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Home News Battle of Scandinavia: Finland edges Norway in cross country relay

Battle of Scandinavia: Finland edges Norway in cross country relay

20 January 2023

Both Finland’s and Norway’s teams were screaming at the finish line as their anchors were fighting for gold in the women’s 3 x 5km cross country skiing relay at the Lake Placid 2023 FISU World University Games, Friday morning.

Finland’s Hilla Niemela was coming to the final stretch shoulder to shoulder with Norway’s Karianne Olsvik Dengerd. Ultimately, it was Niemela crossing the finish line seven tenths of a second ahead of her rival, securing the top spot on the podium for her delegation.

The Finish trio completed by Tiia Olkkonen and Vilja Kauranen clocked 43:49.6 compared to 43:50.3 for Norway. Kazakhstan took bronze in 44:02.0.

“Hilla is my best friend and I trained with her a lot, so I trusted her and it was so good to see her coming in first,” Kauranen, Finland’s second skier, said in a post-race interview.

As it was snowing all night and morning at the former Olympic cross country course at Mt. Van Hoevenberg, weather conditions were demanding a lot of expertise from waxing teams, trying to prepare the fastest skis for their athletes.

“I was a bit stressed out about how the skis will work today. The classic style is definitely more difficult in conditions like these,” Olkkonen said. “It is very hard to ski when the tracks are as soft as they were today. But I chose the right skis today and we’re super happy to win gold.”

The race was fast right from the beginning, with seven nations, among them Japan, Finland and Norway, separating quickly from the rest of the group. The first skier of each team was racing the double 2.5-kilometre loop in the classic technique, before tagging off to the next two athletes, who were skiing freestyle.

The final leg saw some spectacular race action. It was Norway and Finland pulling away from Japan and France on the last uphill, demonstrating their aim for the gold medal. The final positions came down to the finish line with spectators cheering for the two Scandinavian teams fighting for gold.

“I didn’t think about anything else but that I have to be the first at the finish line,” Niemala said, explaining her thoughts going onto those final 100 metres. “We were the best team today and we deserved gold. So today it was my job to make sure that gold is ours.”

Kazakhstan’s Xeniya Shalygina, pulling an amazing catch-up effort, passed Japan and France to get her team on the podium.

The last cross country events of the Lake Placid 2023 FISU Games will be the women’s and men’s mass start coming up on Sunday.

Written by Annika Saunus, FISU Young Reporter

We warmly thank FISU Official Partner Qiaodan Ltd. which provides remarkable uniforms to FISU Family and International Technical Officials since 2015. Qiaodan is a valuable partner for FISU as it continued to provide its support during the postponement of events due to the global pandemic, and recently extended the relationship with FISU up to and including 2025.