BORLAENGE, Sweden (March 7) – Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK), who produced the alltime best U.S. women’s Olympic finish when she was ninth in the sprint two weeks ago in Italy, turned-in the best alltime U.S. women’s World Cup result Tuesday night, finishing fifth in a 750-meter sprint on a horse race track. Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) was 13th in the men’s 1.5K event as Swede Thobias Fredriksson won.
Italy’s Arianna Follis won the women’s freestyle technique sprint over Marit Bjoergen of Norway, the World Cup leader and former sprint world champion, with Canadian Sara Renner third and Swede Emilie Oehrstig fourth. In 10-degree weather, Randall, 23, a two-time Olympian and three-time U.S. sprint champion, had the fastest time in the â€œB Final,â€ the consolation round.
â€œIt was a really fun night,â€ said Randall, who’s sponsored by a local dairy in Anchorage, Matanuska Maid, and who races out of the Alakasa Pacific University Nordic Ski Center program run by three-time Olympian Jim Galanes. â€œI thought it would be cold but if you kept moving around, it wasn’t too bad…and the track stayed hard.â€
During the Olympic sprint Feb. 22 in Pragelato Plan, Randall had tried to cut inside the leaders on a lefthand turn and she was pinched out during her semifinal heat. Tuesday night, she said, she gunned it a little more and made her inside move successfully, then skied to the finish line, finishing 1.1 seconds ahead of Norway’s Ella Gjoemle; Olympic champion Chandra Crawford of Canada finished eighth.
Olympic tactic pays off in Sweden
â€œIn the Olympic semis I went for opening and it closed on me. Tonight [in the B Final], I saw it and went for it…and made it. I learned from the Olympics,â€ she said. â€œI knew I could do it. I know I’ve got the speed and since the Olympics I’ve got good confidence.â€
â€œI don’t have any words. Kikkan’s skiing with so much confidence now,â€ said sprint Coach Vidar Loefshus, â€œand she’s not afraid, not intimidated by anyone in those heats. She’s learning the tactics, learning what the other girls will do…and she’s moving around without any fear.â€
At the Winter Games, Randall – who skipped World Cup races in Canada in December so she could continue training for the Olympics – teamed with Wendy Wagner (Park City, UT) in the inaugural team sprint and they finished 10th. That was classic technique and the individual sprint was skating.
â€œI’m learning in every race. Tonight,â€ Randall said, â€œI learned I’ve got to qualify faster, so I can have a better position in the heatsâ€ where faster skiers get to choose their start lane. â€œI was on the outside in the semis and that wasn’t a good place to be. I’ve got a fast start, but if I’m on the outside, it takes time to get to the inside, or to the front…
â€œI’m getting to know the other girls, learning to be more aggressive, learning what I can do. That’s a big part of sprinting.â€
â€œIt was a horse racing track, so they had indoor seating and the crowd was pretty good,â€ Randall said. â€œWe started at one end of the final stretch and then they took us off and over a couple of small bumps, and that was it. The guys were waxing in the stables…â€
She’s rooming with Lindsay Williams (Hastings, MN), the 2005 U.S. sprint gold medalist who took leave from Northern Michigan University so she could make a serious run at the Olympic Team – and made it. â€œWe’re both learning about sprinting at the World Cup level,â€ Randall said. Williams was 39th Tuesday night.
Alison Owen Spencer won the first official – although â€œexperimentalâ€ – World Cup race at Wisconsin’s Telemark resort, a 5K race in December 1978. There were several top-10s in that 1979 and the 1981 â€œexperimentalâ€ seasons, including two sevenths and an eighth by Spencer (now Alison Kiesel); since the World Cup became official with the 1982 season, however, no U.S. woman has been top-10.
In the World Cup’s 25th season, it’s the best performance by an American woman. Previous best was the ninth from two other Alaskans – Judy Rabinowitz in Anchorage in March 1983 and a ninth the next week in Labrador City, Nfld., by Lynn Spencer.
In the men’s sprint, Fredriksson ended a two-year victory drought with his victory. The 2003 sprint world champion, he was a stride ahead of teammate Peter Larsson with Canadian Devon Kershaw third and Olympic champ Bjoern Lind fourth. Newell, who qualified 12th, was 13th while Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA), who has struggled with a lingering cold for about a month, was 40th and Chris Cook (Rhinelander, WI), the current U.S. sprint champion, 41st.
The men and women face pursuit events – a 10K (5+5) for women and 20K (10+10) for men – Wednesday during the Swedish Ski Games in nearby Falun and then there is a classic technique sprint Thursday in Drammen, Norway. Saturday, the women face a 30K FR and the men ski a 50K FR during the Holmenkollen Ski Festival in Oslo.
VIESSMANN CROSS COUNTRY WORLD CUP
Borlaenge, SWE – March 7, 2006
Men’s 1.5K FR Sprint (8 make semifinals)
1. Thobias Fredriksson, Sweden
2. Peter Larsson, Sweden
3. Devon Kershaw, Canada
4. Bjoern Lind, Sweden
5. Tor Arne Hetland, Norway
6. Cristian Zorzi, Italy
7. Petter Northugg, Norway
8. Oystein Pettersen, Norway
13. Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, Vt.
40. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, Wash.
41. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, Wis.
64. Dave Chamberlain, Bethel, Maine
Women’s 750m FR Sprint
1. Arianna Follis, Italy
2. Marit Bjoergen, Norway
3. Sara Renner, Canada
4. Emelie Oehrstig, Sweden
5. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, Alaska
6. Ella Gjoemle, Norway
7. Ida Ingmarsdotter, Sweden
8. Chandra Crawford, Canada
39. Lindsay Williams, Hastings, Minn.
For complete results: