FasterSkier’s coverage of the 2015 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden, is brought to you by the generous support of L.L. Bean, now featuring a complete line of Kikkan Randall training wear.
FALUN, Sweden — Four North American women advanced to the heats on the first day of medal competition at the 2015 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, with American Sophie Caldwell leading the crew in 21st in Thursday’s classic-sprint qualifier.
Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk rounded the 1.4-kilometer course, marked by two significant climbs, with a top time of 3:24.89. Norway qualified in second through fourth, with Maiken Jaspersen Falla finishing 0.24 seconds back in second, Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes clocking 0.51 seconds back in third, and Ingvild Flugstad Østtberg finishing 0.65 seconds behind in fourth.
Stina Nilsson led Sweden in fifth in the qualifier, 1.19 seconds after Kowalczyk, and Norway’s fourth of five women, Marit Bjørgen ranked sixth (+2.54).
Caldwell finished 7.87 seconds back in 21st, leading three American women in the top 30. Sadie Bjornsen was 26th (+9.47) and Ida Sargent qualified in 29th (+11.64).
“It was really hard,” Caldwell said after. “It was a long course with a lot of climbing. I think I took it out a little hot, but it was fun. It was crazy with the crowd.”
For the quarterfinal, she explained she’ll try to conserve as much as possible before a final downhill leading into a 90-degree turn and the finishing flat.
“Saving a little bit for the final stretch is going to be key,” Caldwell said. “It’s a long finish stretch.”
Canada’s lone female racing on Thursday, Perianne Jones qualified in 28th (+9.98), advancing to the quarterfinals for the second time this World Cup season.
“Compared to last week’s sprint course [in Östersund, Sweden], which was pretty short and little ups and downs, this was a hard hill off the start, for sure, but it’s a great sprint course,” Jones said. “I hope I feel a little better in the heats, but I’m happy at least to be in.”
One of the U.S. team’s favorites, Kikkan Randall did not make the heats for the second-straight classic sprint after placing 36th, 3.22 seconds out of the top 30 and 14.86 seconds behind Kowalczyk.
“I’m a little bummed, I’m frustrated,” Randall said. “I was hoping to find some better speed this late in the season but I’m still excited for the skate events to come up. Skating’s been going a lot better than classic for me, so good to get this one out of the way.
“For me, classic skiing is really 50/50,” she said. “When I nail it, I can be really strong and today I just felt like technically I didn’t nail it so I lost some key momentum on the top of the climbs. I was flooded, I gave it everything I had, but just haven’t quite found that magic yet this season.”
Randall’s Alaska Pacific University teammate Jessica Yeaton, racing for Australia, placed 51st in her World Championships debut, 31.46 seconds behind the winner.
“It’s kind of overwhelming, but at the same time it’s just another race so once you figure that out, it’s really fun,” Yeaton said. “Today I was kind of hoping to finish in the top 50 … I was pretty close. Really, [I’m not setting] super-high goals, but just trying to gain experience.”
Heats start at 15:15 CET (9:15 EST).
Alex Kochon (email@example.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.