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Finland, Japan share cross country skiing glory

Winter Games 18 January 2023

Cross country skiing continued on Tuesday at Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games with the women’s 5km and men’s 10km individual classic races.

Those events present hard challenges as the races are long enough to require strength and endurance, while also, of course, demanding that competitors ski fast.

Spectators had to wait a long time to cheer on the eventual winner of the women’s contest as Finland’s Hilla Niemela was 65th out of 69 on the start list. As she crossed the finish line, the Finnish flags began to get waved and her time of 13:20.8 stood until the end.

The sprint gold medallist Mariel Merlii Pulles of Estonia (13:38.2) and Maria Eugenia Boccardi of Italy (13:43.0) followed at the finish line.

Niemela raced under control with a remarkable technique, especially on the hills. Although she did take a crash, she was able to pick herself up quickly and still prevail.

“I think that the most important thing is to keep your head straight and if you enjoy every moment here, that’s make a race so easy and fun,” she said proudly.

A similar scenario developed in the men’s race with Japan’s Ryo Hirose, the 80th of 84 skiers to hit the course, winning in 24:37.0 thanks in part to a strong finish.

The podium was completed by Norwegian teammates Magnus Boee (24:52.8) and Andreas Kirkeng (24:54.6). “I’m very happy and at the same time tired, the race was really hard. But the conditions to compete were good,” said Hirose, who attributed his success to a very good and complete preparation before the Games. Being part of the FISU Games and representing their own country is an honour that all athletes demonstrate by their effort during each competition.

“It’s really special for me. I never thought I’d get to wear the USA suit when I was growing up and even more special being here with teammates that have grown up skiing with me and developed as athletes together,” said Anabel Needham, who finished the women’s race in 17th position.

“It’s an honour to be here in such a nice place. I’m blessed to represent my country and my university, and also the students,” added Bentley Walker-Broose from Australia, who took 61st place on the men’s side.

The next medal events in cross country skiing take place on Wednesday with the women’s 5km and men’s 10km individual pursuit free.

Written by Julieta Boschiazzo, FISU Young Reporter

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