BUT NO CIGAR: Swedes Daniel Tynell, Svard Oskar and Norwegian Aukland Joergen came in third, fourth and fifth.
TALLINN - Swedish competitors filled most of the top rankings in this year's Tartu Marathon cross-country ski race, taking home first and third-place prizes in both the men's and women's divisions. In the 63-kilometer heat, held in southern Estonia on Feb. 18, it was Jerry Ahrlin who ended up the overall winner with a time of 2:42:28. He was followed by Stanislav Rezac of the Czech Republic who crossed the line at 2:43:04, while compatriot Daniel Tynell placed third with a time of 2:43:33.
Estonia's home-grown hero, Olympic champion Andrus Veerpalu, came in top among his countrymen by finishing in seventh place with a time of 2:43:46.
In the women's division, Sweden's Elin Ek won top prize coming in at 3:07:03, ahead of Italian Lara Peyrot, whose time was 3:08:42. Jenny Hansson, another Swede, finished with a time of 3:10:16 coming in third.
The Tartu Marathon, whose track curves though the forests between Otepaa and Elva, is Estonia's largest ski event. This year 4,170 competitors crossed the finish line, according to a press release, the best turnout in 20 years.
Uko Urb, a spokesman for the event, said there had been concern up until a few weeks ago that the race would have to be canceled due to this year's warm weather and lack of snowfall. However, the recent low temperatures in the Baltics preserved the snow that fell in the region several days ago, allowing for very good conditions on the track, Urb said.
He added that many of the participants praised the well-maintained state of the track and expressed delight that the event could be held in its entirety. Similar events around Europe had to be cut down to half-marathons or canceled entirely this year due to a lack of snow.