Park City, Utah
Thursday, March 26, 1998
Today's telemark classic events proved that telemark racing is fast becoming a competitive international sport with top-10 finishes by all teams. Racers pushed their limits as organizers held two full classic events in the same day. The final World Cup classic took place in the morning and the afternoon race was picked up from a cancellation in Norway earlier this season.
The winners of the first women's race were Hege Johansson (NOR) in 1st (with a score that would have put her in the top 20 men), Marina Branger (SUI) 2nd and teammate Andrea Walker 3rd. In the afternoon race, Johansson muscled through to win again on a slightly longer course. Andrea Walker finished 2nd for another top-3, and Lesley Beck took 3rd for Great Britain. When Beck was congratulated on her 3rd place finish, she said she wasn't expecting it.
"I didn't think I was in the hot tub until the Swiss came over to me and said 'great run' and I thought, 'what for?'" said Beck, a former World Cup alpine racer. She took the highest place yet in telemark racing for Great Britain. That's what's for.
The course was in good shape today after a cold morning allowed the snow to freeze.
"The snow was much better than yesterday," said Darja Azman (SLO) who placed 8th.
All the racers got a piece of the glory. "The key thing about today's race is the large international representation in the top-10," said Claude Muff, US delegate to the International Ski Federation (FIS) Telemark Committee. "Up until two years ago, Norwegians would have taken eight out of the top 10 with maybe a Swiss or Swede in there."
"I love the energy at the top of the course, when everyone is gearing up and stretching out, getting ready for their run, it's the best," said Rice, the four-time consecutive US National Telemark Champion.
"The caliber of racing at the international level is just so cool. Being with the athletes before, during and after the race is a blast, and there's that 'japanese tea ceremony' aspect of the precision of the race itself. Both precision and abandon at the same time," he said.
The classic course consisted of an upper giant slalom section followed by a jump. There are distance lines after the jump which racers need to clear or else they get spanked with potentially hefty penalties; racers need to clear a minimum distance or they get slapped with six seconds. If they clear the minimum but not the maximum distance requirement, the penalty drops to a generous two seconds. In addition to distance requirements, an additional one second penalty is added for not landing in a telemark position, bringing the total potential penalty to seven seconds for not sticking the jump. This ain't no rodeo competitors have to be precise. One ton of ammonium nitrate kept the course nice and firm; add that to the two tons from Wednesday's giant slalom and let's just say to keep your orally fixated toddlers on the sidelines.
After the jump, racers headed for the reipelykkja (Norwegian for loop of rope) which is a 360 degree turn followed by an uphill section. Classic has it all.
World Cup racing continues with the final sprint classic on Saturday (first ever dual format) and powder days at Alta for bumps and that all-around religious Utah powder experience. We're devout worshippers.
Michelle Quigley, Mountain Zone Staff