Russia, Sweden win ski team sprints in world championship warm-up

OTEPAA, Estonia — Russia and Sweden won men’s and women’s World Cup cross-country skiing team sprints Sunday, showing good form ahead of next month’s world championships.

The men’s 6×1.5km race on relatively flat ground in Estonia was a straight fight between Russia and Norway, with Russia’s Sergei Ustyugov and Alexei Petukhov winning in 19 minutes 39.1 seconds, 0.4 seconds faster than Norway’s Anders Gloeersen and Finn Haagen Krogh.

The bronze went to Italy’s Dietmar Noeckler and Federico Pellegrino, 12.5 seconds further back. Neither of two U.S. men’s teams reached the final.

Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter and Stina Nilsson won the women’s 6×1.2km race in 16 minutes, 11.1 seconds, taking the win by 0.8 seconds from a Norwegian duo that paired Olympic team sprint champion Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg with individual Olympic sprint gold medalist Maiken Caspersen Falla.

Poland took a surprise third place, 0.1 seconds behind Norway, off a strong performance from two-time Olympic champion Justyna Kowalczyk, who showed signs of regaining her form after a tough season, and her partner Sylwia Jaskowiec.

A U.S. team of Ida Sargent and Rosie Brennan was sixth, while the other American team of Sadie Bjornsen and Sophie Caldwell was eliminated in the semifinals.

Many of the world’s top skiers skipped the Otepaa meet, which on Saturday saw individual sprint wins for Norway’s Tomas Northug and Flugstad Oestberg.

Sunday’s team sprints were the only World Cup team events of the season and are preparation for the freestyle team sprints Feb. 22 at the world Nordic ski championships in Falun, Sweden. Prior to Sunday’s races, no international-standard freestyle team sprints had taken place since the 2013 world championships.