Victory for Gundersen in Birkebeiner
The American Birkebeiner was hosted for its 38th year on Saturday, 26 February 2011, in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. It is located close to the cities of Duluth, Chicago, Minnesota and Illinois and is therefore easily accessible. The ski area in which the Birkie is held is in Chequamegon National Forest, which covers an area of eight hundred and fifty thousand acres, consisting of beautiful rivers and of course numerous trails that can be used all year round. Runners, bikers and trekkers visit the area for training. During the winter months the slopes belong to the avid skiers and winter sport enthusiasts.
Saturday was one of the coldest days ever recorded for the Birkie, but it did not deter contestants of the 2011 American Birkebeiner. A fifty kilometer course is set out across the terrain for contestants, and winning this prestigious event is a great honor for all skiing athletes. The rules are strict and conform to the FIS requirements to ensure the safety of skiers. Some of these rules include that all contestants must be over the age of eighteen and double skating is not permitted, as opposed to double poling, diagonal striding and step turns which are considered to be classical techniques.
In the men’s division, the record time set by Fabio Santus in the 2010 event of 1:53:58 could not be broken, but it only took a time of 1:59:03 for Tore Martin Gundersen to win the 2011 American Birkebeiner. At eight kilometers away from the finish line at Main St Benoit Chauvet of St Gevais, Gundersen was unstoppable as soon as he reached the sprint just after Lake Hayward. Gundersen commented that: “That was a great feeling, when I realized I had it and heard the crowds.”
Caitlin Compton was able to keep her promise from last year, after the 2010 Olympics, by winning the ladies division of the American Birkebeiner. The competition was strong in the ladies division, with Compton, Evelyn Dong and Morgan Smyth chasing the victory. The record time set up by Rebecca Dussault last year, of 2:16:18 was broken by all three ladies, with Caitlin Compton winning with a time of 2:15:25. Compton said that “Last year, after the Olympics, I said there’s only one place to go above this, and that’s the Birkie.”