Norway’s Lotta Udnes Weng (center) took the skiathlon Gold at Soldier Hollow. Finland’s Johanna Matintalo (left) was second, and Russia’s Yana Kirpichenko was third. (US. Ski Team-Tom Kelly)
SOLDIER HOLLOW, UT (Feb. 4, 2017) - Norway’s Lotta Udnes Weng closed out the USANA FIS U23 World Championships with gold in the skiathlon at Soldier Hollow. Weng came from behind to overtake Finland’s Johanna Matintalo, who took silver. Russia’s Yana Kirpichenko won bronze.
A stronger classic skier, Matintalo took an early lead in the opening 7.5k classic leg, battling back and forth with Lotta’s twin sister Tirol Udnes Weng, who was second at the exchange. Matintalo carried a three-second margin over Tiril Weng at the halfway mark.
In the freestyle leg, Matintalo continued to lead with Kirpichenko and Lotta Weng skiing up to join the battle. On the final climb before dropping into the stadium, Lotta Weng put on a final push to take the lead and build a small gap. She won by 3.8 seconds over Matintalo, with Kirpichenko another 10 seconds back.
The gold medalist is a first-time U23 competitor who was sixth in the classic sprint to open the Championships. Weng is a six-time Junior Worlds medalist.
Jesse Knori was the top American in 30th with Alayna Sonnesyn 31st.
The U23 World Championships concluded with the skiathlon, with the final Junior Worlds relays set for Sunday.
Lotta Udnes Weng of Norway won her first medal of the U23 World Championships, taking gold in skiathlon.
Classic leg leader Johanna Matintalo of Finland took silver with Russian Yana Kirpichenko winning bronze.
QUOTES Lotta Udnes Weng, Norway The Finnish girl went very fast in the classic but I knew I would be better in skate. I was just trying to hang behind the girls. I knew I would have a good sprint and I was just trusting it.
We skied together through the last uphill, so it was pretty tight and she was really strong today. I was using a lot of power on the last uphill so I had the gap I needed.
On paper, this is not my best distance. But I knew I could do well in both classic and skate, and that if I had a really good day, I could ski for a gold medal but there were a lot of good girls out there today.
Johanna Matintalo, Finland Classic is my best style, I’m not as good in skating. My plan was to keep a good pace in classic so that the others would be tired. On the skating leg, know I lost a minute to the other girls. So if the other girls weren’t tired after the classic, there wouldn’t be a medal for me.
This medal is a real victory for me. Last year I was fourth in the 5k classic at Junior Worlds, losing the medal by three seconds. So I decided someday I would get a medal. I thought maybe next year with the 10k classic. So I’m pretty surprised I got the medal here today - I just didn’t think I was going to be able to follow them.
Yana Kirpichenko, Russia The race was really tough from the first meter. It’s a pleasure for me to see the Olympic course and check myself on the courses where they won their medals.