Race Preview & XC-Predictions: Olympic Sprint Free Technique

Posted by Jan Kocbach, 10 Feb 2014@18:14

The sprint is one of the most open disciplines in Cross Country skiing in the Olympics – especially in the men’s class where there have been 9(!) different winners in the previous 9 free technique sprints in the World Cup. The women have two big favourites in Kikkan Randall and Marit Bjørgen.

The sprint courses in Sochi are tough courses with a very tough hill – especially for the men – said to favor distance racers rather than the pure sprinters. The altitude will also make a the race a tough one.


In the men’s free technique sprint there have been 9 different winners in the previous 9 free technique sprints in the World Cup – of these 8 are on the start. In addition to these 9, there are several other candidates for gold. First the 9 winners – going backwards in chronological order,

  • Ola Vigen Hattested won the Toblach sprint – and has thus shown that he has peaked his shape at the right time. The course might be a bit tough for Hattestad – on the other hand the Norwegian is a real fighter.
  • Alex Harvey won the sprint in Szlkarska Poreba in January. Not the biggest favourite – but definitely one of the many outsiders.
  • Sergey Ustiugov won the Nove Mesto sprint earlier in January – a strong Russian who counts as one of the outsiders in the Sochi sprint.
  • The Lenzerheide sprint (Tour de Ski) at New Years Eve was one by Simon Hamilton. The American is not one of the main favourites – but having one a free technique sprint this season he has to be looked out for.
  • Calle Halfvarsson won the sprint in Oberhof (Tour de Ski) at December 29th last year. Also not one of the biggest favourites – but still among the outsiders.
  • The Davos sprint in December was won by the Norwegian Anders Gløersen. Another outsider – Gløersen has also had some good distance race performances this year.
  • Going back to last season (March), Swedish Emil Jönsson won the last free technique sprint of last season in Lathti. Jönsson has lost a few kilos to prepare for the Sochi courses – but has so far not impressed in the World Cup. Still Jönsson is among the favourites in Sochi.
  • Petter Northug won the sprint in the pre-Olympics in Sochi last year – and has thus shown that he can perform very well on this tough sprint course. Northug was not strong enough to keep up the speed of the leading pack the last hill on the Skiathlon – but Northug says he is in shape. One of the big favourites!
  • The last World Cup winner – Finn Hågen Krogh – was originally given a place on the Norwegian team, but was put out of the team after the win by Ola Vigen Hattestad in Toblach.

Then the favourites/outsiders without a win in the last 9 World Cup races:

  • Alexey Petukhov – a strong Russian who can take it all the way on home ground. 3rd in the Nove Mesto sprint in January.
  • Nikita Kriukov – another strong Russian. Not the best results lately, but could still go all the way in these Olympics.
  • Dario Cologna won the Skiathlon – and was 2nd behind Northug in the pre-Olympics last year. Is he fast enough after the injury problems? Still one of the big favourites on this course.
  • Eirik Brandsdal. The Norwegian finished second in Toblach and 4th in Nove Mesto – a strong outsider.
  • Italian Federica Pellegrino has 5 times Top 6 the last 9 World Cup sprints in free technique, and is one of the outsiders.
  • Other outsiders: Teodor Peterson, Martti Julhëe, Marcus Hellner, Josef Wenzl, Andy Newell, Anton Gafarov.

See below for historical results.


In the women’s class, there are a few very clear favourites – and not than many potential winners. Still this is the most open race also in the women’s class:

  • Kikkan Randall has five wins and two second places in her last 8 starts in the World Cup in free technique sprint – and since 2010 she has only been outside the finals twice(!) – very impressive in a millimeter discipline like sprint. The big favourite here at the Olympics.
  • Marit Bjørgen is the other big favourite. Bjørgen beat Randall in Toblach on this discipline just ahead of the Olympics, and has shown impressive shape lately with the Skiathlon win. The course should also fit Bjørgen well.
  • Ingvild Flugstad Østberg has been very impressive in sprint lately – one victory and three times Top 3 in the last four free technique sprints she has started in.
  • German Denise Hermann has been just as impressive as Flugstad Østberg – except the victory is missing. Six times in a row in Top 5 – with 2nd place in the two last free technique sprint races.
  • Hanna Erikson took the victory in the free technique sprint in Oberhof, but has not impressed that much lately.
  • Maiken Caspersen Falla is the only one except for Marit Bjørgen who has beaten Kikkan Randall in a free technique sprint the last seasons. Has not had full success in the sprints so far this season, but has now trained well and wants to show her shape. 4th in Toblach!
  • Also look out for Jacobsen, Ingemarsdotter, Aurore,  Kolb and Van der Graff.
Historical results: Men Free technique, Sprint
Name Toblach/Dobbiaco
Sprint Free
Szklarska Poreba
Sprint Free
Nove Mesto na Morave
Sprint Free
Sprint Free
Sprint Free
Sprint Free
Sprint Free
Sprint Free
PELLEGRINO Federico 16th 13th 2nd 4th 2nd 6th 31st 56th
WENZL Josef 3rd 2nd 15th 11th 5th 16th
HATTESTAD Ola Vigen 1st 12th 11th 2nd 44th
USTIUGOV Sergey 1st 3rd 23rd 4th
HARVEY Alex 20th 1st 2nd 11th 45th 56th
KROGH Finn Haagen 41st 7th 5th 29th 5th 3rd
NORTHUG Petter jr. 29th 7th 6th 28th 1st
HALFVARSSON Calle 12th 6th 1st 26th 17th
PETUKHOV Alexey 26th 3rd 4th 14th 6th
NEWELL Andrew 17th 6th 17th 8th 10th 17th 27th 13th
BRANDSDAL Eirik 2nd 4th 8th
HAMILTON Simeon 14th 20th 1st 35th 14th 58th 17th
GLOEERSEN Anders 23rd 21st 1st 21st 9th
JYLHAE Martti 13th 11th 2nd 18th 50th
MORILOV Nikolay 18th 21st 5th 18th 9th 11th
JOENSSON Emil 11th 22nd 1st 31st
GAFAROV Anton 7th 18th 13th 6th 12th
KRIUKOV Nikita 9th 10th 12th 70th 5th
PETERSON Teodor 5th 6th 7th 34th 77th
SUNDBY Martin Johnsrud 43rd 3rd 3rd 48th
HOFER David 7th 39th 20th 71st 59th 56th 3rd
HEDIGER Jovian 6th 12th 47th 41st 7th 58th
KINDSCHI Joeri 8th 28th 25th 22nd 15th 46th 13th 34th
COLOGNA Dario 32nd 41st 2nd
EISENLAUER Sebastian 75th 24th 55th 18th 7th 15th 24th
TSCHARNKE Tim 8th 10th 13th 41st
CHERNOUSOV Ilia 63rd 9th 19th 7th
GROS Baptiste 34th 3rd 32nd 52nd 19th
RETIVYKH Gleb 10th 43rd 5th 39th
CHEBOTKO Nikolay 26th 24th 37th 4th 22nd
WURM Harald 15th 15th 30th 21st 38th 42nd 48th 10th
ERIKSSON Jens 17th 4th 29th 52nd
SCHAAD Roman 9th 22nd 10th
GAILLARD Cyril 30th 4th 46th 20th
KERSHAW Devon 60th 18th 56th 18th 69th 8th
LINDBLAD Anton 9th 38th 12th 49th
GOLBERG Paal 4th 34th
PERSSON Simon 38th 26th 9th 15th 61st
JAEGER Martin 28th 5th 58th 33rd 37th
MIRANDA Cyril 20th 8th
VALJAS Len 64th 61st 8th 20th
BELOV Evgeniy 49th 8th
LEGKOV Alexander 58th 37th 9th
SKAR Sindre Bjoernestad 10th
MIKKONEN Juho 10th 36th 50th 52nd
Historical results: Women Free technique, Sprint
Name Toblach/Dobbiaco
Sprint Free
Szklarska Poreba
Sprint Free
Nove Mesto na Morave
Sprint Free
Sprint Free
Sprint Free
Sprint Free
Sprint Free
Sprint Free
RANDALL Kikkan 5th 1st 1st 2nd 1st 1st
HERRMANN Denise 2nd 2nd 5th 3rd 2nd 3rd 14th 14th
BJOERGEN Marit 1st 13th 5th 1st 2nd
OESTBERG Ingvild Flugstad 3rd 3rd 1st 3rd 7th 13th
VAN DER GRAAFF Laurien 16th 6th 2nd 4th 13th 10th 15th 8th
ERIKSON Hanna 35th 28th 8th 1st 4th
KOLB Hanna 17th 16th 14th 5th 10th 22nd 12th 9th
JACOBSEN Astrid Uhrenholdt 14th 2nd 26th 13th 30th 4th
VUERICH Gaia 27th 8th 4th 10th 9th 21st 19th
FABJAN Vesna 7th 3rd 5th 21st 39th
JEAN Aurore 12th 42nd 9th 29th 44th 18th 2nd
BRUN-LIE Celine 26th 8th 18th 7th 3rd
CALDWELL Sophie 19th 7th 15th 6th 22nd 9th 55th
KYLLOENEN Anne 13th 7th 8th 20th 23rd 13th
VISNAR Katja 6th 14th 11th 14th 19th 27th
DIGGINS Jessica 28th 5th 21st 18th 12th 25th 15th
INGEMARSDOTTER Ida 9th 6th 39th 7th
WENG Heidi 8th 12th 35th 15th 11th
NILSSON Stina 9th 6th 17th 25th
SARASOJA-LILJA Riikka 15th 30th 35th 34th 11th 5th
FALLA Maiken Caspersen 4th 35th 8th 33rd
JASKOWIEC Sylwia 4th 23rd 12th 56th
MATVEEVA Natalia 12th 19th 35th 8th 28th
PROCHAZKOVA Alena 51st 46th 3rd 24th
ANGER Lucia 20th 20th 27th 40th 6th
LAUKKANEN Mari 21st 23rd 5th
FESSEL Nicole 4th 56th 20th
SARGENT Ida 33rd 13th 50th 41st 38th 6th
OEBERG Jennie 7th 37th 16th 23rd
JOHANSSON NORGREN Britta 22nd 33rd 4th 45th
NIKOLAEVA Svetlana 44th 9th 29th 36th 10th
HARSEM Kathrine Rolsted 10th 12th
KOWALCZYK Justyna 17th 34th 25th 10th 43rd
BJORNSEN Sadie 37th 27th 9th 21st
JONES Perianne 30th 10th 39th 39th 28th 34th 18th
JOHAUG Therese 24th 7th 49th
KALLA Charlotte 31st 6th
MALVALEHTO Mona-Lisa 10th 33rd 63rd 30th

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