Randall Continues Skier of the Year Run, Newell Tops for Men

Topher SabotApril 30, 2013
Kikkan Randall and Andy Newell — Cross-Country Skiers of the Year
Kikkan Randall and Andy Newell — Cross-Country Skiers of the Year

Female Cross-Country Skier of the Year: Kikkan Randall (USA/APUNSC)

At this point it might be simplest to proactively award Kikkan Randall the FasterSkier Women’s Skier of the Year Award for the duration of her career.

With yet another historic season, Randall easily remains the only winner in the five-year run of the award. Every November one has to ask the same question — can Randall continue to get better? And every year she responds with an emphatic yes.

Despite an off-season marred by an injury that had her in a walking cast for a significant period of time, Randall started the season with a bang, raising her distance racing to new heights.

She placed on the podium in the first race — a 10k freestyle and helped the U.S. women to their first relay World Cup top-3 the following day.

Randall and Diggins celebrate Gold!
Randall and Diggins celebrate Gold!

It would be easier to just link to Randall’s FIS profile at this point, as she continued to churn out top results week in and week out.

She was 5th in the Ruka Triple mini-tour, won five individual races, paired with Jessie Diggins for an inspiring team sprint win in Quebec, and garnered a total of 11 podium results.

All of this earned her an even more impressive podium — third in the overall World Cup standings behind only Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) and Therese Johaug (NOR).

Add in her defense of the Sprint Cup and you have yet another groundbreaking season.

Such a résumé would be worthy of the XC SOTY without any further additions, but the highlight of Randall’s 2013 campaign has yet to be mentioned.

On February 24th, in Val di Fiemme, Italy, Randall again paired with Diggins for a team sprint event. The duo overcame a broken pole to win the race going away — the first World Championship gold medal in the history of U.S. cross-country skiing.

In addition to her on-the-track highlights, Randall played a big role in the overall emergence of the U.S. women’s team. No longer a one-woman show, the likes of Diggins, Liz Stephen, Holly Brooks, Sadie Bjornsen and Ida Sargent have joined the world’s elite.

Randall has led by example, proving to up-and-comers that it is possible to be both American and one of the best. But she has taken her role much further, providing leadership, and setting the tone for the entire team. Her impact on the sport will be felt for years following her eventual retirement.

Male Cross-Country Skier of the Year: Andy Newell (USA/SMS T2)

The selection for the men’s version of the Cross-Country Skier of the Year award was not as clear-cut as the women’s, with several candidates posting similarly strong seasons.

Newell (USA) leads while Martin Jaeger (SUI) gets a replacement pole.
Newell (USA) leads while Martin Jaeger (SUI) gets a replacement pole in the Quebec city sprint

But for the first time in the history of the award, Devon Kershaw (CAN) was not one of them. Like Randall, Kershaw had won the honor every time it was awarded, though he shared it with teammate Alex Harvey in 2011 and Ivan Babikov and Andy Newell in 2010.

With Kershaw out of the picture after a challenging up-and-down season that was more down than up, the door opened for Newell to win his second title.

Newell has been a paragon of consistency over the past years and this season was no exception — he was the only man to qualify for the heats in every World Cup sprint race, a total of 11 events.

It has become expected to see Newell in the heats — so commonplace in fact that the magnitude of that accomplishment can be overlooked.

Cracking the points is impressive, but Newell also advanced to four sprint finals, with a season best result of 4th in Davos, Switzerland.

All this sprinting success added up to a 5th place in the Sprint Cup, a marked improvement over his 16th last season, and second only to his 4th in 2010. The ranking gives him five career top 10’s in the Sprint Cup over the course of his career.

Newell also scored points in three distance races and had several strong relay performances, skiing with the leaders on the scramble leg of the event.

The only disappointment in an otherwise impressive season would be a 21st in the World Championship sprint and Newell’s inability to climb back to the World Cup podium, a position he hasn’t occupied since 2010.

Ultimately, however, Newell had an exceptional season, rebounding from a tough 2012 campaign to regain his spot as one of the best sprinters in the world. Add in his continued improvements on the distance side and there is no question he earned his spot as the FasterSkier Cross-Country Skier of the Year.

Honorable Mention

Ivan Babikov (CAN)

A strong case can be made for Babikov — he was the top ranked North American in the overall World Cup standings, finishing 20th, his best ever.

He scored points in 12 events, highlighted by a second place result in the Tour de Ski Final Climb, an effort that left him 7th in the overall for that grueling stage race.

He also placed 7th in the 15km classic mass start in the Tour, the first time he cracked the top-10 in a World Cup classic event.

While the Tour de Ski was impressive, Babikov saved his best for the biggest stage, placing 4th in the 15km freestyle at World Championships. That result alone could arguably jump him ahead of Newell in our rankings, but the American got the nod due to his consistency throughout the season and his overall ranking in the Sprint Cup.

Babikov is a close second however, and was one of the bright spots for the Canadian men’s team in 2013.

Ivan Babikov (l) leads fellow Canadian Graham Nishikawa (r) of the Alberta World Cup Academy during Wednesday's 15 k freestyle individual start at 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
Ivan Babikov (l) leads fellow Canadian Graham Nishikawa (r) of the Alberta World Cup Academy during the 15 k freestyle individual start at 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

Alex Harvey (CAN)

Like most of the Canadian men, Harvey struggled to maintain top form over the course of the season, at times skiing as one of the best in the world, and at others struggling back in the pack.

He skied extremely well in the Tour de Ski, placing third in the same 15km mass start in which Babikov excelled, and posted a total of four top-6 results in the event.

Due to leg issues with climbing, he opted not to contest the Final Climb, in an effort to maintain form for World Championships.

He missed three starts over the next weeks due to a shoulder injury, and did not ski well when he did race. But the Canadian men have traditionally done an excellent job of being ready for the biggest events, and Harvey nearly single-handedly salvaged a disappointing season for the squad with his bronze medal performance in the individual sprint.

He and Kershaw than followed-up with a near miss in the team sprint, placing fourth, and missing a medal by mere inches.

But Harvey was unable to sustain the success, and skied out his season in the 20’s and lower.

The hardware is a compelling argument, but at the end of the day, Harvey lacked the consistent top results to jump ahead of Newell.

Previous Winners:

Kikkan Randall (USA)
Devon Kershaw (CAN)
Alex Harvey (CAN)

Kikkan Randall (USA)
Devon Kershaw (CAN)
Andy Newell (USA)
Ivan Babikov (CAN)

Kikkan Randall (USA)
Devon Kershaw (CAN)

Kikkan Randall (USA)
Devon Kershaw (CAN)


See also:

Biathlete of the Year

Adaptive Skier of the Year

Nordic Combined Skier of the Year

Breakthrough Skier of the Year

Continental Skier of the Year

Junior Skier of the Year

Rookie of the Year

Collegiate Skier of the Year

Topher Sabot

Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.

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