He’s the real deal.
That’s what U.S. Ski Team Development Coach Matt Whitcomb said this morning about Simi Hamilton, after the skate sprint national champ took first place in the qualifying round of the same event here in Hinterzarten.
After some drizzle overnight, the race trails at the Notschrei Nordic Center were covered with a thin icy crust this morning, which made for some slick skiing and a fast qualifying round—Hamilton’s time was around 2:20.
Peter Kling also snuck into the rounds, finishing somewhere in the high twenties, while Reese Hanneman was the second Alaskan in two days to finish just out of the heats, just a few places out.
On the women’s side, all four U.S. entrants skied into the heats, led by Ida Sargent in fourth, two and a half seconds behind Mari Laukkanen of Finland. Sadie Bjornsen followed in 13th, with Rosie Brennan 16th and Becca Rorabaugh in 19th.
For both genders here, there are fewer entrants contesting today’s race than at the junior level yesterday. Yesterday’s men’s field was around 100 racers, while only some 60 men started today, and were just 41 women started.
According to Whitcomb, many of the world’s best U-23 athletes are competing on the World Cup. But he said that the top of the field is still competitive, and to break into the top ten should still be considered a strong result.
Click here for a quick video with Hamilton, and click here for a summary of the Canadian chances today, with one of the team’s coaches, Eric Bailey.
Check back later today for complete coverage of the heats.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.