(ATR) Athletes get a taste of the new Cross-Country Cross Free event while spectators cook traditional Norwegian food over firepits at the Lillehammer 2016 Youth Olympic Games.
Magnus Kim of Korea shows his gold medal form (Getty)
“I’ve never competed in a race like this; it’s heaps of fun,” Lillian Boland of Australia told Around the Rings
The first of the eight new YOG events started on a clear, cool morning at the Birkebeineren Cross Country Stadium, with some spectators bringing their own cross country skis to navigate the viewing areas.
“Of course, it’s exciting and new and creative, so I think it could be a great way to entertain,” said Magnus Kim of Korea, who won the gold medal in the men’s event.
The shape of the 1.5-kilometer course resembled a skier, with bumps and turns testing the technical skill of each competitor.
There were four bumps right after the start, followed by “The Snake.” Other features included both downhill and uphill slaloms, three drops and a banked turn.
The uphill slalom, where many of the spectators congregated, took a horrible toll on the skiers’ legs. “I don’t know who invented that,” Boland, 16, said with a laugh. “All the obstacles, they’re not easy. The hills are a long climb and the downhill’s really fast. It gets the crowd a lot more involved and it’s a lot more exciting to watch.”
Most of the competitors will also compete in the sprint classic and 5K (for women) and 10K (for men) later in the week.
The qualification phase Saturday consisted of 50 men and 40 women who started one at a time. The semifinals and finals were each composed of 10 skiers battling for position. Snow conditions were packed and the temperature was minus-5 degrees.
Kim, 17, who lives in Norway and calls it his “second home,” won the final with a time of 2 minutes, 59.56 seconds, followed by Thomas Helland Larsen of Norway (3:00.73) and Lauri Mannila of Finland.
“The course was great actually, because it was not too difficult and not too easy,” said Kim. “It was perfect. You get tired in your legs because it’s much more activity, so I felt it on the last 100 meters.”
Sweden's Moa Lundgren, 17, won the ladies' event (Getty)
Moa Lundgren, 17, of Sweden won the ladies’ event, clocking 3:26.35 to edge teammate Johanna Hagstroem by 1.74 seconds. Laura Chamiot Maitral of France took third.
“It’s really fun and I love it,” Hagstroem, 17, said. “It’s like playing with skis.”
Anne Kathrine Fossum, a volunteer in the “Try the Sport” area, tries to go cross country skiing every weekend. But she believes the shortier, trickier event could be the future of a sport that has included the grueling men’s 50K since the Winter Olympics began in 1924.
“I think it’s quite good to have some new competitions because cross country skiing doesn’t appeal to young people,” she said. “It’s short, fast and exciting.”
As a show of support for the Youth Olympic Games, government ministers even got in on the action.
Cooking pinnebrød (ATR)
Bent Høie, Minister of Health and Care Services, health minister, gave out bibs to the athletes in the staging area.
Just down the hill, Linda Cathrine Hofstad Helleland, the minister of culture (which includes sport), stopped by a firepit to cook pinnebrød, which is bread on a stick. Other visitors sat on a stone circle covered with reindeer skins to enjoy the Norwegian treat.
“This is how we teach our kids to go cross country skiing,” Helleland told ATR. “When they are 2 or 3 years old, we tell them, ‘If you go now, we will stop and have a campfire and sausage and chocolate,’ and then they go.”
While some traditions remain sacred, she said the new event proves that cross country can evolve with the times.
“Things are changing,” Helleland said, “so we also have to do some new things in sport.”
Written by Karen Rosen in Lillehammer
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