OBERSTDORF, Germany (Feb. 24) – Norway defended its men's 4x10K relay title Thursday at the World Nordic Ski Championships, but Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) looked as though he was finally ready to chuck whatever has kept him mired this season in the worst slump of his career as he had the U.S. Ski Team in fifth place most of the first leg. The American men finally finished 11th in the 17-team field.
“I'm not all the way back yet,” Freeman said, “but there was some redemption in today's race.”
Norway won in 1:39.04.4 with Germany taking the silver medal (1:39.22.1), thanks to a final surge from Axel Teichmann – who was in fourth place, nearly 40 seconds away from a medal to start the final 10Ks. Russia was bronze medalist in 1:39.23.1 while the U.S. foursome finished in 1:43.22.2. Andrew Johnson (Greensboro, VT) was fifth-fastest on the third leg, the first skating leg.
“It was a really encouraging race all around, no question,” said Coach Pete Vordenberg. “Kris skied a great first leg, especially compared to the rest of how his season had gone – it's a total sign he's coming back, skiing like the Kris Freeman we know; no reason to panic…and then Dave [Chamberlain – Bethel, ME] laid it all on the line; he was awesome against some of the toughest guys out there – [France's Vincent] Vittoz [the Worlds pursuit gold medalist] and [Austrian Mikhail] Botvinov, [Russian Vassili] Rotchev [the sprint champion], [Italy's Fulvio] Valbusa [15K freestyle silver medalist]…”
Freeman, whose fifth – and sixth-place finishes a year ago were the best by a U.S. skier in more than two decades, has struggled this winter, but was encouraged with his solid opening 10K (classic technique) leg. “I started really conservative, trying to use the draft as much as I could to keep my legs straight because I've just been lactating up like anything,” Freeman said. “I think it's some kind of muscular virus that just saps all the storage I have in my muscles. I don't know when it's going to pass but hopefully it does; it feels like it's getting better.
“I can ski, I can ski, I can ski, and then there's an OFF switch. It all shuts down at once. That happened to me today about 8K. Fortunately, one of those Ks was downhill. I really would've liked to have been able to stay with those guys, and I know if I had been healthy I could have…
“It's good to finally have a respectable race. It's been one of the most depressing couple of weeks I've had in a long time. It's been a very depressing season; it seems like anything that could go wrong this season has, but I see my girlfriend next week in Lahti [Finland], and,” Freeman said, “hopefully that pick-me-up gets me back into full health and we'll see some good results in Scandinavia…”
The next cross country races are Friday with the team free technique sprints.
2005 WORLD NORDIC SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS
Oberstdorf, GER – Feb. 24, 2005
Men's 4x10K Mixed Relay
1. Norway (Hjelmeset/Estil/Berger/Hofstad), 1:39.04.4
2. Germany (Filbrich/Schluetter/Angerer/Teichmann), 1:39.22.1
3. Russia (Pankratov/Rotchev/Dementiev/Bolchakov), 1:39.23.1
4. Italy, 1:39.49.3
5. Austria, 1:40.40.9
11. USA (K. Freeman/Chamberlain/Johnson/Flora), 1:43.22.2
For complete cross country results: