Hoffman ‘A Little Bit Closer’ with 26th in Olympic 50 k

Chelsea LittleFebruary 23, 201439
Noah Hoffman (bib 26) skiing with Anders Soedergren of Sweden inthe Olympic 50 k.
Noah Hoffman (bib 26) skiing with Anders Soedergren of Sweden inthe Olympic 50 k.

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Noah Hoffman went into today’s Olympic 50 k with a very specific race plan: don’t lead, but be with the leaders and act like you belong there.

It’s not all that different than how Hoffman has approached long races on the World Cup in the past, although he did say that he did not intend to actually go first. Nevertheless, the 24-year-old American got a lot of face time at the front of the race.

“You saw Noah in second place a lot, but you never saw him in first,” U.S. Ski Team coach Chris Grover said.

Although Hoffman was unsatisfied with his end result of 26th place, a minute and 26 seconds behind gold medalist Alexander Legkov of Russia, he did admit that he had executed his race plan well. He sat in 12th place at 45 kilometers, still in with the lead pack, and was in 16th at 48 kilometers, again still with them.

At last year’s Holmenkollen 50 k, Hoffman was 24th but almost four minutes back. At World Championships he was 27th with an even larger margin.

Hoffman tracking Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway.
Hoffman tracking Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway.

“Certainly making it 45 or 47 k is better,” Hoffman said. “26th place is not what I’m looking for, but I think it’s moving in the right direction. I do feel more comfortable right up at the front.”

Hoffman’s insistence on skiing in second place led to some funny moments when other skiers wanted him to take over the lead. But Hoffman stuck to his plan.

“I don’t think Noah is intimidated by any of those guys,” Grover laughed.

In direct opposition to the U.S. women’s strategy in yesterday’s 30 k, Hoffman paid attention to what other skiers were doing when he chose whether to switch his skis. Lukas Bauer was the only man in the main pack to switch skis at 20 k; ten kilometers later, Hoffman followed the other leaders into the pen and switched with them.

“The plan the whole time was to do what the group did, and that seemed to be what a lot of guys did,” Hoffman said, trying to explain the dynamic of the group. “It was interesting out there. We learned from yesterday, for sure, and it’s definitely easier to go second on this that sort of thing. The way I did it today was the way it should have been done.”

As in the 30 k skiathlon, Hoffman had a bit of bad luck with equipment. This time, the broken pole came in the last kilometers of the race, and he lost about ten places before he could find a new one.

“I think the question then is how much energy do you expend, with one pole, stressing out,” Grover said.

But Hoffman said he wouldn’t have had the legs to fight for a medal today anyway.

“I was right where I wanted to be for 45 k, but I definitely started to suffer when we all went in for the ski exchange,” he said. “That’s when the pace seemed to heat up and things strung out… I just didn’t have it in that last 3 or 4 k especially up that last hill.”

Despite disappointment, he said that the result was encouraging for the future.

“I’m getting closer and I’m excited for my next opportunity,” he said. “[It was a] Really good experience. It definitely feels like I’m not that far away. It feels like I can come back in four years and can be taking some of the medals. But there are definitely some steps to be taken in there. I can build on this experience.”

Brian Gregg in the main pack early in the race.
Brian Gregg in the main pack early in the race.

Grover agreed.

“I’m excited for him,” he said. “He obviously left everything out on the track. He put himself in a position to, had he had a little bit more, to have an incredible race. Every year he gets a little bit better and a little bit better.”

Gregg and Freeman Hold Tough

Racing in just his second international 50 k, Hoffman’s teammate Brian Gregg skied to 51st place, eight minutes behind the leaders.

“Being with the lead pack for 25 k is pretty good,” Gregg said of his race. “I was on the back of that lead group, so I was kind of off, and then I’d come back in. But I’m happy to have been in there for 25 k. That was good. I’m pretty happy with the effort today.”

Gregg said that he had been aiming for a top 30, but wasn’t sure where his ski level fell against the field.

“It’s always hard to tell what your level four pace is compared to maybe someone else’s threshold,” he said. “So I tried to stay relaxed as much as I could and not get too caught up in that.”

Meanwhile, Kris Freeman had a sinking feeling almost as soon as he started the 50 k.

“I felt like I was skiing at high level two and if I ever went past that I was going to have to stop,” Freeman said after finishing 57th, nearly 13 minutes behind Legkov.

Kris Freeman hanging on in the 50k.
Kris Freeman hanging on in the 50k.

Freeman had not been planning to compete in the event. After disappointing races in the skiathlon, where he placed 54th, and the 15 k classic, where he was 57th. He and his coaches had decided that he would not compete for the rest of the Olympics, and would also finish his season early. But then teammates Torin Koos and Erik Bjornsen got sick, and a spot in the 50 k opened up.

“I was like, you know, this is 98% my last chance to race in the Olympics, and you never know what can happen,” Freeman said. “So I went out and I had an idea that something like this could happen. All week I was testing Noah and Brian’s skis, not my own. So I didn’t feel like I was taking anything away from anybody. I just went out to see what I could do and unfortunately I’m still where I was.”

Coming into the stadium before his final five kilometers, Freeman was on the verge of being caught by the leaders, who were coming into the finish. Bad shape or no, he still had all of the fight left in him and skied harder to avoid being caught.

“I was not going to get half-lapped,” Freeman said. “Not gonna happen.”

Now he’s back to being done for the season, with all of the accompanying feelings.

“Honestly I’m not very happy about it, but I don’t have much of a choice,” Freeman said. “Racing as a shell of myself is not fun and it’s not good for me. Somewhere along the lines, I just messed up. I fried myself. I don’t really know where, I’ve gone over it with my coaches.”

Grover was impressed with the persistence from both athletes. Gregg had to ski alone for a large portion of the race, and finished with a minute and a half of time to the competitors in front of and behind him, yet he kept pushing through no-man’s-land.

“I’m proud of those guys,” Grover said. “They skied solid… did a great job of skiing the whole thing, keeping their heads on, and making it to the finish line.”

—Alex Matthews contributed reporting.


Chelsea Little

Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.

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  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    February 23, 2014 at 7:24 am

    Well done. Hoffman’s time will come. Still improving. And good a good race head.

    Nice to see Brian Gregg ski like that.

  • HaywardBound

    February 23, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    It was great to see Gregg and Hoffman out there racing well. Furthermore, this makes the decision to not fill the U.S. Men’s distance olympic quota incredibly foolish. Props to Koos for trying a 50km while sick, but what an insult (on the part of the USST) to the other U.S. men left at home to see their potential Olympic berth DNF’ed.

  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    February 23, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Watch this race if you haven’t seen it! Hoffman may not have had the legs at the end, but he skied deep into the last lap like a contender!

  • marycary

    February 23, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Hoffman was really impressive! Would’ve been interesting to see where he would’ve ended up if he hadn’t broken a pole.

  • nyctvt

    February 23, 2014 at 6:14 pm

    Seems like lots of pole and ski breakage at these games. Are manufactures sacrificing durability for lightness?

  • timg

    February 23, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    How did Noah break his pole?

  • joeconn4

    February 23, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Hayward – Koos was a DNS, not a DNF. Otherwise I couldn’t agree more with what you wrote. When the team was named I thought leaving Ellefson off was a bigger potential oversight than leaving Caitlyn Gregg off. With the 7 women named I felt like they had all the events covered with skiers to spare (example, Sadie B wouldn’t have been a surprise to race the 30k). But with the men I felt like they really only had 2 good options for the 50k (Hoffman, Gregg) with 2 secondary choices (Freeman and Bjornsen) and only Koos as a potential fall back (Newell, Hamilton not options at this stage of their careers). You can always hope that everything works out and nobody gets sick/fatigued/injured, or you can pick a team that covers the bases you need to cover. Would the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, or Bruins ever willingly go into a game with a roster short a couple players?

  • hondo

    February 23, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    I wonder if I’m the only one thinking Grover should be on the hot seat? The men didn’t fill their starts for the 50k b/c of 2 guys getting sick (totally predictable), he misdirected 30k women to switch skis when the leaders didn’t, he shuffled skiers around w/ no communication (Koos said he had a “12 second” conversation telling him he wasn’t going to be in the sprint relay), etc.

    And all the hoo-ha in advance was that the team was chosen just so it could win medals. It was all about the medals. OK. Not to belittle the athletes – there were a lot of impressive performances and some great surprises (Caldwell in the sprint, Diggins in the skiathlon, Bjornsen in the sprint relay, Hoffman for 90% of the 50k) – but really, the US was not that close to medaling. Two fairly distant 6th places and mostly way deeper in the pack. Oops. Makes it look to me like a big mistake not to send a full squad and give some youngsters a taste of the big show.

  • davord

    February 24, 2014 at 2:13 am

    Koos should have been put in the classic races instead of the 50km skate. Grover knows that Torin is a better classic skier, particularly when it comes to head to head racing, but as I wrote a few days ago, he has no respect for Koos. He waited for Koos not to qualify for the sprint heats and that was that. Instead of putting past differences behind him and being a professional for once, he chose to sit Koos for the races where Koos was gonna be most effective. Hondo, Grover should be on the hot seat, in fact, he should never have been hired as head coach, but the coaching staff the last 10 years or so has been made up of buddies who know each other well and they were playing musical chairs, except there was enough chairs for everyone… What had Grover done in the past to suggest he was ready to be head coach of the US Ski Team? Not giving Koos a fair chance is part of a long list of Grover blunders.

  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    February 24, 2014 at 6:31 am

    Wow – didn’t have four starters for the 50K? That’s terrible.

  • ericinnh

    February 24, 2014 at 7:32 am

    Grover should absolutely be in the hot seat. Nordic sports have a two week window every four years to show the US what we’re all about, and the cross country team missed its chance. From the choice of the team, to choice of individual starters, to actual race tactics, this coaching staff did not give a strong performance at these games. It seemed many of our athletes missed their top peak. Doesn’t that have something to do with the coaching? Many athletes had a personal coach at Sochi working with them. Hoffman said in his blog he worked on cornering with his coach the day before the 50k, and he had never done that before. Shouldn’t a head coach be coaching stuff like that? It doesn’t seem fair to our athletes, who put their life into this sport, to be held back by a system that seems out classed by every other nation we are trying to compete against.

  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    February 24, 2014 at 7:47 am

    I think only Randall was consistently “off” peak – the other physical problems seemed illness or random. In a way, that makes the 30K screw-up for a skier like Stephen even more frustrating.

    And certainly overall (outside the Olympics) the US women’s team is consistently moving in the right direction. In the relay I thought it would be Norway for the win and the US fighting with two or three other teams for medals. Sprint would have Randall on the podium and one or two others in the top ten.

    And Hoffman is steadily improving for sure.

  • WI skier

    February 24, 2014 at 8:52 am

    How these Olympics were handled by the coaching staff was very frustrating, culminating in the start list for the 50K. We have seen the type of standards athletes are held to when naming the US Ski Team every year. I wonder what the standards are for the coaches.

  • skijumper

    February 24, 2014 at 9:08 am

    USST staff could learn a bit from Wadsworth. No sauger coating anything at these Olympics, same goes for his athletes. What is so wrong with saying “we f*cked up”? I appreciate his honesty and taking the blame. His claim the Russians are doping is probably not far off either, but they have probably learned how to micro-dose efficiently after years of getting caught so I would be surprised if a positive test came.

  • ColoradoSep

    February 24, 2014 at 10:00 am

    I think there are two sides to the Olympics for the US team. The positive side, which is Hoffman, despite having shoulder surgery less than a year ago, being in the mix for 90% of the 50 km. That’s awesome, Hoffman really should be celebrated for this, 50k’s are pretty tough, and to be with the best in the world, that’s amazing. Also, Caldwell in the sprint, bursting onto the scene, Diggins & Stephen coming up with great results in the skiathlon, and Bjornsen stepping in for Newell and really having a great set of races in that team sprint. I think we should be celebrating these results much more than we are criticizing the negative. Were they the results we were expecting, no, but they are still pretty impressive. As for the negative side, not taking a full set of athletes to Russia, dumb move. Advising the girls in the 30 km to do the opposite of what the leaders were doing, dumb move. Racing Newell in the relay when he was sick, dumb move. Why should we not be so critical? Because honestly, what good will it do? I don’t want to sound like a defeatist, but do you really think the coaches, the administration, the big dogs of US Nordic will really change their ways?

  • JustinFereshetian

    February 24, 2014 at 10:38 am

    I agree with ColoradoSep that there are definitely some high notes to be taken from these Olympics primarily with Caldwell in the sprint, Diggins and Stephen in the skiathlon, Hoff in the 50k, and Bjornsen and Simi battling in the team sprint. But at the same time there was plenty to scratch our heads about too. This situation with guys getting sick was the exact scenario I was thinking about when they announced the team. As a result of not filling even one more potential spot, let alone 3 more potential spots they are not able to field their full start quota. Things happen and people get sick, but they should be prepared with a plan B and a plan C with an event as big as the Olympics. It seemed like they didn’t give themselves any sort of back up options and unfortunately it came back to bite them. I agree that had no one gotten sick or anything that the teams they brought on the Men’s and Women’s side were great teams, but people got sick, and weren’t able to race, and then they didn’t have the right personel for the 50k. Why set yourself up to not be able to be flexible when the crap hits the fan?

  • Big Joe

    February 24, 2014 at 11:39 am

    I agree with many of the comments. One thought with respect to team size… with travel time to the games the additional athletes would have been absent from any competition for nearly three weeks with no guarantee they would get an entry into the 50km. that’s a long time between competitions and I suspect it would be very difficult for anyone to remain sharp and focused. and i also think their is an opportunity for resentment to set in while those athletes sit around waiting for their potential start which may or may not come even when the athlete knows the probabilities from the outset. it can be tough on the group if this dynamic plays out in a bad way.

  • skierout

    February 24, 2014 at 11:44 am

    The mistake in the 30k was just as much the fault of the athletes as it was the coaches. I applaud the coaches for taking full responsibility/blame for it and shielding their athletes from this garbage. The four racers could have adjusted to the pre race plan and gone with the leaders. I’m sure those women acknowledge and appreciate that.

    I really hope Kikkan can finish this season with strong results in the next few weekends and I hope Kris Freeman gets back on an international stage with good health if he wants it. I applaud those two for busting their tails for the last 15-20 years. Let’s not forget the amount of work those two have done.

  • sugarbones

    February 24, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Excellent point Skierout about adjusting to the pre race plan. Just as the ladies should of held off on switching skis in the 30 k Noah should have realized the race was not going to blow apart at any moment as his coaches had speculated. While it was great to see him up front for most of the race I can’t help but think that it took a ton of energy to constantly stay in 2nd place. The 50 k on Sunday played out like a bike race with a large field sticking together, drafting and conserving energy was key. Staying in the top ten or 15 would have been just fine.

  • longtimer

    February 24, 2014 at 1:29 pm

    Agree with sugarbones about Hoffman and was going to say just about the same thing. While it is good that he skied aggressively and went for it–getting a lot of attention on NBC–he doesn’t seem all that efficient (rocks back and forth and does not look at all relaxed, like the skiers around him), but that just might be his way. Nevertheless, it seems that if he’d tucked in there in the top 20 not top 2 through much of the race (and just been more chill) he might have finished top 15, which would have been truly historic.

  • T.Eastman

    February 24, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    “he doesn’t seem all that efficient (rocks back and forth and does not look at all relaxed, like the skiers around him),”

    If ya want purdy, watch the Ice Dancing…

    … those skis are being driven well every step, watch the skis.

  • ColoradoSep

    February 24, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    Now you guys are second guessing Hoffman, and thatz not OK. He went in with a plan. Stay near the front, stay out of trouble, but don’t lead. You can see at least twice in the NBC coverage of the leader signaling Hoffman to do some of the work at the lead, but Hoffman refusing. He stuck to his plan, and that’s all you can really ask of any racer in any race. If he had dropped back to 16th, and the pack split up, and he couldn’t cover any moves, then you’d all be complaining that he didn’t stay at the front. Any big time race like that, you need to eliminate as much mental thought as possible. I understand Hoffman being loyal and trusting the plan he had set up with his coaches, with a clear head. You can’t expect an inexperienced 24 year old kid to be able to adjust like that during the most taxing race of the games.

    Call out coaching decisions, criticize wax blends, complain about USST politics, that’s all fair game. But calling out an athlete who is hammering in the red zone for 90 minutes, staying with the best in the world, from your couch the following day, gimmie a break.

  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    February 24, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    What is allowed on this site?

    For example, on another page skierout ragged on me for daring to say a US skier made a mistake by skiing into the lap lane instead of the finish lane (in the same sentence, I used the word “great” to describe something that skier did). But on this page, he’s said the athletes made a mistake so I’m confused about what is allowed here.

    “But calling out an athlete who is hammering in the red zone for 90 minutes, staying with the best in the world, from your couch the following day, gimmie a break.”

    Oh, so nothing critical can be said about athletes? US athletes, or anyone? In any case, thanks for the rules ColoradoSep. You should have an FAQ about that to keep us straight.

  • skierout

    February 24, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Here’s the deal. You pointing out Jessie’s mistake was unnecessary because everyone including USST staff/athletes was aware of it. You brought it up as if they were clueless and someone like you should point it out and give them much needed critique. For me, pointing out the ski exchange decision was to make the point that it wasn’t the entire fault of the coaches as suggested by ColoradoSep in comment 15.

    As for Noah, I think he skied exactly where he should. Great execution of his race plan.

  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    February 24, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    “You brought it up as if they were clueless”

    No, I brought it up because I was talking about the race. When I talk about something I talk about lots of aspects of it.

    “give them much needed critique.” I never said I was writing to the athletes and coaches – you just assumed that. In fact, I wrote about Diggins “I’m sure she knows that and her coaches know that.”

    Please try to read more carefully and don’t put words into people’s mouths.

  • ColoradoSep

    February 24, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    JFT, Yep, you got me, I do believe nothing critical should be said about athletes when they did what they were told to do. It seems pretty clear to me that Hoffman had a plan. He executed his plan. In the words of coaches everywhere, “He did his job.” Reading your previous posts, i had the feeling that you were proud of the athletes, I don’t see where being critical of them after the fact plays in to that. What, exactly, does that accomplish?

    Anyways, I think, as a former coach, that being critical of the athlete is totally unacceptable. It changes nothing. It accomplishes nothing positive for the athlete or the state of skiing in the U.S. Take a step back form the situation and look at it through the athlete’s eyes. You don’t need a FAQ to be human about it. Hoffman did what his coaches told him to do. He did it to the best of his abilities, and to be honest, better than anyone really thought he would do. Still in the lead pack at 48 km, that’s pretty good, IMO. why critize that, why not celebrate that and build upon it?

    It’s simple. When the skiers ski well, credit goes to the skier. When the skiers ski poorly, blame goes to the coaches/techs/admin. It’s like this in all sports. When the Denver Broncos win, the coaches give credit to the players, when the New England Patriots lose, the coaches take the blame. Why is that? Because throwing the players under the bus, then they have turned themselves inside out and “done their job” is really not a good way to get the best out of your players the next time.

  • John Forrest Tomlinson

    February 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    I don’t think we should be very negative here about the athletes – we should be supportive overall.

    But your approach is rather patronizing to adult athletes – that they can’t handle comments about them that may well be true.

  • Strider2

    February 24, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    To be fair, it wasn’t only the american coaches that pressured their skiers to change skis. the norwegian coaches also pressured bjoergen, johaug, and steira to change skis. As we saw in the men’s race the next day, because of the added penalty, people only changed skis when they saw the leaders do so. Still a gutsy move by Legkov to lead them all in to the ski change at 30k, for a second it was unsure if anyone would follow him.

  • longtimer

    February 24, 2014 at 6:06 pm

    As long as people are being respectful of the athletes and coaches then there should be nothing wrong with critique or stating an opinion. Otherwise it’s just cheerleading. Cheerleading is good too. But if you see something and have an opinion why have that blocked?

  • nyctvt

    February 24, 2014 at 7:57 pm

    Instead of all the Monday morning quarterbacking about this past Olympics the discussion should be on how do we develop and support athletes to be successful at the next Olympics. Our current model is only moderately successful, mostly on the women’s side. Noah Hoffman is really our only proven world class distance skier on the men’s side. How do we develop more Noah Hoffmans. There was recently a BKL festival with 400 children attending. What happens to all those skiers after BKL? Should we be look at programs in other sports. What about swimming. USA Swimming consistently produces World and Olympic champions. What are they doing to be so successful? Are there things that we can learn from them.

  • longtimer

    February 24, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    T.Eastman says:
    February 24, 2014 at 1:39 pm
    “he doesn’t seem all that efficient (rocks back and forth and does not look at all relaxed, like the skiers around him),”

    If ya want purdy, watch the Ice Dancing…

    … those skis are being driven well every step, watch the skis.
    Todd (hey we’ve actually raced and met once or twice, long long time ago)
    Hey, he does ride his skis well, but it sure looked like he was working harder than about anyone else in that top 10, and fairly early on too. Agree it’s not about looking good (which is why I said that just may be his way), but it’s also about being efficient and skiing within yourself so that you have that little extra in the tank when the pace picks up. Noah Hoffman definitely has a great motor and wants to be the best. It will be fun to watch him race and progress over the next several years. Hope that he gets some podium finishes at World Cups and battles for medals at future World Championships and Olympics.

  • joeconn4

    February 24, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    NYCTVT – You raise an interesting question. I don’t think the answers to your question are any different than they’ve ever been, it’s just that we actually been making some progress in this sport, as a nation the last 5-8 years, so now we all get frustrated when the results aren’t what we all hope they would be. Different reasons cause different athletes to leave this sport “early”. 2 that come to mind right away are Ben True and Morgan Arritola. Arritola was 36 seconds ahead of Liz Stephen in the 10k skate in the Vancouver Olympics and 2:28 ahead of her in the Skiathlon (Arritola was the top American finisher in the Skiathlon and was #2 or 4 in the 10k). The reasons she left skiing have been well documented. Ben True is now world class in distance running, a larger pool of athletes than Nordic. With proper development it certainly isn’t inconceivable that either of those athletes could be in the mix the same way Hoffman, Randall, Sophie Caldwell now are.

    I don’t really have any answers. One thing I think is the most important is for our top as well as our 2nd tier and up and coming Nordic skiers to be racing against the best in the world more often. Our American cyclists wanted to be the best in the world they didn’t stay in the US they went to Europe. Our runners have more chance to race top level international talent in the US but they get over and race Diamond League or the London Marathon or the other big international races. I know it’s expensive and I know it is draining on our athletes to spend huge chunks of time away from home, but if you want to be the best in the world there is no substitute for mixing it up with the best regularly. And it shouldn’t just be our top senior talent doing so, you need to get the next bunch over there to see what it takes.

  • joeconn4

    February 24, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Sorry…#2 OF 4

  • waichler

    February 24, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    Count me in with those who expect Noah H. to ski a little smarter by now in big races. He has shown a great ability to catch up, hang on for awhile, but surely he would admit he hasn’t been able to close a race well. It seems he would recognize that’s his biggest weakness, and the one that needs to be addressed foremost in a race plan. Resting more in the pack is the only way. To always be second takes valuable extra energy too. I applaud his continued improvement in top-end endurance. Now just try to do something different to have a better chance at the very end. Technique efficiency matters for this too.

  • cuttsy

    February 25, 2014 at 3:59 am


    The issues with the US “model” comes down to how everything from education, costs and all the way to the club system are tied together.

    Here in Sweden for example, skiers join a local club (and pay a nominal yearly membership fee) which have very organized groups based on age that focus on things like technique and getting on skis early. In my local club that I coach at, there are over 20 kids in the 5 – 7 year old group alone. So 1.) The kids start training much earlier than the US. Interestingly enough, kids are only allowed to have 2 pairs of race skis until they are around 14, 1 classic, 1 skate. 2.) All of the Ski High Schools (Skidgymansiaskola) are the equivalent of a Burke Mountain Academy or Stratton Mountain School, with paid coaches, flexible schedules for training and an academic component focused on training theory, nutrition and everything related to sports performance. The main difference being that the kids dont have to shell out thousands of dollars in tuition, they just have to be accepted to the schools based mostly off their grades and partially their results. 3.) The clubs pay for all race entry fees, waxing, and scheduling transportation/ food / living arrangements. 4.) If an athlete qualifies for J1-Scando, World Juniors etc… They don’t pay a DIME for those trips. The Swedish Ski association covers those costs (could be partly funded by the Gov’t too), unlike the thousands athletes here shell out for those opportunities. Imagine how much less stress that places on families and the athletes? 5.) Lastly, almost all trail systems are free here in Sweden. The communities typically pay for the maintenance and grooming of ski trail systems. So getting out on the trails is much more accessible.

    So the issue isn’t just training, its how everything ties together. Until the US figures out a way to make these same kinds of opportunities available to all who want them, its going to be difficult to produce more and more Sophie Caldwells, Kikkan Randalls and Noah Hoffmans. For the most part XC in the US is an expensive sport and out of reach for a lot of people. Swimming is far more accessible (and cheaper) so it benefits from a larger pool of athletes plus a much more organized club / race system.

  • caldxski

    February 25, 2014 at 9:16 am

    Just to back up Joeconn4 and put some perspective on our results and progress, check this out carefully and compare to what you can recall of this year’s results: Below is all about the World Ski Championships in 2007.

    The US sent 12 skiers to compete at Sapporo and here are the finish places along with the number of finishers in the order of the events: Ladies’ individual sprint– 22,24/71; Men’s individual sprint– 5,21,31,47/78. Ladies’ team sprint–11/18, did not qualify for the finals; Men’s team sprint–15/20, did not qualify for the finals. Ladies’ 15 km pursuit–41,52/52; Men’s 30 km pursuit–19,50,52,52/58.Ladies’ 10km free–52,55,60/72; Men’s 15 km free–55,56,76,78/115. 4×5 Ladies’ relay–14/16; 4×10 Men’s relay–NO TEAM! Ladies’ 30 km–one starter, no finisher; Men’s 50 km–12,36,49/49.

  • formerskier

    February 25, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    To ColoradoSep, it is a very poor plan for the athlete to race exactly how a coach recommends. There is NO coach, no matter how experienced and on top of their game, that can forecast the a significant level of circumstances of a race. It is the racer’s responsibility to use their experience and intuition to race as they see fit. There are much much more factors that go into a racing decision than the coach can be informed about, assimilated into a plan, then communicated back to the athlete. It doesn’t work. The racer has to take on that responsibility, albeit with valuable information from the coach to help make the best decisions. The ski techs take responsibility for the skis and wax, the coaches make sure the racers have the best information and resources, but it is the racer that has the final decision. Racing is for the racers.

    To Davord, I can see some consideration for Koos to have taken Newell’s 4×10 relay leg if Grover knew that he was already sick, but for the other classic races, it does not hold water. Koos clearly put his eggs in one basket for the sprints, and his fitness for the distance races was questionable at best. And, putting Erik into the Sprint Relay proved to be a good decision. Koos had just as much opportunity as the others to prove his fitness prior to the Games.

  • longtimer

    February 25, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    The population base in ski country is there – if you consider New England, much of Upstate NY, Northern Michigan (LP and UP), Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Rockies (including Utah and Idaho), West Coast mountain areas, and Alaska you have at least the population of Sweden and maybe Sweden and Norway combined. But the ski culture in North America (even in most of these areas) is probably 1/10 (or 1/50) of what is in Scandinavia. Probably a bigger deal in New England and Alaska, compared to anywhere else in the US, but way behind other ski powers.

    The US system has evolved into something different than it was a generation or so ago. Clubs have gotten stronger, public school programs weaker, and there is less grass roots support. In addition, the role colleges for development seems to have diminished.

    And unlike the Swedish example provided by cuttsy, most of the financial burden is on the athlete and their family. Only USST (Olympic Team level) and college skiers get financial support, and compared to post college/professional running, cycling, or triathlon, it’s probably peanuts.

    At the youth level clubs have consolodated power and resources for skier development, once the kids are into their mid teens (U16) if not earlier. These clubs have professional coaches, equipment, and sometimes staff. These are the programs most of the skiers are coming from–or else the private ski academies. Often these days the high school programs–if available–are headed by club coaches. Not very frequently anymore do you see skiers rise up through a high school program alone, or even a very small team. Usually they come from one of a dozen or so large, established clubs. And those aren’t cheap.

    Indeed, even though NNF supports athletes traveling abroad, trips for qualifiers, and junior national championships are funded by the athletes, maybe subsidized some through their local club.

    College skiing opportunities seem pretty mixed. It is quite difficult to get a NCAA Division I scholarship because there are very few programs, and a good number of the the full rides go to foreign athletes. And if anything it appears that the USST and top clubs discourage college to skiers that have Olympic or World Championship aspirations.

    Plus it takes a few years longer to develop a distance skier, who might peak at 28 +/- a few years. Without a lot of support, how many can hang on? In fact, that’s another thing that has changed. The number of skiers that continue past junior or college level has dropped way off. You look at the results at senior nationals and you might have a dozen skiers much over age 25, and most of those are on the USST. 30 years ago you would have between a third and half the the participants in the age 25 to 35 category. Economics were probably better and people were more willing/able to step out of their career path for a few years to continue developing in pursuit of their athletic dreams.

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