A win is a win: especially when it’s north of the Arctic Circle in chilly conditions and in the first races of the season.
Jessie Diggins started 2015/2016 off with back-to-back wins at the International Ski Federation (FIS) races in Gällivare, Sweden, topping the podium in both the classic sprint and 10-kilometer freestyle.
Above all, the U.S. Ski Team member said the races were confidence boosting and a good way to take inventory on “what else needs to be improved, as well as a good reminder of warmups, race routines, and testing skis.”
On Day 1 of the cross-country races in Gällivare, Diggins and her teammate Sophie Caldwell captured first and second, respectively, in the classic sprint.
“I want to walk up to the start line of a classic race with that same confidence in myself that I have at the start of every skate race,” Diggins said after Saturday’s sprint.
“I don’t care if it’s a World Cup or a local club race. Having three of the six podiums was just a lot of fun,” U.S. women’s coach Matt Whitcomb said on Saturday, after Andy Newell finished second in the men’s sprint.
On Sunday, two American women again reached the podium, with Diggins in first and Caitlin Gregg in third. In the men’s 15 k freestyle, Canada had two in the top four, with Alex Harvey in second and Devon Kershaw in fourth.
“That … was probably my best individual-start skate race in 1.5 years,” Kershaw remarked.
About 900 kilometers south in Bruksvallarna, Sweden, Petter Northug ruffled feathers on Day 1 of the three-day FIS race series. He won Friday’s 10 k classic by 36 seconds while wearing a Swedish-national-team-like suit. Meanwhile, Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla won the women’s 5 k classic by 25 seconds.
The next day, Kalla won again — this time by 36 seconds in the 10 k freestyle. Led by Niklas Dyrhaug, the Norwegian men swept the Bruksvallarna 15 k skate podium.
Finally on Sunday, Stina Nilsson put the kibosh on Kalla’s streak as the 22-year-old Nilsson won the women’s skate sprint. Kalla placed second, and in the men’s sprint, Norway’s Havard Solås Taugbøl, 22, won by 0.09 seconds over Sweden’s Karl-Johan Westberg.
For the first time, the US Biathlon team logged some pre-World Cup race starts, traveling to Sjusjøen, Norway, to do so. In Saturday’s sprint, the American men all finished in the top 30. Tim Burke led them in 13th.
“Today was definitely a solid team performance,” Burke explained. “Our entire men’s team is at a very high level…”
At one point, American Susan Dunklee ranked first in the women’s sprint after cleaning the first stage, but missed four in standing and ended up 21st.
“My ski shape feels a little sharper than it usually does in November,” she wrote.
Less than four seconds back, her teammate Annelies Cook was 25th. Canadian Megan Tandy (formerly Heinicke) was 23rd with 90-percent shooting. Italy’s Dorothea Wierer won the race with clean shooting.
In Sunday’s mass start, the lone American competing, Leif Nordgren finished 19th with six penalties on a windy day. Tandy placed 40th in the women’s race with seven penalties.
“I was disappointed for sure since it was such a good opportunity against tough competition, but considering the conditions, I’ll get over it quick!” Nordgren wrote.
The men’s sprint winner from the day before, Germany’s Simon Schempp won the mass start as well, by fewer than six seconds over Norwegian Alexander Os of Team Feskslo — or fish guts.
Ukraine’s Juliya Dzhyma cleaned the final stage to win the women’s mass start.
FIS Cross Country races, Gällivare, Sweden
FIS Cross Country races, Bruksvallarna, Sweden
Saturday’s 10/15 k freestyle: report
Sunday’s freestyle sprint: report
Norwegian Biathlon Association races, Sjusjøen, Norway
Sunday’s 12.5/15 k mass starts: report
- 10 k sprint
- 10/15 k freestyle
- 12.5 k mass start
- 15 k mass start
- 5/10 k classic
- 7.5 k sprint
- Alex Harvey
- Andy Newell
- Annelies Cook
- Caitlin Gregg
- Charlotte Kalla
- Classic Sprint
- Dorothea Wierer
- FIS races
- Håvard Solås Taugbøl
- Jessie Diggins
- Juliya Dzhyma
- Karl-Johan Westberg
- Leif Nordgren
- Matt Whitcomb
- Megan Tandy
- Niklas Dyrhaug
- Petter Northug
- Simon Schempp
- Sophie Caldwell
- Stina Nilsson
- Susan Dunklee
- Tim Burke
- US Biathlon