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Home News Pursuing triumph: Hirose, Niemela win again on the ski tracks

Pursuing triumph: Hirose, Niemela win again on the ski tracks

18 January 2023

For the second consecutive day, Japan’s Ryo Hirose and Finland’s Hilla Niemela topped the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games cross country skiing podium at Mt. Van Hoevenberg.

Winners of the men’s 10km and women’s 5km individual classic events on Tuesday, Hirose and Niemela dominated the pursuit races on the same distances on Wednesday, to add to their gold medal collections.

Starting the pursuit with a 15.8-second lead thanks to his classic win, Hirose prevailed with a total time of 22:44.9, comfortably ahead of Norway’s Andreas Kirkeng (22:53.9) and the USA’s John Steel Hagenbuch (22:58.2).

Hagenbuch made a significant push in the pursuit event, clocking the day’s best time of 22:21.2, which allowed him to move from seventh to third place.

Hirose was celebrating before he even crossed the finish line, knowing he had captured another gold medal.

“It feels unreal and I’m so happy,” said the three-time Lake Placid 2023 champion, who was also crowned in the mixed team sprint classic last Friday.

The Japanese standout will have a chance to add another title in the 30km men’s mass start free on Sunday.

On the women’s side, Niemela took the glory as she reached the finishing line in 12:27.8, followed by Estonia’s Mariel Merlii Pulles (12:35.6) and Italy’s Maria Eugenia Boccardi (12:41.6) – the same podium as on Tuesday’s classic race.

Niemela felt happy and honoured after winning her second gold medal.

“I feel amazing. This race was really tough and I was very happy to keep the girls behind me.”

She added she didn’t really think much about her medal tally, but feels motivated for her next goal because “hard work pays off”.

“I go day by day. I don’t take too much pressure. I just enjoy racing. That’s the best thing here,” she said.

“I’m very glad that I got my place in the university. This is my first year. Of course, I have an amazing team in Finland, so I’m very happy to be part of these Games.

With all her success, Niemela looked forward to getting some sleep after the medal ceremony.

“Probably go to sleep. And maybe sleep some more. I think that’s what I want. I’ll take a rest day. This is really hard,” she concluded with a smile.

Written by Diana Hong, FISU Young Reporter

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