January 30, 2011 (Otepaa, Estonia) – The Norwegian duo of Heidi Weng and Martine Ek Hagen scored first and second on Sunday in a strong display of power in the Junior women’s 5+5km Pursuit at the FIS Junior World Championships in Estonia. Weng, a star performer who had not yet won a gold at the championships, pushed hard past Hagen in the home stretch to claim the title. Helene Jakob of Germany, who is one year younger then the both of the Norwegians, surprised many in taking the bronze medal.
The USA’s Jessie Diggins, a CXC skier who hails from Afton, Minnesota once again led the North Americans in 12th place in 31:50.2 despite a crash early in the competition. Fellow American Joanne Reid was a solid 24th. The top Canadian woman was Annika Hicks in 31st on fresh packed snow and in windy conditions.
“Today was a solid day for the US junior women,” Diggins told SkiTrax post-race. “We had a 12th (Diggins), 24th (Reid), 40th (Glen), and 50th Heather Mooney – with 78 girls racing, I’m proud to have all our girls in the top 50.
“I’m also super excited because the US women rocked the pit exchanges in the pursuit,” continued the rising US star. “We’ve been practicing and it’s exciting for me to finally have a good equipment switch under my belt because I haven’t had much luck in the past – it was a mental road block I had to get over. But after I crashed and broke a pole at the start of the race, I relaxed a lot more and decided to just try to have a technically good race and see how far I could pull myself back up. So I was thinking a lot more instead of being in the lead pack and letting adrenaline take over, which I think helped me ski smarter.”
Diggins was grateful as she was given a pole by a Canadian coach following her crash.
“I’m also extremely grateful to the Canadian team; I was given a pole a little farther down the trail by one of their coaches. North Americans have each other’s back!”
Other North American finishers included Canada’s Janelle Greer in 36th, Amy Glen (USA) in 40th, Heather Mehain (CAN) in 43rd, Heidi Widmer (CAN) 47th and Mooney in 50th.
Team USA’s Reid was pleased with her 24th place finish: “It went really great today, all the girls were especially happy with our exchanges, we all stayed pretty calm and did good work in the pits. It was really sweet to be skiing with Amy and Jessie and Heather. There was a point in the race that we were all skiing together before Jessie took off and got after it. I ended up right next to Amy for a while and we worked together but I lost her when we went through the exchange,” said Reid.
“Mass start was hectic, no surprises there. There were more falls in it than in a rodeo, and Jessie took a bad one, ended up with a German on top of her and snapped her pole. I was really happy with my race, obviously you always want to try to get a better place than the year before, which I didn’t quite manage, but I certainly can’t complain! I’m a lot stronger at skate than classic so it was a relief to finally get into those skis and leave my striding ones behind,” she added.
Weng and Hagen, who are neighbors in Norway, know each other well having been in the same class at school. Today it was their day in the pursuit. The starting field remained compact after two 2.5km classic laps. Following the ski exchange Weng lost a bit when Elena Soboleva and Anna Scherbinina pushed hard and created a gap.
Weng came charging back in the second uphill. Then Hagen moved in front and accelerated on the final lap. Weng seemed to have some difficulty to follow but hung in with Hagen and the Norwegian duo appeared together in the stadium. In the finishing straight Weng summoned what power she had remaining and sprinted ahead of Hagen to take the win.
Germany’s Jakob was sixth after the classic part and was in contact with the lead group. During the free technique leg she dropped the Russian girls in her group and posted the second fastest time skate time to take the bronze medal.
As for Weng, it marked her second championship medal after placing third in the 5km individual start competition. “Everything was fantastic today and went as I planned,” Weng said in a FIS Press interview. “During the last lap I got really tired and I was very close to let Martine go. I thought about the gold medal in this race but I didn’t believe I could win it.”
As for her long-time friend Hagen the event was great. “The race was fun. I had a very good feeling through the whole race and I enjoyed it a lot. I didn’t expect two Norwegians to be on the podium. I expected only Heidi to win but not me. She is in a very good shape.”
This marked the second to last day of the Junior Worlds in Otepaa.
Full results HERE.