Marked by the agony of the last, extremely tough stage of the Tour de Ski, but happy: Katharina Hennig is writing cross-country history. She drives the best German result ever. One day after her World Cup victory, the merciless climb is "brutal".
The missed overall podium was quickly ticked off for Katharina Hennig. The 26-year-old Olympic champion dragged herself up the steep Alpe Cermis with the last of her strength, then the best performance by a German cross-country skier in the history of the Tour de Ski was perfect. "It was a great finish, a great encore: With a fifth place overall, which she saved across the finish line," said team manager Peter Schlickenrieder.
On the final ascent with ramps of up to 28 percent, Hennig lost touch with the world leaders and was only 19th in the final daily classification in Val di Fiemme. "It's a brutally tough competition. It's going to be like hell," Hennig said before the start. "It was just exhausting," she said after the last of seven stages: "Yesterday I felt like I was going to get a little sick. But I didn't want to give it away and risked everything."
The overall victory went to the Swede Frida Karlsson, who was badly exhausted at the finish line, ahead of the Finn Kerttu Niskanen and the Norwegian Tiril Udnes Weng. Karlsson collapsed right after the finish line, stayed there for a few minutes before a team of doctors took care of the 23-year-old. She was unable to attend the awards ceremony. The French Delphine Claudel secured the day's victory. The American Rosie Brennan passed Hennig on Sunday, but fifth place was still more than a respectable success for the 2022 Beijing gold winner. The woman from Oberwiesenthal left behind the strong Norwegian Heidi Weng - even though her participation before the turn of the year was questionable for a long time due to a cold.
How Hennig duped Karlsson, Niskanen and Brennan on Saturday was almost reminiscent of the big moments at the Olympics last February. Hennig himself ran out of superlatives after his first victory in the World Cup. "I'm over, over, overjoyed. I wouldn't have dared to dream that it would end like this. I had big goals. I'm just speechless and overjoyed. Especially because my family and friend were at the track," said Germany's best cross-country skier. Her most important goal after the triumph was "to cuddle the family first". At the same time, she had ended a dry spell that had lasted almost 14 years. Since Claudia Nystad's triumph in Falun in March 2009, no German cross-country skier had achieved an individual victory.
Team boss Schlickenrieder, who had led Germany to successes they hadn't seen in a long time last winter, was also enthusiastic. "What she showed today was unique. The fact that she stayed calm here and followed the tactics of the coaches is great. It's really great what she did there," said the former professional. Behind Hennig in the world class, Pia Fink and Laura Gimmler also showed decent performances. On Sunday, Fink even landed in front of Hennig.