Competitive Edge: Notable Notes
By J.D. Downing
The men’s 4 x 10 kilometer relay will be remembered for the sonic blast provided by Norwegian anchor Peter Northug, who made a move for the ages in the final stadium loop to leave Russia and Sweden eating his proverbial snow dust. Actually, not only will Northug’s move be memorized by race fans worldwide, but also the pathetic size of the “crowd” that witnessed it live (generously guessed at less than 3,000 people -- Texas high school football games are bigger, much bigger).
As encouraging as the various North American results were in 06/07, an unmistakable trend can be seen in the types of races that currently have the biggest payoff for the left side of the Atlantic. All four World Cup podium finishes (five counting Valaas’ U23 medal) garnered by NorAm athletes were in sprints. For the season, Kris Freeman was the only NorAm athlete to post a World Cup in the top 20 in a race longer than 2 km.
A year after one classy World Cup lady retired (Beckie Scott), Czech Katerina Neumannova hung them up after collecting two more Nordic World medals in Sapporo (gold and silver). With an international career dating back to the early ‘90s, the imposing yet gentle Neumannova was a model of vintage athleticism and the way to do it right. The finish line hugs with her three-year-old daughter following gold in the 2006 Torino 30 km (we are still trying to figure out how that kid got around security) is stuff Hollywood couldn’t make up.