From the country leading the globe in Corporate Social Responsibility comes the pristine look of host Sweden’s 2014 ISSF World Snowshoe Championships staring an international cast of élite athletes.
None was better in Rättvik than Stephané Ricard as he sizzled these races presented by Atlas Snowshoes. His phenomenal 37:28 on the 9 km layout scored gold for Team Baldas France. Chasing him to the end, Team Baldas Italy’s Filippo Barizza, snatching silver in 37:46.
Ricard pushed the quad-burning 3 km uphill—nearly two miles in length—while storming the undulating layout through woods and open fields for his 18-second victory. What an inspirational story for the ages as Ricard recorded his first medal, a bronze for third, in the 2012 Québec races won by Montreal’s hometown hero, David Le Pohro. Duluth, Minnesota’s Eric Hartmark, USSSA National Champion, captured silver in that race.
At the ISSF 2013 World Snowshoe Championship held in Fondo, Italy, Ricard carded a tight silver with his finish, only seven seconds behind the gold medalist, host country’s Alex Baldiccini on the 5.6 km circuit. One of the unique treasures of the ISSF format remains that the course design has precedent over the distance as each year the distance varies.
Then easy as 3-2-1, this year’s longer course favoring his endurance, Ricard steps up to capture the crown from the world’s best while cruising down lovely Rättvik’s main drag. No surprise, really, just richly deserved as the French and European champion proved his mettle along the way, laying tracks for this peak win.
His Olympic snowshoe exhibition in 2010 advanced the proposition that snowshoeing, with cameras like those tracking cross-country skiers up close and friendly in their race, generates delectable television-fodder and every ounce as exciting for viewers to absorb as other winter sports. This is particularly poignant now as the 2014 Winter Olympics are underway in Russia’s Sochi, sans snowshoes.
Rounding out the top five, Just Sociats Asensio for Team Catalonia scoring the bronze about 30 seconds later followed by Magnus Jensen of the Swedish Snowshoe Team. Team TSL capped a French bookend when Bruno Freudenreich completed the loop for a top-five position seconds ahead of Team Catalonia’s Gabriel Crosas Salvans. A handful of ticks back came Team USA’s Hartmark completing the sub 40-minute group.
Other notable finishers include Team USA’s Michael Reneau (16) in a battle with Joakim Löfwing (14) of the Swedish team and Lars Bleckur (15), Cykloteket Racing Team. Following these three in, Julien Naudin of France’s Team TSL.
A tip of the hat goes for the Best Team Name, Matt Richardson’s Sporting Gentlemens Society, crossing in 52:49, ungentlemanly leaving Koji Aoki, Japan, down a spot by three ticks. Magnus Olsson gains a notable as the Ekshärad snowshoer endured to his finish, wrapping the group in 1:35.
The Women’s race witnessed the reigning World Champion, Isabella Morlini, Team Baldas Italy, crossing in 46:39, 23 ticks ahead of the Swedish Snowshoe Team’s Petra Kindlund to secure the 2014 crown, her second. Mavai Gil Rafart locked the bronze podium slot for Team Catalonia in 47:32.
Morlini, a distance runner with a recent 1:18:34 in the Trento Half Marathon, demonstrated her prowess on snowshoes by winning the heralded 41st Ciaspolada raced in early January during a heavy-snow fest on a popular course used a few years ago. A clear favorite for the Worlds, her race experience at the front, locked with pure physical strength, supported the early odds to win.
Rounding out the remaining top five includes Annika Billstam, Team Klingheim/TSL and Laia Andreu of Team Catalonia, the last finisher under 50 minutes.
Other notables include Team USA’s Carolyn Stocker whose 57:53 secured 13th, Canada’s Monika Owczarek next in 58:08 while hometown challenger, Marit Wester, raced a gallant 1:22; Solna’s Elin Pihl rounded out the group of 23 in 1:44.
Taking the Master’s Mens group required a golden performance by Swedish Snowshoe Team’s Niclas Sjögren with a 40:44, only nine seconds ahead of Team Baldas Italy’s Davide Milesi and 21 in front Daniele Fornoni, wrapping up the podium threesome with his bronze.
Team USA’s Mark Rickman locked a 14th place in the heated battle for the remaining top ten slots. Starting with Scandinavian Heartland’s Ivar Vaa crossing in 55:04 for ninth, Ekshärad’s Kenneth Jonasson, took tenth while IF Thor’s Lars Vestling, Falun’s Jan Svärdhagen and Hälsinglands Multisport Sören Calleberg, along with Rickman all finished respectively in that 55-minute pack.
Best Masters Team Name goes to the 22nd in the group, Lars Svanerud representing Trekking Guides of Sweden.
Taking the gold and silver in the Women’s Masters class, Team TSL France snowshoers Djamila Bengueche and Christiane Lacombe. Abisko IF’s Annika Kristoffersson captured the bronze in a cool 56:00.
Other notables in the Women’s Masters find Marcy Schwam, Team USA, just missing a top ten with her 1:12:28 while Anna Alm of Team Herrljunga, completed the Sweet-16 finishers for this group.
Exciting Special Olympians competed in a 4X400m relay as Team Sweden 1 snatched gold just ahead of teammates on Sweden 2; Team Russia nailed the bronze finish.
Watch for the (expected) European site where all will gather to fight for the 2015 World Snowshoe Crown.
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Photos courtesy of ISSF unless noted