VALDIDENTRO, Italy (Feb. 16) — The first Under-23 Championships for cross country skiers concluded Sunday and 30-km gold medalist Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) came close to another medal before being passed and finishing fourth in the duathlon, the so-called double pursuiot with the men skiing a mass-start 7.5-km classic race that led into a 7.5-km skate race. Russians won both men's and women's races.
Sergei Novikov took the title in 38:16.1 with Italy's Thomas Moriggl overtaking Dmitri Tichkine, another Russian, for the silver in 38:44.2, just .4 faster. Freeman was fourth in the field of 53 men with a time of 39:09.6.
Â Olga Rocheva of Russia nipped Norway's Kristin Steira Stoermer in a fight to the finish, winning by .6 in 29:37.1. Top U.S. results came from Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK), who edged Lindsey Weier (Mahtomedi, MN) by .7 for 18th place.
“Kris had another good day today although he looked a little more human,” said Development Coach Chris Grover, U.S. team leader. “He led the first two laps on the 2.5-km classic course in what was a very quick pace. On the third lap, though, Novikov made a huge sprint ahead at the top of a long uphill and opened a five-second gap on Kris and then never looked back, putting more time on the field during the skating portion.
“Kris was passed by Tichkine in the exchange [as skiers switched from classic technique boots to freestyle equipment] and by the Italian halfway through the skate race. He looked a bit tired from the this week's racing while Novikov had skipped the 30-K and looked fresher. Still, it was a great result in a strong men's field.”
Freeman moves on to the World Championships in Val di Fiemme and is expected to ski the 30-km classic Wednesday.
U-23 CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Valdidentro, ITA — Feb. 16
Men's 7.5-km CL/7.5-km FR
1. Sergei Novikov, Russia, 38:16.1
2. Thomas Moriggl, Italy, 38:44.2
3. Dmitri Tichkine, Russia, 38:44.6
4. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, 39:09.6
5. Vicente Vilarrubla, Spain, 39:25.5
28. Leif Zimmerman, Bozeman, MT, 41:08.1
33. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, WI, 41:17.7
36. Ethan Foster, Weston, VT, 42:00.3
Women's 5-km CL/5-km FR
1. Olga Rocheva, Russia, 29:37.1
2. Kristin Steira Stoermer, Norway, 29:37.7
3. Laila Selbaek, Norway, 29:53.7
4. Maja Benedicic, Slovenia, 29:54.3
5. Elodie Bourgeois Pin, France, 30:02.1
18. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, AK, 31:36.1
19. Lindsey Weier, Mahtomedi, MN, 31:36.8
28. Erinn Whitmer, Fairbanks, AK, 32:40.7
DNF: Kristina Trygstad-Saari, Bozeman, MT
by Andrew Newell
U-23 SPRINT: Whitten 2nd, Randall 8th, Newell 8th !
Today’s sprint race was another big day for the USA and Canada. Another cold night and sunny day provided the skiers with firm fast skiing. The 1200 meter course was long, but with no extremely steep climbs for V1. There were many fast sprinters in the field, including skiers that have placed top 5 in World cup sprints.
Women’s prelim consisting of 27 skiers started at 10:00, fallowed soon after by the men’s field of 47 racers. Canada’s Tara Whitten started her day out on the right foot finishing 3 in qualification. USA’s Kikkan Randall and Aubrey Smith had great prelims as well placing 12th, and 13th respectively. Kristina Trygstad-Saari also had a good one finished 17, gust 5 tenths out of the top 16. Melissa Oram was not far behind coming in 24.
The USA men came out charging qualifying 3 in the top 16. I qualified 8th, fallowed by Chris Cook in 10th, Torin Koos in 15th, and Kris Freeman in 20th . Germany and the United States were the only countries to have three out of their four skiers qualify in the top 16.
In the women’s quarter finals Aubrey Smith was knocked out, but Kikkan Randal was able to advance with an exciting lane battle. It was so close it took the officials several minutes to review the photo finish. Unfortunately Kikkan was unable to advance after her semi-final heat, and finished 8th in the B-final. Kikkan is only 20 years old, and finishing 8th in a U-23 event was a great accomplishment.
The men’s ski downs were full of excitement and surprises as well. In my first quarter final heat, I was back in fourth by a few meters and managed to sling shot around the skier in third on the finish straightaway and just edge out the second place skier to move on. Because of Koos’s and Cook’s qualification positions they were in the same quarter final heat, but unfortunately neither of them was able to advance. My come from behind strategy didn’t work as well in the semi-finals and I was bumped down to the B-final finishing 8th.
Although I once again just missed making the A-final in a major world championship event it was great to ski with such fast sprinters. It was also very exciting for me when Trond Nystad ( the head US ski team coach) asked me to sprint in the World Championships next week in Val de Fiemme. Kristian Jon Dahl, the number one ranked sprinter of the day, ended up winning the A-final by a boot length.