(Note: This is a brief summary of the top results for the North Americans at the Ski Tour Canada on Tuesday. Check back later for in-depth reports.)
GATINEAU, Quebec — Two podiums for the U.S. — that’s the definition of a banner day and it came in the first stage of the Ski Tour Canada on Tuesday.
Jessie Diggins and Simi Hamilton both raced to second in the women’s and men’s freestyle sprint qualifiers, respectively, rounding the two-lap, 1.7-kilometer course at Jacques Cartier Park with the second-fastest times in the World Cup field.
Their speed held up as both advanced to their respective finals, where Diggins and Hamilton both placed third.
“If you had told me at the start of the year that this is how it would go, I would’ve been like, ‘You’re kidding me. No way,’ ” Diggins said in an in-person interview after racking up her fourth World Cup podium of the season (and fourth podium in the last two months).
She finished 0.87 seconds behind Norwegian winner Maiken Caspersen Falla, who won in 3:34.0. Sweden’s Stina Nilsson placed second, 0.73 seconds behind.
“This is super, super fun, especially because we’re in front of our family, friends, all of these skiers that are about this tall running around out there,” Diggins added, referring to the young local skiers in the Gatineau/Ottawa area.
“It’s so cool to feel like they’re part of this and we can finally bring the World Cups to home ground. For me, it really does feel like home ground because so much of my family is Canadian. I’m a dual citizen so anywhere in North America that I’m racing I’m just so pumped.”
At one point, someone asked Diggins to marry her during the final.
“I heard someone yell, ‘Marry me!’ right when there’s a silence, and there was this big pause, like, ‘Well, answer the guy!’ ” she recalled with a laugh. “But in all seriousness, it was great. I could hear my parents out there, and it was really cool to see so many American flags and Canadian flags.”
While Diggins celebrated her podium, Hamilton, her teammate on the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) T2 Team in southern Vermont, prepared for the men’s final.
There, he remained in contention throughout the race, even challenging Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov down the finishing stretch for the win. Ustiugov ended up winning by just 0.08 seconds over France’s Richard Jouve while Hamilton was another one-hundredth of a second back in third (+0.09).
For Hamilton, it was both his best qualifier and second-best result of the season after placing second in the December freestyle sprint in Toblach, Italy.
“It was going well all day and I just kind of banked on having that in my quiver for the final,” Hamilton said. “So I focused on conserving my energy until then, and then tried to lay down as big a move as possible coming over that hill.
“It’s so awesome when you run to the start or even when you are racing, and you hear, ‘USA’ and ‘Simi,’ ” he added. “I have a lot of friends and family out here, it’s just super cool to race so close to home and people are fired up. I think I we are bringing a lot of good energy to cross-country ski racing on this continent, and it’s fun to be part of that movement.”
Leading Canada at its opening home World Cup, Alex Harvey placed 11th for his best freestyle sprint result of the season. He qualified in 15th and reached the semifinals as a lucky loser after placing fourth in his quarterfinal, just 0.29 seconds behind the winner of that heat, Ustiugov. In the first semifinal, Harvey finished sixth for 11th overall.
The second American woman on Tuesday, Sadie Bjornsen qualified eighth and went on to place fourth in her quarterfinal for 17th overall. Teammate Ida Sargent followed her in 24th after placing fifth in her quarterfinal, and Sophie Caldwell, also of the U.S. Ski Team, was 28th after placing sixth in her quarterfinal.
Canada’s 20-year-old Maya MacIsaac-Jones (Rocky Mountain Racers) qualified in 30th and went on to finish sixth in her quarterfinal for 29th overall.
In the men’s race, American Erik Bjornsen placed fifth in his quarterfinal for 25th overall, and Canada’s Knute Johnsgaard (Alberta World Cup Academy/Senior National Development Team) was sixth in his quarterfinal for 30th overall.