Andy Newell (USA) took second place in the World Cup freestyle sprint in Lahti, Finland. Newell topped his previous best finish – a third place in China in 2006. Newell rebounded from a string of frustrating results, and appeared on a mission from the start, winning the qualification round by 1.85 seconds.
“Last weekend I fell during qualification in Stockholm and missed qualification,” the American sprint star said. “So today I was angry about that and went out and tried to lay down a fast time.”
Anders Gloersen of Norway won the event with teammate Ola Vigen Hattestad taking third. Canadian Devon Kershaw also had an excellent day, finishing 5th overall. â€œI raced extremely well today and have to be happy with fifth because that was a pretty messy final,â€ said Kershaw, who got tangled up several times searching for holes and a clear lane.
Through the first half of the A-final Newell did an excellent job of maintaining position and staying out of trouble on a Lahti course that featured several extremely tight corners. But on the first long downhill, he appeared to catch skis with another competitor several times and slipped to the last spot. He held that position until Kershaw attempted to slip between Swede Bjorn Lind and Norweigan Hattestad, getting briefly tangled and thrown off balance. Newell took advantage and moved through the resulting space into third – behind Gloersen and Lind. Gloersen's skis appeared to be running extremely well – a fact he confirmed in the post-race press conference, and the Norweigan opened a gap on the downhill into the stadium. Newell made a nice move, passing Lind on the inside of the final corner, and closed up on Gloersen – almost pulling even. But the young Norweigan was able to accelerate away on the finish straight. Hattestad skied into third on the inside, moving up from 5th in the last 100 meters.
After the race, Newell told the press that he was motivated by three things heading into today's race – not qualifying for the heats in Stockholm due to a fall in the qualification round, the inspiring results of the American women at the U23 World Championships – especially Liz Stephen's bronze medal, and finally the recent death of noted ski journalist Paul Robbins.
And while Newell expressed great excitement at being back on the podium, he made it clear his goal had been to win. “I really wanted to win today and dedicate that to him (Robbins), but I'll settle for second place. I know if he was here he would be happy for us to take second.”
“Today, to be first by nearly two seconds in qualification and then to go on and have his best World Cup finish was really gratifying,” said Sprint Head Coach Chris Grover. “It's Andy's best sprint ever.”
One World Cup sprint remain on the schedule – a classic next weekend in Drammen – an event that Newell describes as one of the toughest on the circuit due to the proficiency of the Norweigans in classic sprinting. His goal is another top result, and hopes to show the Norweigans he can double pole with the best of them.
Host Finland was unable to qualify any skier for the A-final, but took places eight, nine and ten with three skier sin the B-final. While not as dominating as in a classic sprint, Norway still managed two on the podium and four in the top eleven.
Coverage of the Qualification Round – including additional American and Canadian results.