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OUT IN FRONT: Martins Dukurs rides to an impressive start to the season.
Riga - In the second weekly installment that checks on how Baltic athletes are faring in winter disciplines across North America and Europe, we take in the opening round of the FIBT Bob and Skeleton World Cups, the opening round of the IBU Biathlon World Cup and the third round of the FIS Cross Country World Cup.
FIBT Skeleton World Cup, Innsbruck, Austria
Latvian brothers Martins and Tomass Dukurs had an almost perfect start to the 2011/2012 Skeleton World Cup season with only Russian Alexander Tretiakov stepping in to spoil the party, denying older brother Tomass second spot on the podium behind his brother, the current world champion by .03 of a second.
Following on from last season, 27-year-old Martins was leading from the front, being the only rider to break the 53-second mark, doing so on both runs to finish an impressive 1.10 seconds ahead of his closest rival Tretiakov.
Thirty-year-old Tomass surprised some when he found himself sitting in second spot following the first run with a time of 53.22 seconds. However, he would go slightly slower on his second effort, seeing him slip behind Tretiakov into third spot.
The Skeleton World Cup now moves to La Plagne in the French Alps for the second round this Friday, while the 2-man and 4-man bob events will take place on the same track over the weekend.
FIBT 2-Man Bob World Cup, Innsbruck, Austria
Taking to the track on Saturday afternoon following the skeleton, Latvia had three entries in the opening round of the 2-Man Bob World Cup.
Leading the charge was the Latvia 2 crew of Daumants Dreiskins and pilot Oskars Melbardis. Sitting in third position following their first run, the pair would hurt their chances with a poor second run, only recording the seventh quickest time to knock them off the podium and back into fourth spot, 0.48 of a second behind the winning crew of Switzerland 1, piloted by Beat Hefti.
The Latvia 1 crew of Intars Dambis and pilot Edgars Maskalans were working the other way round. Recording a disappointing 17th quickest time on their first run down the track, their second run was far more promising with the 13th quickest time enough to bump them up into 15th position.
The news was not so good for Latvia’s least experienced pairing of Raivis Zirups and pilot Ugis Zalims, whose opening run would not give them a time good enough to qualify for a second run, seeing them finish the day 23rd out of 27 teams.
FIBT 4-Man Bob World Cup, Innsbruck, Austria
After piloting Latvia 1 and 2 in the 2-man bob events a day prior, pilots Maskalans and Melbardis would be back in action on Sunday in the 4-man event.
As the name suggests, Latvia 1 piloted by Maskalans was the best finishing of the two crews, improving on a sixth standing on their first run with the fourth quickest second run to improve to fifth overall, just 0.44 of a second behind the winning crew of Russia 1, piloted by Alexsandr Zubkov.
Melbardis and the Latvia 2 crew would assure that both teams would finish in the top 10, holding on to eighth spot across both of their runs.
E. ON IBU Biathlon World Cup 1, Ostersund, Sweden.
Biathletes from all three Baltic countries were in attendance for the opening week of the E. ON IBU Biathlon World Cup in Sweden.
Beginning on Nov. 30, six races – three each for men and women – took place over the following five days.
In the men’s 20 km individual on the opening day’s racing it was Latvia’s Andrejs Rastorgujevs leading the way, finishing 27th overall in a time of 57 minutes and 31.1 seconds, four minutes and 1.3 seconds behind winner Martin Fourcade of France. It could have been a much stronger finish had the 23-year-old not incurred three penalties for missed targets.
The next best finishing of the Baltic athletes was Estonia’s Roland Lessing, who came home in 33rd despite only missing two targets.
The remainder of the Baltic contingent would finish outside of the top 50 in the 102-strong field.
In the women’s 15 km individual a day later Kristel Viigipuu of Estonia was the only Baltic skier in the top 50, finishing 38th in a time of 54 minutes and 2.1 seconds after missing two targets on her final lap of four. The 21-year-old’s time was six minutes and 46.5 seconds slower than that of winner Darya Domracheva of Belarus.
Rastorgujevs was once more leading the Baltic charge in the men’s 10km sprint, finishing 43rd in a time of 26 minutes and 25.5 seconds, two minutes and three seconds behind local hero Carl Johan Bergman. Finishing three spots behind Rastorgujevs was Estonia’s Kauri Koiv in a time of 26 minutes and 29.8 seconds.
Lithuania’s Diana Rasimoviciute impressed in the women’s 7.5km sprint, only missing one shot to finish 23rd in a time of 23 minutes and 28.5 seconds; one minute and 26.8 seconds back on Germany’s Magdalena Neuner.
In the men’s final event of the week, the 12.5 km pursuit, Rastorgujevs and Koiv were the only competing Baltic skiers, coming home in 33rd and 45th respectively in a 60-skier field. Rastorgujevs’ time of 36 minutes and 30 seconds was three minutes and 34 seconds slower than Fourcade, who picked up his second win of the week. Koiv’s final time was 37 minutes and 6.4 seconds.
In the final race of the week – the women’s 10 km pursuit – Rasimoviciute was the only Baltic athlete competing. She would finish in a time of 39 minutes and 4.2 seconds, good enough for 35th, five minutes and 7.3 seconds slower than Norway’s Tora Berger.
This Friday round 2 of the World Cup begins in Hochfilizen, Austria with competition again taking place across three disciplines each for both men and women.
Viessmann Fis Cross-Country World Cup, Round 3, Dusseldorf, Germany
With only sprint races taking place in the third round of the cross-country world cup over the weekend the Baltic countries had the chance of perhaps surprising a few of their rivals by landing in favorable heats during qualifying.
However, in the ladies individual neither Estonia’s Triin Ojaste or Piret Pormeister would be able to have any great impact, finishing 28th and 49th respectively, out of 56 skiers.
In the men’s race the Estonians were also struggling to make any real impact with Kein Einaste coming home in 37th position to be the best finishing of his five peers.
In the women’s sprint final Estonia came home in last position, while the news was a little better for the two men’s entries with Estonia 1 finishing 13th and Estonia II 23rd.
This weekend the World Cup continues with racing now moving to the Alps for the first time this season with Davos, Switzerland the host for the fourth round.
Following a week out of action the Viessmann World Cup for luge returns to the track with the second round scheduled to begin in Whistler, Canada on Friday. Latvia is expected to be represented in all three events: men’s, women’s and team relay.
With no jumpers competing on the second leg of the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup, it remains unclear as to whether Estonia will be represented in the third event of the season in Harrachov, Czech Republic this coming weekend.