Looking back on last season, anyone who watched Johan Olsson ski away from the pack and win the 50 k classic mass start at World Championships would be hard-pressed to forget it. Other inspiring performances include Marit Bjørgen’s 30 k win, Therese Johaug’s Holmenkollen domination, Petter Northug’s individual-start victory, and Alexander Legkov making history at the Tour de Ski.
At just 22 years of age, both Sophie Caldwell and Scott Gow competed in their first World Championships. A skier for SMS T2, Caldwell made several sprint quarterfinals on the World Cup this year, including placing 20th at World Champs. Gow contributed big to the Canadian biathlon team, finishing 31st in the 20 k individual at senior Championships, where he was also the youngest competitor to qualify for the pursuit.
It’s been a week since World Cup Finals wrapped up in Falun, Sweden, and the dust has more than settled on the international season. The American women had their best run yet: World Championships gold, all six athletes in the top ten at some point and another sprint crystal globe in the bag. When asked to recall their personal season highlights, these were among the moments they pointed out.
We know, we know: it’s FAHL-IN. But still. The World Cup wrapped up with spectacular races and plenty of sun in Stockholm and Falun, with Justyna Kowalczyk and Petter Northug winning the season-long titles and Kikkan Randall taking home not only the Sprint Cup but also third place in the overall. Plus, racing on this side of the pond at Whistler and Craftsbury.
Kikkan Randall did just what she needed to on Sunday, finishing 7th in the 10 k skate pursuit with the second-fastest course time to hold onto third place in the overall World Cup standings. Three other Americans finished World Cup Finals in the top 30 to end the season “better than I could have imagined,” Randall said.
It wouldn’t quite be accurate to call Marit Bjørgen’s World Cup Finals pursuit performance on Sunday a formality. Sure, Norway’s 12-time World Champion started the 10-kilometer freestyle race a full minute and 20 seconds ahead of the field, with teammate Therese Johaug being the only one that could potentially test her. And yes, chances were Johaug would never catch her, but there’s always several races within a race – and Bjørgen had one going from the start.
Petter Northug, Jr., joined rare company on Sunday in becoming the second Norwegian in history to win more than one overall World Cup crystal globe. He kept Alexander Legkov and Dario Cologna at bay with his victory in the 15 k pursuit at World Cup Finals to finish off a memorable season in Falun, Sweden.
Kikkan Randall led three American women into the top-30 in the third stage of World Cup Finals on Saturday, a 10 k mass start classic. With 19th place on the day she moved into 15th in the mini-tour, and if she maintains that position in Sunday’s pursuit she’ll be able to hold off Marit Bjørgen in the overall World Cup standings.
The typical plot line never materialized. Norway’s Petter Northug was supposed to spend the first several laps back in 25th and then surge to the front for the victory in the final 100 meters at World Cup Finals in Sweden. Instead, Northug’s teammate Eldar Rønning salvaged a tough season with a surprise 15-kilometer classic mass start victory, posting a time of 43:26 minutes on the 2015 World Championships course.
Andy Newell and Torin Koos each skied top-30 finishes for the U.S. on Friday in the second stage of World Cup Finals, a 2.5 k freestyle prologue. Newell moved into eighth overall in the mini-tour with his 16th place and Koos scored the first distance points of his life in 25th. Noah Hoffman was 51st.
The American women were back on form on Friday for the 2.5 k prologue at World Cup Finals. Kikkan Randall led the way with a third-place finish, and behind her in seventh and eighth, respectively, Holly Brooks and Jessie Diggins were ecstatic to have confidence-building races towards the end of the season. Liz Stephen was 20th for a total of four women in the top-20.