The 2010 Masters World Cup in Falun, Sweden (February 20-26) featured a number of top performances by a 74-skier strong USA contingent.
On Sunday, February 21 Michigan’s ageless Milan Baic powered his way to a bronze medal in the always competitive M5 (50-54 years) category 30km freestyle. Even more impressive was Baic managed his first individual MWC medal over a very tough course in even tougher weather/snow conditions highlighted by temperatures in single digits, blustery winds, and several inches of fresh snow.
The Monday, February 22 10km races featured a pair of podium finishes by USA athletes. Vermont’s Trina Hosmer took out her frustration at coming in fourth the day prior in the 15km freestyle by hammering the F7 (60-64 years) 10km classic competition claiming gold. Idaho’s Del Pletcher similarly battled back from a hardluck fourth in the 15km the day prior to grab the M8 silver medal in the 10km freestyle.
After a day off to enjoy the Dalarna region, three USA relay teams snagged hardware in the Wednesday, February 24 MWC2010 relay events. Under World Masters Association rules, legal 4-person relay teams must consist of at least two skiers in each designated age category over 2 x 5km classic and 2 x 5km freestyle legs. Older skiers may “drop down” in age class to complete the teams, but younger skiers cannot move “up” in age (an interesting twist that is opposite of the Junior Olympic process many USA skiers are familiar with).
The USA M1 relay team had a distinct XC Oregon elite team flavor as former XC Oregon skiers Jan Spurkland and Dennis Feeney sandwiched XC Oregon Coach J.D. Downing and Bend, Oregon skier Dan Packman to cruise to a bronze medal behind a stacked Italian squad and always powerful Russia.
In an impressive display of team consistency, the USA M5 team of Milan Baic, Randy Bladel (IN), Del Pletcher (dropping down three full age groups!), and Cliff Onthank (MI) powered to a hard-fought relay bronze in a very competitive category.
USA relay medals rounded out with the F1 team of Inge Scheve (WA), Trina Hosmer, Karen Oppenheimern (OR), and Megan Spurkland (AK) that ran neck-and-neck with second place Norway for several legs before ultimately claiming the third USA bronze of the day.
The MWC2010 rounded out with another solid round of USA performances in the Thursday and Friday, February 25-26 distance classic and freestyle events.
On the men’s side, Jan Spurkland skied to a 45km classic silver medal in the M1 category on Thursday, Feb 25. Then Milan Baic collected his third medal of the MWC2010 with another impressive bronze effort in the M5 45km freestyle on Friday, Feb 26.
For the women, Scheve grabbed gold in the F2 30km freestyle on another soft snow day albeit with much warmer temps and far less wind than the epic freestyle nearly a week prior. Hosmer then claimed a silver in the F7 30km freestyle when, after leading the majority of the race, Hosmer ended up accidentally boxed out by a male skier coming into the final finish sprint.
The Falun organizers wrapped things up with a fun-filled banquet and dance on Friday, February 26 and officially passed the MWC torch to 2011 host Sovereign Lake/Silver Star, British Columbia. The Canadian super-venue will host the MWC2011 March 3-11, 2011 with the event doubling as the 2011 U.S. National Masters providing USA masters with an unbeatable two-for-one mega event to aim for next season.
Preliminary information for USA skiers regarding the 2011 Masters World Cup is already posted on xcskiworld.com with additional materials coming this spring for all current members of American XC Skiers (AXCS)t. From this point until next winter all new or renewed AXCS memberships will extend thru 10.31.2011 giving skiers up to a 20 month value on the required national association membership for next year’s Worlds/Nationals. Interested skiers can see xcskiworld.com for a secure credit card payment system to renew or join AXCS now.