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 — The defending world champions in the women’s team sprint will field a new team at the 2015 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. Sophie Caldwell will join Jessie Diggins as the Americans attempt to defend their title in a field that features fierce competition in the form of Norway’s team of Maiken Caspersen Falla and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and Sweden’s team of Stina Nilsson and Ida Ingemarsdotter.
Kikkan Randall, a member of the defending 2013 World Championships team, will not start Sunday.
“It was a really hard decision to make. We had a number of women we were considering for that,” U.S. Ski Team (USST) Head Coach Chris Grover said in an interview. “Jessie was the first pick for that team given what her form has been like.”
Grover explained that Caldwell, Randall, Sadie Bjornsen, and Ida Sargent were all in the running for the final spot and that U.S. coaches took results, tactical abilities and current states of fitness into the consideration. He said that the decision to start Caldwell was due to her improving form over the season.
“Sophie seems to be coming into better and better fitness. Her skating in the pack in a sprinting environment is always good,” he said.
Randall has struggled to find form so far this season. In the first two races of World Championships, she finished 35th in Thursday’s classic sprint and 31st in Saturday’s 15 k skiathlon.
“[I’m] just kind of playing it day by day, and searching, and trying to find better feelings,” she said after the skiathlon.
According to Grover, the decision to leave Randall off the team was difficult giver her abilities and experience. He believes that Caldwell’s addition gives the U.S. its best chance at a top result. He also acknowledged that “at the end of the day, you never really know if you made the right choice or not.
“It was a hard decision with Kikkan because even though she’s not at her peak fitness right now, she’s still good tactically and a good skater. She knows where to be and knows where to see the openings,” he said. “It was tough and in the end, we felt like Sophie’s trajectory right now was putting her in a place right now where she could be part of our best team.”
The women’s and men’s team sprints begin tomorrow with semifinals at 12:30 p.m. CET (6:30 a.m. EST).
— Alex Kochon contributed reporting