After a mishap in a race in Canada, Simi Hamilton said that he secured the grips on his Swix Stars with “about a pound” of glue. It still wasn’t enough.
Leading his heat through the initial downhill in the U-23 skate sprint today, a Norwegian skied over one of Hamilton’s baskets as he came out of a tuck. The grip came off, and the whole pack went by.
Hamilton was left screaming at the fans on the right side of the trail for a new pole, and he finally grabbed one from an unsuspecting Russian woman who was looking the other way. But by then it was far too late.
“I thought that I had learned my lesson and put on a ton of glue last fall when I was building my poles up,” said Hamilton afterwards. “I had a good qualifier, which I’m really psyched about…It just sucks that [the mishap] had to happen here.”
Martin Jaeger (SUI) looked dominant after Hamilton’s exit, and he appeared to have the A-final under wraps until Ole-Marius Bach, a lanky Norwegian, managed to get around him coming into the finishing stretch. Andrei Parfenov (RUS) took bronze.
Peter Kling was the only other American in the heats, and he failed to advance. He said that the racing was aggressive on the slick course here, and that the Europeans “don’t mess around.”
“But we can ski with them,” he said. Kling said that he was dropped midway through his heat, but that a crash ahead of him gave him a chance to get back in the race.
“I just needed another hundred meters,” he said.
A nervous starter added to the stress—Hamilton’s quarterfinal had a false start, which he said took the wind out of his sails, and one of the semifinals had three. The jury reigned it in after that, though, reinstating all of the disqualified athletes and running the heat with all six.
For Hamilton, the pole problems were made all the more painful by the fact that course was so short and fast, which seemed like it should suit him.
He won the qualifier by a full second, which U.S. U-23 Head Coach Pat Casey said was significant.
“To win the prelim by a second on a course where bib number makes such a difference [with lane choices for the heats]—everyone was gunning for bib number one,” he said. “For him to dominate it like that…it’s like an exclamation point.”
Losing out in the quarters was a “bummer” for Hamilton, but “every time he does a sprint, though, he learns something,” Casey said.
Hamilton will be racing in the 15k classic on Tuesday, and then it will be back to North American for the sprint in Canmore. He said that he hopes to travel back to Europe later this winter for some continental cup racing.
Reese Hanneman was the next-best American finisher after Kling, finishing 34th, just half a second out of the heats. Patrick Johnson was another 1.5 seconds back, in 39th.
Canada’s Len Valjas made the B-final, placing third.
The U-23 championships continue on Thursday with the 10/15k classic, while the juniors are back in action tomorrow with a 5/10k in the same discipline.
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.