Defending Olympic Sprint Champion Chandra Crawford won her second consecutive World Cup freestyle sprint, taking the victory in Lahti, Finland. Crawford won the same event event on her home course in Canmore, Alberta at the end of January. American Kikkan Randall recorded her best result since winning the freestyle sprint in Russia in December.
Crawford qualified in 18th, but won her quarterfinal in a photo finish to advance. She went on to win her semifinal as well, and advanced to the A-final, where she edged Natalia Matveeva by half a second. Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle (GER) took third, besting Petrea Majdic (SLO) in a photo finish.
â€œIt feels awesome to win again today. I am so relaxed, comfortable, happy and psyched about what this does for our program,â€ said Crawford, who believes her strength in skate-skiing comes from her years in the sport of biathlon as a kid before switching to cross-country skiing. â€œFor me getting into a pack of girls on skate skis and racing for one kilometer to get to the finish line first is my idea of fun.â€
Randall made history when she became the first US woman ever to win a World Cup race. Today she skied herself into the A-final and posted her 4th top five finish of her career.
After qualifying in 15th, Randall won her quarterfinal over Norweigan star Marit Bjoergen. She finished third in the semis, advancing to the A-final as the first lucky loser. Randall's semifinal heat, won by Crawford, was significantly faster than the other – both lucky losers came out of the heat and their times were over three seconds faster than the winning time in the first semifinal.
“Kikkan looked great. She had a little bit of trouble in her final round,” US Ski Team sprint Coach Chris Grover said. “She was coming into the finish in second place but she got tangled with a couple other skiers right at the top and she lost a lot of momentum. That knocked her back to fifth place.”
Majdic extended her lead in the World Cup sprint rankings. She is now 54 points ahead of Norweigan Astrid Jacobsen who finished 24th today. After consistently advancing to the A-final throughout the season, Jacobsen has struggled of late, being knocked out in the quarters in each of the last two races. Crawford is currently in 6th place and Randall 14th.
Jacobsen did manage to make up ground on overall World Cup leader Virpi Kuitunen (FIN) who failed to advance to the heats today. Kuitunen holds a 79 point lead with 5 races left.