Liz Stephen posted the best US result of the Championships in winning the bronze medal this morning in Malles, Italy. Stephen, a member of the US B-team, was a solid 19th in the 10km classic earlier in the week. But she skied at another level today, completing the three 15km loops in a time of 37:25.1, just over 21 seconds behind the winner, Olga Tiagai of Russia.
While Stephen led the way, her American teammates were not far behind. Tazlina Mannix finished 8th, +32.5 and Morgan Arritola was 11th, +46.9, in what was by far the best team performance for the US in these Championships. Mannix was 21st and Arritola 18th in the 10km classic.
Stephen finished in a pack of five skiers, just edged by Silja Tarvonen (FIN) for the silver.
“This is huge for us,” said U.S. Nordic Director Luke Bodensteiner. “Not long ago distance events and women's results were glaring weaknesses. Last year Laura Valaas took silver at U23 in the sprint and now Liz has taken bronze in a distance race.”
Tiagai won her second gold of the week, pulling away from the field by the 10km mark and maintaining her 20+ second lead for the remainder of the race.
In the men's 30km freestyle, Dario Cologna (SUI) out-sprinted Ilia Chernousov (RUS) for the victory. Maurice Manificat (FRA) took the bronze, 2.6 seconds back.
The US U23 men posted their best results since the Championship opening sprint. Mike Sinnott finished 30th, +3:24.3. He was followed by Ben True in 35th, and Karl Nygren in 62nd.
Chris Butler led the Canadians, finishing 21st. Teammate Brent McMurtry was not far behind in 26th.
This was the final event of the U23 World Championships.