by Thomas O’Harra
So, on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week (the 3rd and 4th, respectively), I had my first two races of the championships. Tuesday’s race was a classic sprint, and Wednesday’s race was a 10K skate individual start.
For those who don’t know, a sprint race is rather confusing to someone who hasn’t seen it in action before. The day starts out with an individual start time trial around the course, with racers going every 15 seconds. Then, the people who post the top 30 times advance on to heats. This starts out with the quarterfinals, which are five heats of six people. The two fastest skiers from each heat advance to the semis, as well as the next two fastest skiers from any one of the heats. Then, there are 12 skiers in the semifinals, which are two heats of six. Again, the top two from each heat advance, along with the next two fastest skiers. These skiers go on to race the course a fourth time, going for the win.
I had my best sprint race yet, qualifying in 18th place. In my quarterfinal, I was in a really close third to a Russian skier. I lunged between his legs, but didn’t quite beat him. Unfortunately, I was also in the slowest heat, so I did not get a chance to advance to the semifinals. I was 14th, in the final results though! This was my first time in the top 30 here, after tripping myself last year in the sprint qualifier and getting 54th.
In all, I am really excited about my sprint performance and I am especially excited for the rest of the season. Being top 15 in the world is definitely gratifying, to see that my training has paid off at least a little bit, but I am also very hungry to come back next year and try to get into the final, and maybe even have a chance at the podium.
The skate 10k was not quite as good of a race for me. I was bib number 46, out of 84, with all of the faster skiers behind me. I ended up 49th, over 2:30 out of first. However, I was less than 30 seconds out of the top 30 and only about 1:15 out of the top 10. While I think that the top ten was probably out of reach for me, I think that with a better day I could definitely race into the top 30, or maybe even the top 20.
It’s hard to ski here, partly because there is really low snow, and partly because the pollution and smog is so bad. I haven’t had any of those days where the skiing is incredible and it is just enjoyable to be out there on skis. It sort of feels like every day is a grind, trying to finish training or racing before the smog gets worse (which it usually does).
That being said, I am excited for the rest of the week and maybe getting a chance to race the relay, which is going to be held on Sunday.
Thanks for reading!