Several prominent names, including Ebba Andersson of Sweden, Johannes Høsflot Klæbo of Norway, and Iivo Niskanen of Finland, will be on the sidelines for this weekend’s World Cup races in Beitostølen for a variety of reasons, according to a roundup of recent news reports.
Ebba Andersson has tested positive for Covid-19, Swedish paper Expressen, among other outlets, has reported. On Sunday, Andersson was third in the women’s 20km classic race in Lillehammer. On Monday, it was reported that she was experiencing mild symptoms, and had tested positive for Covid. She isolated from the rest of the team, left Beitostølen (where she was already on site in advance of this weekend’s races), and returned home to Sweden.
“Of course it feels very boring, and also a little special with such quick turnarounds — from competition and podium to positive covid test and journey home,” Andersson said in an auto-translated statement, according to Expressen. “It wasn’t exactly the plan, but now the focus will be to cure myself and to come back when I feel ready.”
As of Monday’s article, no one else on the Swedish squad had tested positive. But as of today, follow-up testing of the entire team revealed that Anna Dyvik had also tested positive for Covid, Expressen reported earlier Tuesday. No other names within the Swedish team have been publicly announced as also being infected.
Andersson has been in sharp form this year, opening the World Cup season with a first, second, third, and fourth in the first four distance races. She currently leads the World Cup distance standings, and is fourth in the overall. Frida Karlsson of Sweden, Tiril Udnes Weng of Norway, and Katharina Hennig of Germany currently make up the rest of the top four in the distance standings, and will presumably gain ground on Andersson if they race this weekend.
Johannes Høsflot Klæbo does not have Covid, but he does have a cold. And he will miss all three Beitostølen races as a result. This comes after he sat out two of three races in Lillehammer last weekend.
Klæbo will return home to Trondheim tomorrow, then will travel to Davos to train at altitude when his overall health permits, Norwegian tabloid VG reported earlier today.
“Now I have to get well. I travel from Trondheim to Davos when the cold has subsided. Obviously, this is boring. I would have liked to have been in good shape and run on Beitostølen. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Right now I don’t know when the journey will continue to new heights,” Klæbo said in a translated press release.
Klæbo plans to race the entire Tour de Ski this year. He is still second in the overall World Cup standings, behind teammate Pål Golberg, but announced last weekend that he has already given up on winning the overall crystal globe.
“This is not how we had hoped to start the season,” Klæbo’s father and manager, Haakon Klæbo, said in a statement.
“Johannes loves to go cross-country skiing, but unfortunately things haven’t quite worked out due to illness and injury. But we don’t hang our heads. Johannes has plans to come back strong. Now the focus is on making the best possible preparations for the [World Championships] in Planica. There is no shortage of inspiration to go fast there.”
The bad news for Finnish distance star Iivo Niskanen is that he was a last-minute scratch from the opening World Cup weekend in Ruka due to an ill-timed case of Covid. The good news is that on Sunday he and his wife, Saana Niskanen (née Kemppainen), welcomed their first child, a baby boy.
Niskanen’s current health status is unclear (vis-à-vis Covid; the new dad is presumably not sleeping all that much at present because parenting), but for obvious reasons he is not starting in Beitostølen regardless.
Rosie Brennan spent last weekend in Lillehammer on the sidelines, unable to race due to a cold. She spoke frankly about the implications for an un-salaried endurance athlete of having to sit out a race start, writing on the APU Nordic Ski Center Instagram page, “I came down with a cold and have had to make the difficult decision to sit out. This is the less glamorous part of the job…
“Racing sick usually doesn’t go well and can risk a more long term virus but unlike other jobs, missing a race also means foregoing World Cup points and money. We don’t get salaries from the Olympic committee or our NGB so prize money and the bonuses related to those results from our equipment sponsors are the main source of income. This means anything that forces you to sit out a race hits a little harder.”
In follow-up comments on her personal Instagram page (post embedded above), Brennan noted it was “pretty much true for all Americans in Olympic sports” that they race without a salary or real economic stability.
“That’s why we do so much fundraising and hustling to find sponsors,” Brennan added. “It is a fact not many realize so I do hope to bring light to the fact without sounding like I’m complaining because I also feel so fortunate for all the opportunities I do have and the support I have received.”
In this week’s episode of the Devon Kershaw Show, Kershaw discussed the current state of health and safety protocols on the World Cup, starting at roughly the 38-minute mark. He noted that, while FIS has backed off formal testing requirements or standards, there is still a strong incentive for athletes in an endurance sport to avoid getting sick with anything, be it Covid or “just” a cold (which was, as noted, enough to sideline Brennan from all three Lillehammer races, and teammate Novie McCabe from one of them).
“Covid’s a thing,” Kershaw noted. “Covid is most definitely a thing in Europe right now. … Athletes are walking around in public spaces with N95 masks. At the race hotel, that sort of thing, they’ve got N95 masks on, except when they eat of course. So they’re definitely taking this seriously.”
The above screenshot, from Zak Ketterson’s Instagram story, shows the American team scrupulously enmasked on the bus while on Monday’s travel day from Lillehammer to Beitostølen.
— Gavin Kentch
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