Whistler, British Columbia – The US men’s cross-country ski team concluded a disappointing Olympics with two very different performances in the 50km classic.
Kris Freeman, who inexplicably struggled the entire Games, dropped out after 20 kilometers. He spent the first 15km with the lead pack, but was always at the back, hanging on. He lost contact, and with a month of World Cup racing potentially ahead, he opted to save his body.
“My coaches said if I was out of it early, they wanted me to stop. I think they have the rest of my season in mind and they don’t want me to hurt myself,” Freeman said.
“I was right in there and I was skiing relaxed,” Freeman continued. “But you just can tell when something is off and I was just working a little too hard to be going that speed.”
Freeman does not have any answers as to what went wrong. He did not race well in the 15km, and reportedly did not have great skis for that race. He then had a major blood sugar crash in the pursuit, and though he finished the race, the episode cost him minutes. He sat out the relay as he attempted to recover enough to compete in the 50km.
“It has been an exhausting two weeks. I have no real answers for why the first race went so bad or the second race, and today I was just exhausted. I never envisioned that the Olympics could go this poorly for me. It is about the worst week of racing I have ever had.”
Freeman will now regroup with his coaches and figure out the next step.
James Southam, the only other US starter, besting Simi Hamilton’s 29th in the sprint for the best result by the US men.
Southam skied the first 60% of the race with the lead pack, rubbing elbows at the front at times.
“I felt good. I was a lot more relaxed out of the start and I picked up spaces where I could, and all of a sudden I was in the top-5 – a little surprising.”
Southam did not find the pace overwhelming, but a self-described poorly-timed ski change left him off the back. “I just couldn’t fight my way back up to the group.”
The 28th place finish was Southam’s top international result. He described it as a good race that was almost great.
He switched skis twice, the first time at 20km, but the new pair was not as good. “On the first switch I got back on to the main group no problem, but the second time I couldn’t quite get back up there.”
His switch did give coaches a chance to touch up his better pair, and he switched back over at 30km. Unfortunately that was the end of his run with the leaders.
Overall Southam had a decent Olympics, not reaching his goals, but turning in several respectful performances, with his best coming today. His 50 FIS points today confirms the good effort.
Southam will now head to Europe for World Cup races in Lahti and Oslo before returning home for a week prior to US Distance Nationals in Maine.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.