January 14, 2023 | at the FISU Winter University Games
Amid heavy snowfall on Mount Van Hoevenberg, Japanese cross-country skiers Ryo Hirose and Rin Sobue won the classic mixed team sprint today to claim the first gold medal at the 2023 FISU World University Games in Lake Placid.
American athletes Finn Sweet and Renae Anderson topped Team USA’s medal tally with an impressive silver at the end of an intense bout against the bronze medalist Norwegian.
“We couldn’t be happier,” said Sobue, whose words really set the tone for the Japanese team’s intense joy.
Skiers from Waseda University controlled the sprint final from start to finish, giving no chance to rivals. Hirose and Sobue lived up to expectations with No. 1 on their backs, finishing with a nearly 10-second lead over the USA.
After finishing fourth in the semi-finals, the Japanese favorites rose to the occasion in the final, building on the experience gained from the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Team nippon made exceptional use of the intense weather conditions and snowfall during the final, which made the tracks slower and the race even tighter than in the semi-finals.
“It’s very similar to what we know in Japan,” Sobue explained with a big smile on her face after the race.
But the surprise of the event was Team USA’s second pairing also managed to advance in these challenging conditions as the local fans were incredibly excited to see the American duo win a silver medal in the first event of these home games.
“Our mindset was right when it came to endurance,” said Bowdoin College senior Anderson after an impressive finish that allowed her team to overtake the Norwegians.
The cheering crowds also witnessed the rapidly changing weather conditions at Lake Placid, from rain in the early hours of the morning to heavy snow during the finals.
This has been identified as a key topic by the Organizing Committee as the FISU World Save Winter Conference takes place over the next three days while athletes compete.
The Japanese team hopes that these conditions will continue to help them, as after the ceremony, the mascots were not afraid to express their ambitions.
“We want to win five medals in all five races,” they said together.