The Russian women’s success was however eclipsed by their male counterparts who did even better by taking positions one to six in their event.
Sixty-eight women from 24 countries began the Classic 5km race, with skiers starting at 30-second intervals after each other. For long periods it looked as if French skier Laurie Flochon was on track for gold, but she eventually she ended up in 20th place.
It was only towards the end of the race that the leaders emerged as Russians Zhambalova, Kirpichenko and Smirnova, along with Italian athlete Francesca Franchi made a dash for the finish. Zhambalova recovered from fifth position at the end of the first lap to take gold in 14:48.6, this after participating in the World Championships in Seefeld, Austria, only a few days ago.
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Second placed Smirnova fell behind Zhambalova by 3.7 seconds, with the difference even narrower between her and bronze medal winner Yana Kirpichenkol at only 0.1 second.
In the men’s field of 86 competitors, the last six to start – meaning the strongest – were six Russians and they started as the main contenders for the medals I what turned out to be a battle against each other. World Junior Champion Ivan Yakimushkin finished with the best time of 26:00.6 to take the gold medal, ahead of compatriots Andrey Timashov with silver and Ivan Kirillov claiming bronze.
The first medals of the Winter Universiate 2019 were awarded by Russian President Vladimir Putin and FISU President Oleg Matytsin.
The first day of the snowboard competition was a day for the Russians and Canadians to shine, as the snowboard cross finals took place at the Sopka Cluster.
After winning his semi-final heat, Canada’s Will Malisch took that form into the final and won the gold medal in the men’s competition. Russia’s Daniil Dilman finished second, with Japan’s Yoshiki Takahara in third.
In the women’s final, Russia’s Kristina Paul took gold, storming to first place after a measured performance throughout the competition. Paul’s compatriot Aleksandra Parshina won the silver medal, while Canada’s Audrey McManiman took bronze.
The next snowboard competition day is on Tuesday, 5 March, with the parallel giant slalom men’s and women’s finals.
The Swiss started the first official day of competition at the Winter Universiade 2019 in fine form with a silver in the women’s Super G, and a gold and bronze in the men’s event at the Funpark Bobrovy Log.
Switzerland’s Lukas Zippert set the bar high early in the men’s Super G race and held on to take the gold medal. As the third competitor to start, Zippert clocked a time of 57.04 seconds to go straight into a lead that proved unbeatable. Only a handful of other competitors looked like they might challenge his top spot as Czech Republic’s Tomas Klinsky came close but finished 0.20 seconds behind to take silver, while Yannick Chabloz, also of Switzerland, finished third with a time of 57.33 seconds for bronze.
Earlier, Austria’s Jessica Gfrerer beat a field of 53 women, to win the first alpine skiing gold medal with a time of 58.44 seconds, 1.09 seconds ahead of Swiss Amelie Dupasquier who claimed silver. Dupasquier finished with a time of 59.53 seconds and Sweden’s Fanny Axelsson, the bronze medallist clocked in a 59.70 second run.
The ladies will be back tomorrow at the same venue to compete in the alpine combined which consists of a run of Super G in the morning and a run of slalom in the afternoon.
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