Kris Freeman performs best when he’s angry, which bodes well for the rest of his Olympic Games.
“I’m just really, really pissed,” he said Tuesday about his debacle in the 15k freestyle.
Freeman blew by reporters in the finish chute yesterday, leaving fans and media without an explanation for what he called “a horrible result.” But as he wrote on his blog, that was because he didn’t have one himself.
24 hours later, though, things had come into focus, and the good news for American ski fans is that there’s nothing wrong with Freeman’s body. Instead, it was the skis.
After limping into the finish for 58th place yesterday, Freeman was baffled. Halfway through the race, he said he thought he was in good position for a top-ten, and was shocked to see himself so far down at the intermediate time check.
Instead of shutting things down like the Norwegians, though, Freeman said that he overcompensated—blowing himself up by the 10 k mark.
“I’m not going to give up because it wasn’t going to be a podium at the Olympics,” he said. “I gave it my all.”
The snafu with the finish chute, where he went the wrong way following Johan Olsson (SWE), was just a “slap in the face”—nothing that seriously altered the outcome of the race.
“I was just following a white butt,” he said.
After the finish, as Freeman sat with his coach, Zach Caldwell trying to figure out “what the hell happened,” the pair was approached by Nathan Schultz, a member of the American service team who works with Caldwell at Boulder Nordic Sport.
Schultz offered to take Freeman’s skis and test them against a few other pairs, and when he did, he discovered that they were by far the worst of the four. Caldwell also consulted with the Fischer service team to find out what kind of ski flex race winner Dario Cologna had used. It turned out to be the opposite of Freeman’s selection.
The problem, Freeman said, was that he hadn’t been able to pick his own skis. With the course only open for 20 minutes before the start of the race, Freeman was focused on taking care of his blood sugar, and didn’t have time to do the testing himself. Instead, he ended up skiing on a pair chosen by the team’s wax techs—who aren’t his same weight.
He said that the wax staff ended up picking a pair that was slick underfoot, but that when under Freeman’s full weight, experienced suction on the bases, as well as tips washing out.
Since those 20 minutes before the race start are crucial for blood sugar management, Freeman said that he wasn’t sure what he could have done differently. He made it clear that the ski choice was not an error by the team’s wax staff.
“I’m not blaming anything except for the circumstances,” he said. “It’s kind of a unique situation, having a course that was supposed to be open an hour before my race shut down, except for 15 minutes prior.”
For the rest of the week, though, Freeman said he will have to find a way to test his own skis.
“If the courses are closed, I’m just going to have to do my blood sugar management on the track, which is something I like to avoid,” he said. “But if that’s what it comes down to, because the snow is so bizarre here, I need to feel the skis before I go out on them.”
From here, Freeman said that the remainder of the Games will be resting and ski testing. There are no problems with his fitness, he said—he’s just angry.
That might not hurt him in the 30k pursuit, though.
“I’ve gone through many ski races in my life,” he said, “and I’ve got to say that probably eight of my ten best races, I was absolutely livid during them.”
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.