Double Medals at Junior Worlds
Hailey Swirbul (Carbondale, Colo./Univ. Alaska-Anchorage) led a history-making day at the FIS Nordic Junior World Ski Championships in Switzerland Tuesday. Swirbul took silver in the women’s 5k classic in Goms while Olympian Ben Loomis (Eau Claire, Wis./Flying Eagles Ski Club) won bronze in the 10k nordic combined championship in nearby Kandersteg. It was the first double medal day ever for the U.S. Ski Team at Junior Worlds.
Swirlbul, who was part of the women’s bronze-medal-winning relay team a year ago, was five seconds out of second at the halfway mark but came charging back in the last 1.5 kilometers to pick up silver.
“Hailey skied tactically really well,” said U.S. coach Bryan Fish. “We had to wait for the later starters to finish, however none of their intermediary splits were matching up and it became clear that she would be on the podium.”
Her finish was the best ever for a U.S. man or woman at Junior Worlds and she becomes the second American to win two career Junior Worlds medals - a mark Katharine Ogden set a year ago.
On the men’s side, Ben Ogden had an impressive seventh-place finish in the 10k classic. His finish matches the best ever for a U.S. man at Junior Worlds, a mark held by Andy Newell from 2003 in the freestyle sprint and Rob Whitney in the 10k classic in 1999.
Loomis, who won silver at the Youth Olympic Games two years ago, picked up the first nordic combined medal since 2002 when Alex Glueck and Nathan Gerhart were second and third. It was only the fourth U.S. individual medal ever.
"Jumping was pretty good today, but I know I can improve," said Loomis. "Overall it's been consistently getting better and better so I'm happy with the direction things are going."
Loomis began the race 38 seconds behind the leader. Within the first few kilometers, a pack was formed with places third through seventh, and the chase was on. Loomis skied smart, jockeying for position when necessary and trading off the lead in the chase pack, but never going out of his comfort zone.
"It was definitely a really hard race," said Loomis. "I had some ground to make up after the jumping, but I was able to push hard and ski a really smart race and I'm very happy with the outcome."
"I was able to finish on the podium which was my goal for this race," added Loomis. "It was a really tough course, but the race organizers did a really good job of keeping the course maintained."
Action continues in Goms and Kandersteg throughout the week.