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Tight corners, flat laps, and fast skis, the Dresden city sprints are sure to provide some spice to the World Cup circuit. With sunshine and above-freezing temperatures you would be forgiven for thinking it was March instead of mid-December. The green grass lining the course could have fooled you too.
The previous six sprint events held in this city have all been won by the women’s sprinting powerhouse country, Sweden. With the Swedes, Norwegians, and Finns still absent from the World Cup, the title was open to a new nation’s winner. Nadine Fähndrich of Switzerland seized the opportunity as she won in a time of 2:38.52. Sophie Caldwell Hamilton of the U.S., notched her first podium of the season, coming in second and Anamaria Lampic of Slovenia finished third.
Katerina Janatova of the Czech Republic won the qualifier with a time of 2:37.15. “I really like it here, I like the flat, I think it’s really fast,” said Janatova in a FIS interview before the heats, where she was eliminated in the semi-finals.
All four U.S. women made the top thirty in qualification, led by Jessie Diggins in 12th at 2:41.47. She was followed by Julia Kern in 13th, Caldwell Hamilton in 15th, and Hannah Halvorsen in 26th. Returning from a year of injury rehabilitation, Halvorsen continues to demonstrate the meaning of tenacity, earning her first World Cup points with a 23rd place finish after being bumped out in the quarterfinals. In an email, Halvorsen wrote, “I think a lot of racers can relate to the feeling that you can have a bunch of people tell you that you’re good enough, but sometimes it takes a result to believe that for yourself. Making the heats makes me feel like I belong here, and that is a pretty incredible feeling because I have wanted to be a World Cup skier since I was little.”
Diggins, Caldwell Hamilton, and Kern all advanced to the semi-finals where Kern was eliminated in the second heat. Both Diggins and Caldwell Hamilton advanced to the finals.
Through to the finals after a tight squeeze in the finish lanes in her semi-final, Caldwell Hamilton lined up with teammate Diggins, accompanied on the start line by eventual winner Fähndrich (SUI), Anamarija Lampic (SLO), Laurien van der Graaff (SUI), and Lucia Scardoni (ITA).
Diggins tangled slightly with Scardoni (ITA) at the top of the first rise but escaped unscathed, only to avoid Lampic’s discarded broken pole on the ensuing descent. Caldwell Hamilton positioned herself well with a smooth corner into the second lap and slotted in behind Fähndrich (SUI). Despite a broken pole on the first lap, Lampic (SLO) made a strong recovery and pulled herself back into contention, dueling Caldwell Hamilton in a photo finish for second place which ultimately went to Caldwell Hamilton. Diggins followed in fourth (+2.60), with van der Graaff (+3.04) and Scardoni (+3.30) rounding out the top six.
Today was the first World Cup victory for Fähndrich (SUI), who races on Peltonen skis, not often seen in the World Cup lineup. After her race, she told FIS, “Yeah it means a lot, it’s amazing, I just concentrate on my work and not too much on what is after the finish line.” She placed fourth in last weekend’s skate sprint in Davos.
For Caldwell Hamilton, the second-place finish marked her first podium of the season and first individual podium since Davos last year where she finished third in the skate sprint. She finished just off the podium in fourth during the Dresden sprints last year. With today’s result, she moves into third place with 125 points in the overall sprint rankings behind Lampic (172 points) and Fähndrich (176 points) who has taken the top spot after her win today.
Post-race interview with Sophie Caldwell Hamilton:
As for Diggins, today was her first time through to the sprint finals this season. “For me, the best part was that I really, truly had fun out there,” said Diggins, whose last sprint final appearance was in Oberstdorf Germany last year where she finished third. “Seeing Hannah make the heats for the first time brought such an adrenaline rush, seeing so many of our boys in the semi and then Sim and Kevin in the final, and of course Sophie skiing like a boss! I’m so proud of this team and the atmosphere we’ve created in our little bubble, and we’re really feeding off one another’s happiness. My own day was exciting as city sprinting isn’t exactly what I’m known for, but my body felt good and I’m just so pumped to team sprint here tomorrow!”
Growing up in Washington’s Methow Valley, Ella was immersed in skiing and the ski community from a young age. From early days bundled in the pulk, to learning to ski as soon as she could walk, to junior racing, a few seasons of collegiate racing, and then to coaching, she has experienced the ski world in many forms. Now, as a recent graduate from Dartmouth College, she finds herself living in France splitting her time between teaching English at a university in Lyon, avidly following ski racing (and now writing about it!) and adventuring in the outdoors as often as possible.