Overall champs crowned as telemark championships come to close | SteamboatToday.com

Overall champs crowned as telemark championships come to close

— In Steamboat Springs, Nordic combined is as recognized as any winter sport there is.

Nordic combined is also an Olympic-recognized event, and FIS Telemark Skiing President Andrew Clarke strongly believes the sport he once competed in and now helps run deserves its shot on the big stage, too.

After the fourth day of the 2015 FIS Telemark World Championships, Clarke talked about his hopes for tele racing, not just on this stage, but the largest international stage for years to come.

“This sport is going skyward,” Clarke said. “We will, as I stand here now, make Olympic status. It’s just a matter of time. There’s a vote this July to determine that.”

His biggest supporting argument for telemark racing is the skill set its international athletes bring to the table, which was on full display Friday along the ski area’s Vagabond run.

The telemark classic race, unlike the three previous events held at Howelsen Hill, dramatically tested the athlete’s mental and physical strength in the all-encompassing course. Vagabond features nearly 500 meters of vertical drop in the roughly three minutes it takes the world’s best tele skiers to make their way down, top to bottom.

Like Nordic combined, classic telemark ski racing showcases multiple disciplines blended into one competition. There’s, of course, the downhill skiing. And early on in the race, there’s a full-speed jump to nail, followed by a bit of freestyle and skate skiing.

“These guys have to be a master of all four disciplines,” Clarke said. “It’s just funny to me it has taken us so long to come to our ultimate goal to be a part of the Olympics.”

In the junior women’s classic race, Germany’s Johanna Holzmann was the top finisher, followed closely by French counterparts Argeline Tan Bouquet in second and Maelle Froissart in third.

Three different countries were represented on the junior men’s podium. France’s Matti Lopez was the top junior, while Slovenia’s Rok Smejic took silver, and Switzerland’s Nicolas Michel was the bronze medalist.

The Swiss skiers led the elite women’s classic division as Amelie Reymond and Simone Oehrli took gold and silver, respectively. Norway’s Mathilde Ilebrekke finished in third place.

In the elite men’s race, the Germans took the gold and bronze. Tobias Mueller followed up his parallel slalom victory with a classic gold. His teammate Jonas Schmid was third, and France’s Philippe Lau earned a silver medal.

With the classic race serving as the week’s final competition, event officials also crowned overall telemark world champions, which featured familiar names from the day’s race on Vagabond.

Tan Bouquet was the junior women’s world champ, and Michel grabbed the junior men’s overall title.

The elite women’s champion was handed to Reymond, while the men’s crown was worn by Mueller.

“I’m amazed at the tenacity and fortitude out of these athletes,” Clarke said. “They are the epitome of what telemark skiing is all about.”

Clarke also took some time to thank the race organizers for four days on the ski hills and countless hours off them prepping for Steamboat’s inaugural hosting of the World Championships.

“I have to thank the people of Steamboat and Ken Gay (event organizer) for organizing it,” Clarke said. “There wouldn’t be a World Championships without these people.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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