Note: FasterSkier originally reported that Laura Spector was the first U.S. woman to compete in a mass start race. She is not; but she is the first since Rachel Steer, who started in three World Cup mass starts and one at World Championships between 2003 and 2005.
With a 19th-place finish – her best ever in a World Cup – Laura Spector has earned something coveted by many a U.S. woman before, but seldom attained.
Thanks to a stellar sprint race in Oberhof, Germany on Saturday, Spector was handed a position in Sunday’s mass start. 25 athletes are pre-selected based on the overall World Cup rankings and the rankings within each discipline, while five start slots are divied up based on the previous sprint. Spector was one of those five lucky athletes.
But Spector’s finish wasn’t the only good result from the sprint. Sara Studebaker finished 40th with two penalties, and scored World Cup points. While it wasn’t her best race ever, she was pleased.
“Two misses in standing wasn’t great, but I felt really good skiing and was extremely happy to score points with two penalties,” Studebaker said in an e-mail. “That’s a big step in the right direction.
“I was trying a new front aperture because it had been so foggy here the past few days. It didn’t end up working well for me in standing, but it was a good thing for me to try and to learn from.”
Spector’s performance, though, was clearly the high point for the U.S.
“I think I went into today’s race like I would approach an intensity workout, in order to avoid becoming nervous or feel under any pressure,” Spector told FasterSkier. “The staff set a high standard for today – make the mass start – but I didn’t think about that during my race, I just thought about putting forth my best effort and staying relaxed on the range.”
Early in the race, Spector appeared to be on track for an even better finish. She cleaned the prone shooting stage, but then missed one shot in standing, a setback of around twenty seconds.
Spector said that she returned to the second period of World Cup racing rejuvenated after a productive break.
“I was eager to race after three weeks of no racing and I think this helped me to ski fast as well… I’d say there was a definite advantage in staying over here during the break. I was able to continue training without any interruption from travel and without having to deal with the jetlag. I had two weeks of high quality training and also enjoyed my time in Italy, and I think it’s really important to be able to refresh the mind after a long month of racing.”
Ann Kristin Flatland of Norway won the sprint, collecting the first World Cup victory of her career. Spector was one minute and 50 seconds behind her.