Top 30. It’s a tough mark to make at the World Cup level, let alone the Olympics. On Tuesday, the U.S. and Canadian teams each entered four men and four women in the classic-sprint qualifiers at the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Three American women and two American men qualified, but Ida Sargent, Andy Newell and Logan Hanneman did not. Sargent finished the women’s 1.25-kilometer qualifier in 33rd, 1.78 seconds out of the top 30, Newell missed it by 1.67 seconds in 37th the men’s 1.4 k qualifier, and Hanneman finished 42nd.
For Canada, one man qualified: Len Valjas. Alex Harvey tied for 32nd and missed the cutoff by just 0.26 seconds. Jess Cockney placed 35th, 0.85 seconds out of 30th, and Russell Kennedy was 54th. Three Canadian women started, but none qualified. Emily Nishikawa, best known as a distance skier, led them in 34th, 2.73 seconds out of 30th, for her career-best sprint result. Dahria Beatty placed 42nd and Cendrine Browne was 51st.
Then there was Jessica Yeaton, who races for Australia but trains with Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage, Alaska. Yeaton finished the qualifier in 48th. Ahead of her, the Czech Republic’s Petra Hyncicova, the two-time defending 2017 NCAA champion who skis for the University of Colorado Boulder, finished 45th in her first Olympics.
Here are some quotes from the North Americans who caught up with FasterSkier in the mixed zone after Tuesday’s qualifier:
On race feelings:
“I felt really good, I executed a really good plan, and yeah, just didn’t pan out.” — Jess Cockney (Canada), 35th
“It wasn’t great. It was a really hard course, and it was quite windy today, and I just didn’t feel like I could get my body up to the speed I need to be going at on this course was working. I just felt a little of that distance-race pace today so that was too bad because I am always hoping to make the heats on a stage like this, but just didn’t have it today.” — Dahria Beatty (Canada), 42nd
“I knew this first climb was going to set everything else up, and you have to had already been in it. You can’t get to the top of the hill and think you’re going to ski yourself back into it — that’s half the course right there. I executed that really well and came up short.” — Cockney
On PyeongChang’s sprint course:
“There’s a monster climb in it and also dealing with the wind — it’s definitely a tough course, but it skis really nice and it’s a well-designed course, so it’s fun to ski.” — Emily Nishikawa (Canada), 34th
“It’s a really hard course, lots of climbing and pretty steep, so I am really proud of my teammate Emily, who did her best-ever sprint result, so that is really inspiring. Hopefully I will get there one day, too, because she is a distance skier as well.” — Cendrine Browne (Canada), 51st
“After shortening it from the course they had last year, they essentially took out the only downhill in the first half of the course. Especially with the wind today, you had to work half ay into the downhill, so there wasn’t any rest until the top of the course at about 2.5 minutes, so it was a real endurance course.” — Beatty
“It’s really hard. I skied it last year and it was actually harder on the boys’ course, so this first hill was a little better ‘cuz it sort of cuts out the part where you start slipping, but at the same time it cuts out all that rest from your tuck down. This time you’re shooting straight into the second hill, which is really hard.” — Jessica Yeaton (Australia), 48th
“I think it’s more than hard, it’s just a strategy course. If you go too hard, you can lose a lot in the second half, and for me that is what happened today.” — Russell Kennedy (Canada), 54th
On the wind:
“I feel like you get a huge gust every now and then … It’s definitely windy the whole time, but then sometimes you run into something crazy and it’ll be like, ‘Whoa,’ and it throws you back a little bit. But it’s sort of the same conditions for everyone. You can’t control when it’s going to have a big gust.” — Nishikawa
“Definitely the conditions are tough and the wind doesn’t help when you get a head gust and then a tail wind and throw off your tempo and stuff, but it’s a very smart thinker’s course I think.” — Kennedy
On looking forward:
“It’s a long championships. You can’t dwell on a bad race too long, even a good race, like there’s always another one in a day or two so you have to take the time to learn from the race, or if you’re really pumped or really upset you can take a few minutes to process that, but not much longer than that really.” — Nishikawa
“Today I wasn’t expecting much from the result, but I was more thinking about how well I wanted to ski the course, so I really wanted to ski well and push hard in preparation for the 10 k skate, which is my favorite race, so I am really looking forward to that. Today was more of an intensity to prepare myself for my favorite race.” — Browne
On the Olympic experience so far:
“It’s been awesome. It’s been the best 10 days ever so far. I’ve had so much fun. The racing’s been good, nothing amazing, nothing terrible though, so it’s just been a really good experience overall.” — Yeaton