Kikkan Randall’s disappointing elimination, by a hair’s breadth, from Wednesday’s classic sprint final in Drammen, Norway, was more than made up for when she found out that she was crowned the world’s best sprinter for the third consecutive year.
The first thing U.S. women’s coach Matt Whitcomb tweeted after Saturday’s freestyle sprint, the first World Cup since the Olympics: “We are back!” Randall had won another skate sprint to rise to the top of the World Cup sprint standings, and Sophie Caldwell joined her on the podium — the first time two U.S. women have shared an individual World Cup podium.
In three Olympic competitions in Sochi, U.S. Nordic Combined didn’t end up with the fairy tale some had come to expect after the 2010 Vancouver Games. But with icons in Billy Demong and Todd Lodwick likely in their last Olympics, the story was more about the team closing one book and opening another.
With the leaders through 48 k, U.S. skier Noah Hoffman ended up 26th in the Olympic 50 k. He was far from happy with his result – it’s “not what I’m looking for” – but said he feels more and more comfortable skiing at the front. Brian Gregg finished 51st and Kris Freeman 57th in the last race of the Olympics.
Erik Bjornsen got the call to race the Olympic team sprint after veteran Andy Newell got sick. After a huge move up the final hill in the semifinals which announced the Americans’ presence in the event, Bjornsen and Simi Hamilton skied a smart race to make it around the Sochi hills and earn sixth place, a best-ever finish for the U.S. in the event.
Feeling under the weather, Andy Newell is no longer part of the American duo for Wednesday’s team sprint. Instead, Erik Bjornsen will join Simi Hamilton. For the women, Kikkan Randall will keep her spot despite difficult races so far this Olympics, and Sophie Caldwell, who turned in the best U.S. women’s performance ever in the individual sprint, will be her partner.
When Andy Newell collapsed during the first leg of today’s Olympic relay, the U.S. team had to switch their perspective. No problem, said Noah Hoffman: “you have to be ready to roll with anything and take what’s given to you.” The Americans ultimately finished 11th, one spot ahead of a Canadian team that had benched Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey.
Andy Newell skied fast and relaxed through eight kilometers of the Olympic relay’s scramble leg, but suffered a figurative collapse in the final meters and lost over a minute of time. After tagging off to Erik Bjornsen, he more literally collapsed and was brought immediately back to the athlete village by team doctor Larry Gall. Here’s what we know so far about his condition.
Sadie Bjornsen quickly realized that today’s 10 k classic wasn’t going to have any easy sections, as temperatures soared into the mid-50s and the snow softened and slowed down. She thought of the Eagle glacier and pushed through to 18th – just a few seconds from the top 15. Her teammates packed in from 32nd to 35th.
Sophie Caldwell’s goal at the beginning of the season, said her father Sverre, wasn’t to win the Olympics – it was to just get there. But Caldwell found herself in position to go for a medal when she made the women’s sprint final in Sochi today. Felled by a ski tangle at the top of the course, Caldwell’s result still topped the historic records for U.S. women’s skiing.