A Tough Morning for the American Men’s Sprint Team

Nathaniel HerzFebruary 17, 201025
Andy Newell (USA) during the qualification round.

You had to feel for them. After four years of build-up, the top American sprinters here had a disastrous morning in the sprint qualifer, with Andy Newell crashing in an icy corner and Torin Koos never getting comfortable on his skis.

“I’m crushed for Newell; I’m crushed for Koos,” said John Farra, who oversees the American cross country program for the United States Ski and Snowboard association. “What do you do? You want to hug these guys.”

They were stoic in defeat—both stood in the mixed zone for some tough questions from media. But the sense of disappointment was palpable.

The results from Newell and Koos overshadowed a strong qualifier from Simi Hamilton, a late addition to the American Olympic team, who squeaked into the rounds with a 29th. Farra said Hamilton was so relaxed that it looked like he was skiing a 50k.

The Canadians also put two of their men in the heats, led by an on-form Stefan Kuhn in tenth. He was just four seconds behind the winner, Russia’s Alexander Panzhinskiy, and ahead of a few hardened sprint veterans like Sweden’s Bjoern Lind. Devon Kershaw was 24th, the only other Canadian to qualify.

Kuhn looked sharp in Canmore, but he’ll have to ski a disciplined set of heats if he wants to advance. In the Canmore sprint, he went out hard, leading out his quarterfinal before fading at the finish. At his home Olympics, it could be even harder for Kuhn to restrain himself, but his fitness is clearly good enough to at least crack the semis.

For the Americans though, the men’s results are another setback after some poor results in Monday’s 15k skate.

Newell said that he felt great skiing, but caught on some ice on the course’s toughest corner.

The conditions today were dicey, with transformed snow hardened into a hard, icy crust that hadn’t had time to melt in the morning sun. The women looked very tentative on their skis, especially on the corners, and Newell had no time to see how the men’s field was approaching them, as he was just the second starter to go out.

“I was trying to be conservative on those corners,” Newell said, but added that the klister the Americans were using made things tricky. “Squirrely on those skis, you know?

Garrott Kuzzy, the fourth American sprinter today, said he saw his teammate go down on the stadium Jumbotron before his own start. Newell’s crash, Kuzzy said, happened on the worst part of the course to lose your momentum, since the downhill corner went straight into an uphill.

Impressively, Newell still managed to be within five seconds of qualifying.

Koos said that he didn’t sleep well last night, and just never got going. The result was particularly difficult for him to explain after last week’s second place in the qualifier in Canmore.

“The body’s fine; I’m in good shape,” he said. “Things don’t change in a week or ten days.”

But the conditions just didn’t suit him, especially on the downhills.

“It was pretty icy—I didn’t feel super-comfortable with the snow,” said Koos. “Maybe I just wasn’t matching my technique…I was just having a little bit of trouble with the feel of the ski on the snow.”

But he didn’t excuse the result, adding that successful skiers have to be able to tackle all types of courses and all kinds of conditions. Today, Koos said, he just didn’t have that “pop.”

From here, Koos said that he and Newell will most likely be racing the team sprint together.

“All we can do is take what we got here, and move on,” he said.

Nathaniel Herz

Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.

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  • bill mckibben

    February 17, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    What fun to see Simi Hamilton up there on the big stage. This weekend last year he was pulling past Dartmouth to put away the anchor leg of a 3×5 skate relay at his home Middlebury carnival. Now he’s up there jockeying with the fastest guys on earth. Go man go!

  • VermontXC

    February 17, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    YEAH SIMI! Thank you for proving that skiers indeed can train to succeed at the Olympics after attending college!

  • skierout

    February 17, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    “You want to hug these guys” What the hell. You should kick them in the A$$!!

    Seriously, one guy qualifying in 29th and taking last in the Quarterfinal? That’s awful. Plain and simple.

  • Peter Minde

    February 17, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    @ skierout and jimmythegreek, among other haters. Your hubris is impressive.

    Our skiers are giving everything they can give, and I am an unabashed supporter.

    — Peter Minde

  • deanerbeano

    February 17, 2010 at 10:23 pm

    seriously. top 30 at the olympics is not an easy thing to do. one slip on an uphill could be the difference between qualification and 36th. Simi did well to make the heats and if you watched he was right in his quarter til the final 200m. Based on how big his crash was and his final time, Newell was probably going to qualify 1st- skiing like he always does, balls to the wall. luck can easily be the difference between a good and bad day in the sprint.

  • eturner

    February 17, 2010 at 10:44 pm



  • skierout

    February 17, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    I’m shocked that more people haven’t spoken out here. Maybe they have given up and don’t care anymore.

    I thought top 30’s weren’t good anymore? Kikkan’s goal was top 12? I thought the goal was medals or is that 2014? If Kikkan isn’t shooting for a medal, then who the hell is?

    Hate to say it, but that grouchy Caldwell guy was onto something. Unfortunately, he was shot down by the apologists that want to give everyone hugs and kisses.

  • nate

    February 18, 2010 at 12:16 am

    I kind of have to agree with skierout. If we want to raise the level of US skiing we can’t just be satisfied with the results of the last two races and say “the skiers gave everything they can give”, when they have proven in the past that they can perform at a higher level. Maybe it is crappy wax techs or maybe it is the nerves of higher expectations, but I was expecting better.

  • nate

    February 18, 2010 at 12:19 am

    I will add to my last comment that these first two races will be long forgotten if everyone (coaches, techs and athletes) is able to step it up for the last races. Fortunately we still have plenty of olympics to go.

  • nordic_dave

    February 18, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Yup that would be interesting to Simi get his what kicked?
    Oh man what this skierout guy says is always amazing.
    His best comment probably of the decade…”I have no clue..”.

    Lets see Simi was at U23- Jr World’s in Germany about 10 days before the Olympics. The nice young man gets the dream call to get his butt home he’s going to the Olympics. He’s incredulous like your kidding me? I’m what?

    Skierout I know Simi’s club coach pretty well I’m sure the mentoring that goes on is well beyond your comprehension, but then again thank you for your honest assesment of yourself.


  • skierout

    February 18, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Wow, you’re still hanging on to that line? Do you remember in what context it was used. I had no clue what YOU’RE talking about. I guess if that makes you feel like won something, than congrats.

    A 29th for Simi as an individual performance is solid. But when it’s the best result for the US men after two races, that’s not solid for the US. You can’t deny or argue that.

  • jimmythegreek

    February 18, 2010 at 10:14 am


    YOu are right on the money.

    I commented roughly in the same terms, but more harshly, as in the US team is totally unfocused and a product of a idiotic culture. My comments got censored and removed. Seems like no one wants to hear the truth. That being, we are terrible.

    Too many apologists in the other comments. I can guarantee the Norge team does not say, “IF”.

    Apparently, being honest and angry is not okay in the USA. Our best Oly results, and World Cup results happened in the era of Galanes, Koch, Caldwell. All of these guys are completely honest about their perfomances and did very well.

    NO excuses amongst them. Our culture is weak and sad, like our skiing. Sport, art, media is all a reflection of our culture, and this website is no different. Highly graphic and sexy, but not honest or examining, and, controlling to a level of censorship and exclusion-elistism-all while our skiers suffer from pats on the back and unfounded celebration of their mediocrity.

    Thank you for the chance to post my candor,
    Love to all, the Greek

  • the new cloxxi

    February 18, 2010 at 11:14 am

    You know I usually get a kick out of Johnny Klister but his last post ….”A Special Message for People Commenting Randomly on Wax, Technique and Performance at the Olympics. Especially those of you voyeurs doing nothing to support skiing development in four years between the big shows” directly supports what Jimmythegreek above says about some of those in the Nordic racing community….”controlling to a level of censorship and exclusion-elistism-” Jimmy is right….

    someone behind the curtain is calling someone behind the curtain a voyeur…. Johnny Klisters insider club….only those who are in the know know…. elitism in a vacuum….
    So should we enter our comment with our racing resume’ to be taken seriously? Some of us that comment have a hell of a lot of experience and have loved the sport for many many yrs….

    And maybe this dates me but noone ever waxed my skiis before a race, its part of the preparation pre-race and always should be rather than being pampered and stroked like some fragile kitten.
    Oh and also … NBC coverage of nordic skiing sucks! And its great that they have about all but shut down any other way of seeing these races… just maybe that is why the general population will never understand this sport…. instead they know a whole lot about Curling, and figure skating with feathergloves….and to come full circle back to JKlister… keep up the good work have fun with your site, but dont slam on those that are doing exactly as you do everyday on your site.

  • wantabe

    February 18, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Our culture is weak and sad, like our skiing. Sport, art, media is all a reflection of our culture, and this website is no different. Highly graphic and sexy, but not honest or examining, and, controlling to a level of censorship and exclusion-elistism-all while our skiers suffer from pats on the back and unfounded celebration of their mediocrity.”

    Jimmy the Greek: your candor is touching. I always appreciate it when some a@@hole tries to sum up the diverse American landscape through incredible, one-sentence generalizations. But…you betray yourself-I thought you had no clue. So how is it you made it all the way being a high-school…freshman? Did you fail because you cannot grasp complex issues, or were the teachers too elitist?

    Look, we know you are no big-time athlete.
    But I did not know you were a dumb-%hit too.

    Oh,wait, I did know that.

    Forget the Coors man, stick to Fox News!

  • Doug1

    February 18, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Jimmy the greek, the reason you posts get removed, is because you are spewing conspiracy laden bull. You have absolutely no comprehension of how hard and how much our athletes want to win. Don’t you dare tell me that Simi, Newell or any other American in Vancouver wants to win any less than the Norwegians.

    Kikkan yesterday had the best Olympic result for an American woman EVER! That doesn’t quite fit your idea of the “US team is that totally unfocused and a product of a idiotic culture” now does it?

    If you aren’t here to move US skiing forward get out of the way.

  • welikeben

    February 18, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I have to admit as harsh as The Greek is, I kind of agree with him…. but we should stay on topic. Sure the food in this country is detrimental along the pharmaceutical companies. Point is, there are plenty of American Olympic athletes who rise above it all in other sports and still manage to medal despite all the above stated culture issues in this country. Spillane? Shauni Davis… and on and on. Maybe our expectations after a few top 10’s, a couple top 5’s, and a couple of medals at worlds skyrocketed too much too quickly. Maybe it’s time to once again go back to basics. Have zero expectations other than the best possible effort and then hopefully one day be pleasantly surprised. Freeman’s 4th place back 2003 was so great because no one was expecting it…. the pressure wasn’t there….

    I’m not gonna hold my breath for Olympic medals until there are consist medal performances at worlds and world championships….. Overall world cup winner, etc…. then I’ll have some serious expectations. No doubt Nordic skiing in this country has improved a lot over the past 20 years…. still have a long way to go… to get consistent top results.

    I don’t blame the athletes. I blame the fair weather fans and U.S. Ski Team for setting us all up for a let down…. too much hype over very sparse top finishes the past 8 years.

  • welikeben

    February 18, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    I should probably proof read my comments before I make them… as I’m sure I will get reamed for the lack of grammar and spelling. Nonetheless, I standby the claims I made. Expectations went too high too soon after a handful of top results over the past 8 years.

  • wantabe

    February 18, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Hi Jimmy!

    I am glad to hear that you are researching anti-psychotic drugs.
    Could do you some good…

    As for Andy Newell and his blogging; I saw last night that Shani Davis, the US Gold medal winner in the 1000, and the only skater ever to do that twice in a row. He talked about his journalism and how much it helped him to understand both himself and his sport. So resting and training are the only 2 things an athlete should do? No journal?
    “Crashing is an extension of his psyche.” Okay Freud, it’s great to know you have finally over come the centuries age quest for a resolution to the mind/body conflict as described by Descartes.
    “Randall, she could win if she did not eat Subway. That stuff is pure GMO and factory farm poison. Stop eating Subway, start winning races.” The only poison I see here is your vitriolic condescending lecture, which seems to be fueled by a sophomoric “pseudo-intellect that gives credence to the old saying “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
    As for Kris….oouugh, sloppy research. Lilly was sued (successfully,yes,I admit) for 1 product, Zyprexa. You see, Jimmy, a little research and some good googling can mean the difference between a well-written piece of vitriol and whatever your vitriol is.(I knew that off the TOP of my head-no research needed!) but hey, you’re the doctor, right? No, wait, don’t tell me; he eats at Subway. Or, is it that he doesn’t exercise enough?
    “The olympics are one excellent party”…and don’t you wish you were there!!!

    “You all have zero chance at a medal, so live it up”. Did you see this in a vision? See, this is why I’ve always been leery of self-proclaimed prophets 8>).

    “I can provide a candid reason why the US ski team will never be any good. Can you wantabe?” Can you? So far I have heard a lot of smoke but no fire; it does indeed appear that you are at the margins-and I am not the one who put you there!

  • bill mckibben

    February 18, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    Just a note to say that I’m very very sorry I started this comment thread, and won’t do so again. You guys are really really out of it, as in, it’s highly embarrassing to be in the same section of cyberspace. I’m just going back to watching Simi and the rest of them do something great–and the rest of them include the athletes from all the other countries.

  • wantabe

    February 18, 2010 at 10:08 pm


    for a fasterskier fan you should read it more..and better.
    Jimmy the Geek, as I pointed out, seems to have some kind of weird grudge against the athletes.

    Did’jah notice what he had to say about them.; That is why I deconstructed his argument quote-by-quote (this is something I learned on my own, BTW, having been kicked out of Grad school for drinking too much micro-brew. Since then I HAVE switched to meth,but I appreciate the advice anyway!)

    I guess the stodgy old “elite” of this sport are against a good old debate…oh wait, could that be part of the problem?

    As far as the gray sweater goes, now you are getting personal.;)

  • Mike Trecker

    February 19, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Fear and loathing in Las Vancouver. Perhaps this is weird enough? The U.S. can win the hate competition for sure.

  • Lars

    February 20, 2010 at 6:48 am

    I don`t think the US xc skiers have been that bad. Randall had what i think is one of her best results in a classic sprint ever. Newell and Freeman were both unlucky Freeman with his skis and Newell with conditions that caused him to fall and there for not make the sprint top 30.
    That is unfortunate but no reason to go ape shit and no matter how disappointed a fan is the athletes them-selfs will feel worse they have invested 10-15 years of training for this.

  • Big Joe

    February 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Ok. I can resist no longer. Why are those that simply point out the disappointing performances regarded as “haters?” Surely, the athletes know their results have been less spectacular than the propagandists promised. If they are not aware of this — perhaps we have identified a problem. Further many of the athletes have used the media and the web to promote themselves. With such promotion one must expect increased scrutiny as well.

    I think it is interesting that many of the posters use criticism and hyperbole to try to silence those with whom they disagree.
    A very odd use of the internet indeed. Using criticism to silence critics. Interesting.

    But at the end of the day — its just skiing for christsakes. (no offense to the evangelists among us.)

  • the new cloxxi

    February 20, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Well put Big Joe… when an athletes promote themselves for all the benefits of advancement, corporate sponsorship, etc, they open themselves up to criticism. If they want to be the best then they are in the limelight with all to see and criticize… its not all roses. Unlike what JustinF and JKlister would like you to think, just because we may not be certified “Elites”, we still have thoughts and opinions about ‘our’ sport. Theirs is a form of fascism.

  • the new cloxxi

    February 20, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    Oh …. not affiliated with the ‘old cloxxi’ ….

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