS: 2022 OLYMPICS
What: XXIV Olympic Winter Games (24th edition)
Beijing 2022 – All you need to know
Where: Beijing, China
Biathlon, cross-country skiing and Nordic events will take place at the Zhangjiakou arena, situated at and above 1650 meters above sea level.
When: February 4 to 20, 2022
What happens when:
Complete schedule for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, all sports.
Who: 53 cross-country teams compete at the 2022 Olympics, each fielding from 1 to 16 athletes.
All the cross-country ski teams to the Beijing Winter Olympics
How: Where to watch the Olympics – World Wide
Results, start lists and competition details for all events at the 2022 Beijing Olympics will be posted here
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