The EOC Sprint qualification in Falun was dominated by the Swiss and Swedish runners.
4 out of 6 heats were won by the Swiss athletes – Judith Wyder, Simone Niggli, Martin Hubmann and Mattias Kyburz. The Swedish runners were the best in the rest two heats – the defending European Champion Helena Jansson won the women A-heat and Jerker Lysell the men B-heat.
The Swedish team will have 13 runners in the Sprint A-final on Saturday in Lugnet Arena in Falun. Switzerland and Norway will be represented by 12 runners. Athletes from 21 countries will compete for the medals in Sprint final.
Sprint courses (2,7 km for women and 3,3 km for men) in park and area around the Falun hospital and regiment were a bit tricky. Runners must have focused on which areas are possible to run through and which are forbidden. Many did mistakes which cost them a place in the A-final, as for instance the former Junior World Champion in sprint Stepan Kodeda (Czech Republic).
Nonetheless, most of favourites made it into the A-final, and differences between the best were not so tight as used to be for sprint.
Men Sprint Qualification
25 seconds separated the winner of the A-heat Martin Hubmann from the second Erik Rost from Sweden. Danish Rasmus Thrane Hansen lost 26 seconds to the Swiss athlete.
The B-heat was dominated by the Swedes – Jerker Lysell won ahead of Mattias Karlsson who lost 22 seconds. Scott Fraser from the Great Britain finished as the third, 31 seconds behind Lysell. The current World Champion Daniel Hubmann from Switzerland took the 9th place in this heat.
The C-heat had two runners sharing the second place. Jonas Leandersson from Sweden and Kiril Nikolov from Bulgaria finished in the same time, 21 seconds behind the Swiss heat-winner Mattias Kyburz.
Women Sprint Qualification
Helena Jansson won the A-heat ahead of the Swiss runners Ines Brodmann (30 seconds loss) and Rahel Friederich (1:09 behind Jansson).
The tightest margin was in the women B-heat. Judith Wyder beat Danish Maja Moller Alm by 9 seconds and Finnish Venla Niemi by 32 seconds.
In the C-heat Simone Niggli showed again her invincibility and won by 55 seconds ahead of Danish Emma Klingenberg and by 1:24 minute ahead of Lena Eliasson.
(All pictures taken by Jan Kocbach.)
The European Championship is also the first part of the World Cup so we will not see only European runners in the A-final, but also Samantha Saeger from the USA.