PARK CITY, UT (Jan. 22) — Olympians Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA), Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) and Lindsey Weier (Mahtomedi, MN) are among a dozen cross country skiers named Wednesday to compete in the inaugural U-23 Championships next month in Italy, the U.S. Ski Team announced.
Nordic Director Luke Bodensteiner said the group, selected based on results from the Chevy Truck U.S. championships in Maine and Nor Am races earlier this month in the U.S. andÂ Canada, includes six men and six women. The U-23 Championships were designed by the International Ski Federation to ease the transition into World Cup racing after the World Junior Championships because, unlike other ski sports, it normally takes cross country skiers longer to build their training and racing volume to compete with veterans, Bodensteiner explained.
Freeman, a former University of Vermont racer, won two U.S. titles at the national championships, giving him three in his brief career. Koos is a University of Utah skier while Randall, the 2002 U.S. sprint champion, attends Alaska Pacific University and Weier is a freshman at Northern Michigan University.
The first U-23 Championships are scheduled for Feb. 14-16 in Valdidentro, Italy, near Bormio. The U.S. team includes (with age and hometown):
Men — Kris Freeman (22, Andover, NH), Andy Newell (19, Shaftsbury, VT), Torin Koos (22, Leavenworth, WA), Chris Cook (22, Rhinelander, WI), Leif Zimmermann (19, Bozeman, MT), and Ethan Foster (21, Weston, VT).
Women — Kikkan Randall (21, Anchorage, AK), Lindsey Weier (18, Mahtomedi, MN), Aubrey Smith (22, Seward, AK), Kristina Trygstad-Saari (18, Bozeman, MT), Melissa Oram (22, Taberg, NY), and Erinn Whitmer (21, Fairbanks, AK).
“These championships are a terrific step toward helping bridge that huge gap between junior ranks and the World Cup,” said Bodensteiner, a four-time World Juniors racer who competed in two Olympics while a student at the University of Utah where he won two NCAA titles. “It's such a big gap and young skiers so often get pounded by the veterans for so long, which just drives some of them away, so maybe this will slow that attrition. We've got some high expectations for this group at the U-23s. Kris, Kikkan and Torin have shown in their few World Cups they have some special talents, and the coaches and I feel we're in the hunt for medals.”