Sadie Bjornsen (USA/APUNSC)/Ida Sargent (USA/CGRP)
In a year packed with success for the United States women , it could be easy to overlook the significant steps taken by U.S. Ski Team teammates Sadie Bjornsen and Ida Sargent .
While co-winners may seem like somewhat of a cop-out, both women are equally deserving, moving from up-and-comer to full fledged World Cup elite.
Bjornsen finished in the points in nine of eleven individual World Cup starts, highlighted by a ninth-place finish in the Lahti sprint in March, and an 18th, her first distance top-20, the following day in the 10k classic.
She also paired with Sargent to finish fifth in the team sprint in Sochi, Russia, demonstrating that the U.S. can be a force in that event even when Kikkan Randall takes a day off.
While Bjornsen entered the 2013 season with a World Cup medal under her belt, earned with Randall in the Dusseldorf team sprint in December 2011, she had only cracked the top-30 once in her young World Cup career, placing 27th in the final sprint event of the 2012 season.
She ended the season ranked 54th in the world, just missing out on a start spot at World Cup Finals in Sweden. Instead she traveled to Italy where she finished second in the OPA Cup Finals mini-tour, winning the second stage.
Bjornsen also was part of the U.S. relay team that placed fourth at World Championships.
Sargent, like Bjornsen, had some World Cup success prior to this season, but she raised her game to a whole new level.
At the end of season that included her first sprint finals appearance, Sargent was ranked as the 23rd best sprinter in the World, qualifying for the Red Group and U.S. Ski Team A-Team status.
For the first time, Sargent skied pretty much the entire World Cup circuit, starting in Novemeber in Gallivare, Sweden, and ending up at World Cup Finals.
She kicked off the 2013 campaign with a bang, placing 18th in the Kuusamo mini-tour, powered by her first sprint top-10 and first distance top-20.
She kept going strong when the World Cup headed to Canada, placing 10th and 14th in the Canmore freestyle sprint and the 15k skiathlon respectively.
The high water mark was yet to come however, and in Sochi, Russia, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sargent placed 6th in the individual skate sprint and paired with Bjornsen to take 5th in the team event.
Entering the season, Sargent had four World Cup points results, a number she more than doubled in 2013.
Moving from results in the high twenties and thirties to the top-10 is a big jump at the World Cup level, a leap that both Bjornsen and Sargent made in 2013. They took their well recognized potential and made success the reality, and in doing so contributed to a record-breaking season for the entire team.
Erik Bjornsen (USA/APUNSC)
Erik joins sister Sadie to become the first brother/sister combo to win a FasterSkier award. While he did not have the same success on the World Cup circuit, the younger Bjornsen skied well enough internationally to secure a spot on the U.S. B-Team for the 2014 season.
He was a force domestically, taking nine podiums on the SuperTour circuit, including five wins, two of which were national titles.
Bjornsen’s top World Cup result was a 36th in the 15km classic mass start in Canmore, demonstrating the international potential to be more than a sprinter.
Later in the season, he placed 15th in the U23 World Championship 15k, 16th in the skiathlon, and 10th in the sprint.
He wrapped up the season by winning SuperTour Finals in Tahoe.
While Bjornsen has had plenty of strong results in the past, the 2013 season marked a leap ahead. While he still has plenty of room to improve at the World Cup level, he separated himself form the pack domestically.
Noah Hoffman (USA/Team Homegrown/SSCV)
Hoffman ended the season with nine World Cup points results, including an impressive race in the Canmore Skiathlon, where he placed 8th after skiing at the front for a majority of the event.
With just two World Cup top-30’s entering the season, Hoffman could easily be considered a breakthrough. But while the results are there, Hoffman’s improvement seems more incremental, a natural progression for a skier who first earned points back in 2009.
“It’s never a smooth, continual uphill process, that’s for sure, but I achieved some of my goals and not others this year,” Hoffman told FasterSkier earlier this week. “I guess I shoot pretty high. I had a good year but by no means did I achieve all my goals.”
He did crack the top-15 at World Championships and contested (and completed) his first Tour de Ski.
Kate Fitzgerald (USA/APUNSC)
Kevin Sandau (CAN)
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.