OBERSTDORF, Germany (Feb. 27, 2021) – Gyda Westvold Hansen led a Norwegian sweep in the debut of women’s nordic combined at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships Saturday in Oberstdorf. Tara Geraghty-Moats (W. Fairlee, Vt.) was fifth, skiing the fastest 5k cross country leg but unable to overcome a large deficit from the jump earlier in the day.
Three other Americans joined Geraghty-Moats in the historic debut including Annika Malacinski 23rd, Alexa Brabec 26th and Tess Arnone 28th (all Steamboat Springs, Colo.).
The event, which was televised around the world, marked the first time women had competed at the World Championships. It was a vital stepping stone towards hopeful future Olympic inclusion. At the women’s debut World Cup event in December, Geraghty-Moats picked up the victory.
“Today marked a huge leap for the sport of nordic combined,” said Olympic champion and USA Nordic Executive Director Bill Demong from trackside in Oberstdorf. “The entire nordic combined family finally feels whole enjoying the women compete at the World Championships.”
Norway put on a strong showing in the morning jumping round on the HS106m hill with Mari Leinan Lund soaring 107.0 meters to take the lead. Westvold Hansen was second in the jump but passed her teammate early in the 5k cross country and never faltered over the two 2.5k laps in an empty stadium at Oberstdorf.
Geraghty-Moats jumped only 85.0 meters, putting her 18th – two minutes, 13 seconds behind the leader going into the cross country finale. Geraghty-Moats charged out of the start and immediately started passing, closing the gap and moving up to fifth at the finish. In just a 13 minute race she closed the gap by over a full minute, but still not enough to challenge for medals.
“I came in fifth place in the world today,” said Geraghty-Moats. “Maybe it wasn’t my best day but there’s no way I can’t be happy about that. It was the first ever World Championships for women and many more chances to fight for the medals.”
Westvold Hansen, who has been one of the top challengers to Geraghty-Moats the past few seasons on the Continental Cup, was proud of her victory. “It’s been an exciting day and I’m happy with my performance. It’s a dream come true!”
The event was seen as a key move towards Olympic inclusion. “It’s incredible how fast the sport is developing and to see the level on both the ski jump and the cross country course as well as the number of nations in the fight is very impressive,” said Demong.
“It is absolutely ready for the Olympic program. It must remain a priority of FIS to add it to the 2026 Olympic program for Milan-Cortina.”
Much as the USA’s women’s ski jumpers were a part of forging the history of gender equality in that sport, the four U.S. women who competed in Oberstdorf carried a special pride with them in Saturday’s nordic combined race.
“It feels so cool to be a part of history,” said Malacinski. “I just can’t wait until 50 years from now and I get to tell these stories over again.”
Malacinski felt it was one of her best races of the season and will bring positive reflections in the future. “The memories I’ve made with my teammates and just the whole venue – it’s so amazing how well put together it is.”
Brabec was also happy with her race and being a part of history. “The race went really for me today – I’m really pumped,” she said. “I tried to ignore the pressure and get into my own vibe and just went for it. It’s amazing and it’s been really fun to be a part of history.”
Arnone, too, took a lot away from the historical moment. “It makes me feel really proud that I’m a part of it. I’ve been a part of a lot of firsts the last few years and that’s pretty cool.”
Much of the burden over the past few seasons had been placed on Geraghty-Moats’ shoulders as the veteran leader of the sport who had dominated its early days in the Continental Cup and was a vocal proponent of moving the sport forward.
“I definitely didn’t do it singlehandedly,” she said. “I’m just really honored to be here. I hope that the legacy I leave in the sport will help the sport continue to grow. It’s amazing what a lot of people can do if we work together to move sport and gender equality forward.”