The new sprint world champions are Arianna Follis from Italy and Ola Vigen Hattestad from Norway. They claimed victory in the free technique sprint at the 2009 World Championship venue Vesec in Liberec (CZE).
31-year-old Follis, who comes from the Aosta Valley, took the gold medal ahead of Kikkan Randall from United States of America and Pirjo Muranen from Finland. The fastest in the qualification, Natalia Matveeva (RUS), was just edged out of the podium by finishing fourth. Ida Ingemarsdotter took the fifth place and Anna Olsson was sixth (both Sweden).
Follis achieved her second individual medal in a World Championships race; she won already a bronze medal in Sapporo. Kikkan Randall, the native of Anchorage, made history with her silver medal as the first ever US female athlete on the World Championships Cross-Country race podium. Pirjo Muranen was the first sprint world champion in 2001 and returned eight years later in the third place.
On the men's side, the dominator of the sprint season, Ola Vigen Hattestad (NOR) took the gold medal ahead of his teammate Johan Kjoelstad (NOR) and Nikolay Morilov (RUS) who collected the bronze. The current World Cup leader, Dario Cologna (SUI) finished 4th, Markus Hellner (SWE) 5th and the local favorite Ales Razym (CZE) 6th.
Hattestad has won 5 World Cup sprints this season and won his first World Championships medal in Liberec. Kjoelstad too is a newcomer on a World Championships podium while Nikolay Morilov celebrated a silver medal with this team already in Sapporo in 2007.
The next World Championships race will take place Wednesday - the team sprint competition in classical technique for ladies and men. The starting time of the finals is 13.00h
Arianna Follis (ITA):
"It is incredible today, I have gold medal and I am the World Champion. It's strange for me. I'd tried to have the same tactics to stay second or first and then in the last uphill go faster and faster to finish. My husband prepared my skies and all servicemen worked very hard and did good job. It is a nice track here, very hard, very tough. Especially the last uphill was difficult. I am going to race tomorrow and also two others races."
Kikkan Randall (USA):
"I feel really good. The season definitely didn't start the way I wanted. But we were continuesly working and today we see the result. I was not easy to come back from surgery. I trained a lot to come back into good shape. I'm happy to be the first female athlete from US who won a Cross-Country medal in World Championships. It is pretty amazing. My tactic was to get to the front and tried to keep the race fast. The visibility was very low. I was really strong I gave everything I had in the finish line.
We really have been working hard during last ten years. You know, when we were young we decided that we want to be champions. We started to work for that. The US ski team has been doing everything to make sure that we get into this point"
Pirjo Muranen (FIN):
"I think the whole race was good. In the final I wasn't in as good shape as I was in previous rounds. I was a little bit tired, but it was good that I could make this result even if I was so tired. The medal means a lot for me. It has been a long time that I have had an individual triumph - it was in Lahti in 2001. It has happened a lot during these years. I am very proud of the medal. These are good courses, of course they are very heavy, but it has to be in the championships. Tomorrow I will not compete, I am looking forward to relay."
Ola Vigen Hattestad (NOR):
"It's unbelievable, I felt a little bit pressured in the last days. I tried to not think about it. For me it is important to keep the nervousness in control. I'd tried thinking positively and cooling."
In final I thought Kjoelstad will beat me because I felt tired. But I pushed and I think I had a good technique too. Tomorrow, I am going to start in team sprint race and I hope we will succeed."
Johan Kjoelstad (NOR):
"It is an amazing day. I was very strong from the beginning and I got stronger and stronger. But you never know in sprint, whatever could happen. I knew that Ola Vigen Hattestad is a really strong guy. It is very important to the whole team to have two Norwegian competitors on the podium. I will race tomorrow together with Ola in the Team Sprint and I hope I will be strong as today."