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Kalla, Belov Top Gällivare FIS Opener; Randall 8th, Kershaw 12th

Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla racing to a win in her first race of the 2017/2018 season, the women’s 5 k freestyle in Gällivare, Sweden, on Friday. (Photo: Sporteventgallivare/Instagram)

Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla and Hanna Falk went 1-2 in Sweden’s season-opening International Ski Federation (FIS) race on Friday in Gällivare, with Kalla winning the women’s 5-kilometer freestyle by 8.8 seconds in 12:58.1 minutes. Falk, her teammate on the Swedish women’s team, placed second and Russia’s Yulia Belorukova took the third spot on the podium, 10.3 seconds out of first.

The host nation had three in the top four, with Ida Ingemarsdotter in fourth (+16.1). Switzerland’s Nathalie von Siebenthal finished fifth (+17.8), Russia’s Yulia Tchekaleva placed sixth (+23.4), and Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva was seventh (+25.0).

Kikkan Randall of the U.S. Ski Team raced to eighth (+27.2), just ahead of Sweden’s Evelina Settlin in ninth (+32.0) and Russia’s Anna Nechaevskaya in 10th (+33.5). Japan’s Masako Ishida was just 0.3 seconds out of the top 10 in 11th.

In an email, Randall explained that she decided to venture to Europe earlier this year to get some racing in ahead of the World Cup.

“We also wanted a little extra time to let Breck adjust to the 10hr time change!” she wrote of her 1-year-old son, who will be traveling the World Cup circuit with Randall and her husband, Jeff Ellis, this winter.

(Article continues below)

Most of the U.S. Ski Team arrived in Rovaniemi, Finland, on Thursday, Nov. 16 (with the exception of Andy Newell, who is racing this weekend in Beitostølen, Norway, with Noah Hoffman). The rest of her teammates planned to train at the Santasport Olympic training center in Rovaniemi until Nov. 21, when the entire team will meet up in Kuusamo (also known as Ruka), Finland — the site of next weekend’s World Cup opener.

“I’m happy with my start today,” Randall wrote of Friday’s race. “It took my a couple km’s to get going today but I felt like I was finding my rhythm in the 2nd half of the course.  It’s my first hard session this week after the travel over so today was a good jolt!  It was a competitive field and I was satisfied to be in the mix.”

Ninety-two women raced the Gällivare 5 k skate, compared to 56 women on Friday in Beitostølen (Norway’s FIS season-opener). Randall planned to race the 10 k classic on Saturday in Gällivare, then skip Sunday’s classic sprint.

“It’s great to be back around other World Cup skiers again and I’ve always liked Gällivare so it’s nice to be back here,” she wrote. “My former wax tech lives here and has been taking great care of us. … Looking forward to meeting up with the team in Ruka next week.”

With 46 Swedes and 23 Russians accounting for most of the women’s field, Canada’s Emily Nishikawa put herself in the mix in 26th, 54.9 seconds behind Kalla. Nishikawa’s Canadian World Cup teammate Dahria Beatty placed 56th (+1:38.3).

For Nishikawa, who’s known as a distance skier, the top-30 result was notable in that a 5 k falls somewhere between a sprint and a distance race.

“5km is such a hard distance, and it is over so fast, but it is a lot of fun,” Nishikawa wrote in an email. “I have been able to work on my sprinting a bit more this summer as I have been injury free, so I’m looking forward to seeing more speed in my racing this season.”

She planned to race all three days in Gällivare, including Sunday’s sprint.

“With these races, I am just hoping to fine tune my fitness and get some hard intensity in to feel sharp for the upcoming World Cup races,” added Nishikawa, who’s entering her fifth World Cup season as a leading member of the Canadian women’s World Cup Team. “Today’s race was a really hard effort and I am happy with how I skied today.”

The 12th-ranked Russian woman on Friday, Evgenia Shapovalova, who was recently banned for life from future Olympics, placed 22nd.

Belov Bests Ustiugov

In the men’s 10 k freestyle on Friday, another one of the Russians sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Evgeniy Belov won in 23:08.5. He was 6.5 seconds faster than his Russian teammate Sergey Ustiugov, who placed second. Ustiugov is the defending Tour de Ski champion and Overall World Cup runner-up.

Switzerland’s Dario Cologna placed third, 7.6 seconds out of first, and Russia swept fourth through ninth, with Sweden’s Marcus Hellner following in 10th (+36.4). Out of the five actively competing skiers the IOC sanctioned earlier this month, all five raced on Friday in Gällivare, which was legal considering FIS had not ruled they can’t.

Four of those skiers are men. In addition to Belov, Maxim Vylegzhanin placed 14th (+43.2), Alexander Legkov followed in 15th (+45.9) and Alexey Petukhov finished 23rd (+56.7) out of 157 finishers on Friday.

Devon Kershaw (front) training with U.S. Ski Team sprinter Andy Newell in Sjusjøen, Norway, last week. (Photo: Noah Hoffman)

Ahead of them, Canada’s Devon Kershaw ended up 12th (+39.9), tying another Russian Artem Maltsev (who is not on the IOC-banned list) with identical times.

“My stance on the whole Russian fiasco is unchanged,” Kershaw wrote in an email, referring to a previous email he wrote to FasterSkier earlier this week when asked how he felt about the IOC-banned Russians competing in FIS events. “I find the entire thing both disturbing and hilarious. The fact that FIS is risking their credibility like this makes no sense to me. Apparently there will be an emergency meeting of sorts tomorrow about it (with FIS I’m assuming but I haven’t heard much about it) – so we’ll have to all wait and see what they come up with.

“As for seeing Belov win – I mean, that’s no surprise,” Kershaw continued. “He’s shown that he’s a force when he’s in form. But yeah, the fact that he and others have been recently banned for life by the IOC are winning races after that news came out just shows the Mickey Mouse club that our sport has become.”

As for his own race, Kershaw wrote that he felt great about it. The course suited him well without too much hard climbing. “… You kind of need to be pushing the whole way around. I really like courses like that,” he wrote.

The conditions, however, with about 10 to 15 centimeters of new snow from the early morning that continued into the race, made the course slower, which Kershaw found to be more challenging.

“But that is another reason why I am so satisfied with the effort today. Individual start skating in soft conditions? Not my favourite, so I’m happy how I was able to execute things,” he wrote. “For me to be in the mix in a 10km skate like that feels great. I had good energy all race and hit my technical goals for the race too, so I have to be satisfied.”

Kershaw and the rest of Canada’s Period 1 World Cup team arrived in Gällivare last Sunday. Over the last week, they’ve been testing equipment and getting into a race routine ahead of the World Cup opener, he explained.

“I changed various things with my training this year so it’s exciting to see how my body feels in the beginning of a new season,” Kershaw wrote. “… My goals are really to just be calm and execute well – which means going into the racing with no expectations other than to ski as technically well as possible while working on the whole pacing thing (which can be challenging at the beginning of the season when you don’t have that many races in the body). I’ll look to have another well executed race tomorrow and the results will be what they will be.”

Canada’s NorAm leader at the end of last season, Russell Kennedy (Team R.A.D.) was the next-best Canadian in 48th (+1:35.7), followed by Len Valjas (World Cup Team) in 49th (+1:37.0). Jack Carlyle (Alberta World Cup Academy) placed 67th (+2:07.2), Julien Locke (National U25 Team) was 72nd (+2:10.9), Graeme Killick (World Cup Team) 90th (+2:32.2), Brian McKeever (Para Nordic Team) 97th (+2:39.0), and Jess Cockney (World Cup Team) 119th (+3:10.7). Knute Johnsgaard (World Cup Team) did not start.

Racing continues in Gällivare this weekend with 10/15 k classic individual starts on Saturday followed by classic sprints on Sunday.

Results: Women | Men

The post Kalla, Belov Top Gällivare FIS Opener; Randall 8th, Kershaw 12th appeared first on FasterSkier.com.

Bjørgen, Sundby Come Up Big in Beito Opening 10/15 k; Hoffman 29th

Norway’s Marit Bjørgen racing to a 29-second win in Friday’s 10 k classic FIS race in Beitostølen, Norway. (Photo: Aleks Tangen)

BEITOSTØLEN, Norway — The question of whether Bjørgen or Weng will be the bigger name this season went in the favor of the former on Friday at Norway’s first big matchup of the season. Marit Bjørgen, now 37 and in her 20th World Cup season, won the first race of the three-day International Ski Federation (FIS) weekend in Beitostølen, starting last out of 56 women and finishing first in the 10-kilometer classic individual start, with 29.4 seconds between her and Weng in second place.

On a morning that marked the start of the 2017/2018 season in Norway, with temperatures just below zero and a snow squall during the women’s pre-race warmup, the snow covering the course appeared loose but ample.

Weng, the 26-year-old reigning Overall World Cup and Distance World Cup champion who started 30 seconds behind fellow Norwegian national-team member Bjørgen, told reporters after the race that she was satisfied with her performance, but could have skied better and “could have had better grip”.

For the first 2 kilometers of the race, Bjørgen’s pace was comparable to that of another one of her teammates, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, who started just ahead of Weng. But halfway through the race, Bjørgen was nearly 22 seconds up on Østberg and 28 seconds ahead of Weng.

While Bjørgen continued to put seconds into her teammates in the final 5 k — blowing through the 7 k checkpoint 28 seconds faster than anyone else — Weng and Østberg battled for second. Weng clocked through 6.1 k just 2.7 seconds faster than Østberg and skied 5.1 seconds faster than her over the next 900 meters. Despite crossing the finish 11.6 seconds faster than Østberg, Weng’s time in the leader’s chair was short-lived, as Bjørgen finished 29.4 seconds faster with a winning time of 29:30.9 minutes.

The women’s 10 k classic all-Norwegian podium at Friday’s FIS race in Beitostølen, Norway, with Marit Bjørgen (c) in first, Heidi Weng (l) in second and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg in third. (Photo: Aleks Tangen)

Østberg claimed third, 41 seconds back and 10 seconds ahead of another Norwegian national team member Ragnhild Haga in fourth (+51.0). Norway swept first through 13th place with Kathrine Rolsted Harsem in fifth (+1:08.1), Astrid Øyre Slind in sixth (+1:27.5) and notably, sprint specialist Maiken Caspersen Falla in ninth (+1:54.3).

“Marit is superior,” Weng said in a post-race interview with NRK. “This is top level and I have to step it up.”

She added, “29.4 and 41 seconds is a lot, but Marit is not invincible.”

But even Bjørgen has to tell herself to ski relaxed for the first race of the season.

“I tried to stay calm and ski my way up to Weng,” Bjørgen told NRK. “Considering that she held the yellow bib [as the World Cup leader] last year, I think that’s pretty good.”

Bjørgen reflected that she could have skied the flatter parts of the course better.

“Heidi did well there, and it was fun to ski behind here and learn from her,” she said.

 

Norwegian national-team member Ragnhild Haga racing to fourth in the women’s 10 k classic FIS race on Friday in Beitostølen, Norway. (Photo: Aleks Tangen)

Haga in fourth told reporters that she was pleased with her technical improvements in classic, which she has been working on for three years.

“It was fun, and I’m glad I was able to race at such a high level,” Haga said.

Three Americans, two of which race for Great Britain, finished 29th, 30th and 31st: Annika Taylor (+3:48.2) Nichole Bathe (+3:51.3) and Anne Hart (+3:51.4), respectively. Taylor was born in California and is a member of Great Britain’s women’s team, as is Bathe, who hails from Wisconsin and is also a member of the CXC Team. Hart, originally from Minnesota, races for the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) Elite Team in Vermont.

In a post-race interview with FasterSkier, Hart explained that she made a point to get on snow earlier this season and spent the last two weeks training in Sjusjøen, Norway. After this weekend, she’ll return to the U.S. for the first SuperTour races in West Yellowstone, Montana, Dec. 2-3.

“I’ve been told by just about everyone that this is more competitive than a World Cup in part because these are [the Norwegians’] major qualifying races [for the World Cup], or their only ones I think,” Hart said of Beitostølen. “So I just went out hard. I had great kick on my skis so I just was really working on skiing well because last year that was an area I think I just got really frantic.”

During training on Thursday, Hart skied one lap with Bjørgen.

“Yesterday I actually skied with — stalked — Marit on an easy lap, and I was just trying to imitate her skiing,” Hart said. “So I was just trying to think of her out there and obviously not quite as fast, but I was really psyched with how I skied everything well. I felt a little tired on the last bit, but again, I didn’t fall apart and I’m really pleased with that.”

American Anne Hart (SMS Elite Team) racing to 31st in the women’s 10 k classic FIS race on Friday in Beitostølen, Norway. (Photo: Aleks Tangen)

 

For Hart, the biggest difference she noticed in this initial race of the season was the fact that she was having fun.

“Last year I was just struggling the whole season to find that ‘fun’ gear, I guess, and today I was really enjoying the whole time and really pushing and not looking forward to the end,” she said. “Instead of thinking, ‘I have to make it another kilometer,’ it was like, ‘Oh my god, I only have a kilometer to go. I’ve gotta really give it all I’ve got.’ ”

For Canada, Isabella Howden, of the newly formed Barrie Cross Country (BXC), finished 53rd (+7:18.2). Afterward, Howden, who started 16th, recalled being passed by the five fastest women on her second lap, which she said was beneficial.

“That was pretty cool, seeing them and getting to stay with them on the downhills and copy their technique for as long as I could see them,” she said.

For Howden and some of her Canadian teammates, Beitostølen is familiar territory; they raced there last year. Regardless, she was in awe of the atmosphere.

“It’s so cool … all the kids up there cheering and there’s a whole crew around the corner with all their cowbells, like 10 of them,” she said with a laugh.

Sundby Pulls It Together

In the men’s 15 k classic individual start that followed, defending World Cup champion Martin Johnsrud Sundby took the win by 18.2 seconds over Norwegian teammate Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, who won last season’s Sprint World Cup at the age of 20.

Now 21, Klæbo is recognized as more of an all-around force, and on Friday, he led the men’s race up until the 4.9 k checkpoint. Sundby started last out of 158 men and trailed Klæbo until 6 k. But from that point on, the race was Sundby’s; at 9.8 k, he was 12.3 seconds faster than Klæbo in second place.

“I had to pull myself together,” Sundby told reporters after the race, explaining that he felt tired around 6 k. While the rest of his race required some extra effort, Sundby expressed contentment with his performance.

“This was something positive that I will take with me going into the season,” he said. “This was the first race of the season and it could have gone both good and bad. … It was so-so, I felt goofy skiing today, but that was also the case for everyone else.”

He attributed that awkward feeling to challenging conditions, “but that is also good practice,” he said. “I didn’t feel all that well in the first 5 k, but after that I was able to speed up and I felt that was able to control the race.”

And he did so without going too far into the pain cave.

“I didn’t have to dig as deep as I have done sometimes in the past,” Sundby said.

Sundby’s winning time of 38:57.2 was 18.2 seconds faster than Klæbo in second and 37 seconds clear of Hans Christer Holund in third. The top-seven men — all Norwegian — finished within 59 seconds of first. The women were a bit more spread out, with the seventh-place woman, Silje Theodorsen (Kvaløysletta Skilag), finishing 1:36.3 behind Bjørgen.

Holund clawed his way into the race after his 4.9 k time ranked 11th. With about 5 k to go, the Norwegian national-team member was up to fifth, and by 11.9 k, he was within reach of the podium in fourth place.

Didrik Tønseth ended up just 1 second off the podium in fourth (+38.0), while Johan Hoel (Åsen IL/Team Veidekke Oslofjord) placed fifth (+42.2), ahead of Simen Hegstad Krüger in sixth (+44.1) and Emil Iversen in seventh (+59.0).

Noah Hoffman (r) passes Norway’s Torstein Bu during the men’s 15 k classic FIS race season opener on Friday in Beitostølen, Norway. Hoffman went on to place 29th, while Bu finished 75th. (Photo: Aleks Tangen)

The lone American in the race, Noah Hoffman placed 29th, 2:25 minutes behind Sundby. After a slow opening that put him in 47th at the 2.1 k mark, the former U.S. Ski Team member settled into a pace that put him within the top 30.

Afterward, he told FasterSkier that his performance was a good starting point. He started the race toward the back of the field in bib 145, just ahead of several top Norwegians.

“It was a little unfortunate that there was a big train that formed right behind me, and those guys didn’t catch me until less than a k to go,” Hoffman reflected. “I was hoping they’d get me a little sooner or not get me at all, but it was good.”

In terms of a race plan, he explained that he tried to ski with energy and build throughout the entire 15 k, which he felt he did.

“I got a little excited the second time up the big hill and maybe burned a little too much, but for the most part it was a good effort and I’m looking to build this for Sunday and then obviously into next weekend,” he said.

After Sunday’s second set of distance races in Beitostølen, the 10/15 k freestyle individual starts, Hoffman will race four weekends of World Cups as an invited member of the U.S. Ski Team (USST) for Period 1. He missed the objective qualifying criteria for renomination to the USST by one place (he ranked 51st in the World Cup at the end of last season) and is thus skiing independently this year, paying his own way (and paying his own wax technicians, Zach Caldwell and recently retired USST tech Peter Johansson) so that he can race in Europe.

“The early season is important for me this year because I don’t have guaranteed start rights for the whole winter, so I need to ski well,” Hoffman, 28, said. “And I believe I’ve done everything I can to prepare and I hope to see the results from that.”

Several Canadian juniors raced the men’s 15 k as well. Ryan Jackson led them in 97th (+5:16.8), followed by Scott Hill in 99th (+5:19.1), Joey Foster in 124th (+6:45.3), and Maks Zechel in 143rd (+8:25.5).

“It was hard out there today,” said Foster, a 21-year-old member of BXC, noting that he was still feeling the effects of travel after arriving in Europe a week ago. “Considering how I felt, the race was pretty good. … I started with what I thought was a pretty conservative pace and I got in with a good train of people, and I skied with them for almost the whole first lap, and from there I just kind of fell off pace. … I think my leadup to the race just wasn’t as good as it could’ve been, so I wasn’t feeling as crisp as I would’ve liked.”

Results: Women | Men

The post Bjørgen, Sundby Come Up Big in Beito Opening 10/15 k; Hoffman 29th appeared first on FasterSkier.com.

Kolme suomalaista pääsi mukaan mäkihypyn maailmancupin avauskisaan
Mäkihypyn maailmancup alkaa lauantaina Puolassa.
World Cup Windup: USA

The top-three medalists in the women’s freestyle sprint at 2017 Nordic World Championships absorb the crowd, with American Jessie Diggins (l) holding her nation’s flag while standing next to Kikkan Randall (c), who placed third, and Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla (r), who won. (Photo: John Lazenby/Lazenbyphoto.com)

Welcome to World Cup Windup, where we check in with the top-10 teams from last year’s FIS Cross Country World Cup tour before the season starts with the Ruka Triple in Kuusamo, Finland, on Nov. 24.

***

Note: The following article has been updated to clarify that various World Cup organizers are responsible for paying travel and living costs for Continental Cup leaders (as well as Red Group athletes and paying for Nation’s Support: see section 10 of World Cup Rules), not FIS.

According to U.S. Ski Team (USST) Head Coach Chris Grover, the USST pays room, board and travel for its A-team, while B- and D-team members cover their own room, board and travel. “The USST supports all athletes (A, B, D, COC leaders) by paying for the coaches, techs, physical therapists, vans, gas, etc.),” Grover wrote in an email. “We spend the clear majority of USST resources on the infrastructure that supports all USA athletes on World Cup, and the NNF really helps these B and D Team athletes by significantly contributing to their individual room, board and travel.  This has been the formula for many years now.”

***

USA

Overall in Nations Cup Last Year: Fifth

Women’s Ranking 2016/2017: Fourth

Men’s Ranking 2016/2017: 10th

Who’s Back:

World Championships medalists Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall, and Sadie Bjornsen; World Cup winners Simi Hamilton and Sophie Caldwell; top-six Tour de Ski finisher Liz Stephen; World Cup podium finishers Andy Newell and Ida Sargent; the whole crew. Rosie Brennan, Chelsea Holmes, Julia Kern, Eric Bjornsen, Scott Patterson, Noah Hoffman, and Paddy Caldwell will also be on the World Cup for Period I, according to head coach Chris Grover.

Who’s Missing:

American Simi Hamilton (5) racing with Norway’s Sindre Bjørnestad Skar (r) as they lead the men’s final down the finishing stretch of the freestyle sprint in Toblach, Italy. Skar won the photo finish with Hamilton by 0.03 seconds. (Photo: Fischer/Nordic Focus)

No retirements. Several athletes who don’t have World Cup start rights in Period I will likely be racing at the domestic season openers in the U.S., including 2015 World Championships medalist Caitlin Gregg, top-30 World Cup finisher Caitlin Patterson, David Norris, and many others.

Pre-Season Results:

Chelsea Holmes won the 7.5 k skate race in Canmore, Alberta, earlier this month as part of the Frozen Thunder pre-season ramp-up.

Kikkan Randall placed eighth in a 5 k skate race in Gällivare, Sweden, on Friday, 27.2 seconds behind Charlotte Kalla.

In Beitostølen, Norway, Noah Hoffman finished 29th in a 15 k classic, two minutes and 25 seconds behind Martin Johnsrud Sundby. In the women’s 10 k classic, Stratton Mountain School (SMS) Elite Team’s Anne Hart finished 31st, 3:51.4 behind Marit Bjørgen.

Recent Drama:

Most of the World Cup team has recently arrived in Scandinavia to start the season. The Alaska contingent, including Sadie BjornsenErik BjornsenScott PattersonKikkan Randall, and Rosie Brennan already had snow at home, but a few other team members arrived in Scandinavia early to begin preparing on snow.

Andy Newell and domestic racers Erika Flowers and Anne Hart have been in Sjujøen, Norway, and Noah Hoffman joined them partway through the trip.

Kikkan Randall has been training in Gällivare, Sweden, where she will race this weekend. Randall recently did an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit, where she talked quite a bit about pizza, but also plenty else.

Julia Kern was the latest addition to the World Cup roster. She will race in the World Cup opener in Finland and likely in the individual sprints in Lillehammer, Norway, and in Davos, Switzerland, as well.

The top-20 ranked sprinters from the past season are additional quota spots to our normal quota, so we actually could use, technically use our maximum quota allotment of 10 athletes in Ruka,” U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover said, referring to a FIS rule change that top sprinters would not count against a country’s quota in tours and mini tours. “So with Julia we have actually been talking all through the spring and summer about getting her some more World Cup start opportunities and experience based on the fact that she skied in her first World Cup at World Cup Finals and scored points right away. So she’s obviously on the track of a talented young sprinter and we want to give her more opportunities.”

Some of the other East-Coast skiers headed up to Foret Montmorency in Quebec to get in time on snow rather than traveling early to Europe.

Make sure to check out our recent podcast with Erik Bjornsen, and our piece chatting with Rosie Brennan about being an athlete representative to U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

More from Grover:

In a phone interview this week, Grover explained the U.S. team’s outlook this winter and into the future, as well as some team-selection specifics.

On World Cup Period I: “At least in my memory, this is probably the biggest team that we’ve ever had start on World World Period I, with 15 athletes. So that’s really exciting, and I think that’s a testament to the fact that the overall level of U.S. cross-country skiing has risen… At the same time, World Cup Period I is a really tough period of World Cup. It may be the most competitive period of World Cup that we encounter all season. It’s not unusual to have over 100 men on the line in Ruka, for example, and so to be successful right away in this first period of World Cup is always a real challenge, especially given the fact that lots of Scandinavians have been on snow for many weeks and had a chance to do more racing and such. But it’ll be a fun start to the season and really rewarding to have this many talented athletes representing the U.S.”

Noah Hoffman racing last December in Davos, Switzerland. He is the recipient of a discretionary spot on the World Cup. (Photo: Toko/NordicFocus)

On team depth and what comes after this year: “We’re going to see the retirement, most likely, of some very key U.S.A. athletes after this season, so we need to be able to start actually looking down the road and developing the next group. One of the challenges we have, especially on the women’s side, is the fact that there’s really no room on the World Cup in terms of our start quotas, to be providing athletes with developmental start positions where they begin to learn how to manage their training and recovery and health and everything on the World Cup, and also learn how to effectively compete and the nuances of all these different World Cup venues… we have to try to find ways to do it while we can.”

On Hoffman, the only invited athlete on the Period I team whose World Cup support isn’t paid for by either the U.S. Ski Team or World Cup organizers: “Noah is an athlete who actually was starting to really come on in the middle of last season. He got a devastating flu, was out for a few weeks, and then we never really saw him rebound the rest of the season. So he also probably lost some points races from the whole second half of the season. I think most people would say Noah’s probably one of the strongest U.S. distance men, and so when we made this decision back in May that we would offer this spot this fall it was based on all of that information.”

On Kern’s prospects for the season: “I think Julia would say it’s pretty unrealistic for her to make an Olympic team. We have a cap put on the amount of sprinters that we’ll bring to the Games, and that’s  five men and five women. Last year we had five sprint women meet the objective criteria from the World Cup between Jessie, Sadie, Sophie, Kikkan, and Ida. So it’s very unlikely, unless Julia is faster than one of those athletes — which is possible — but it’s pretty hard to make the team via that standard. Making the women’s sprint team in particular is for sure the hardest team to qualify for on the U.S.A. right now. So Julia’s got a shot like anybody else, but I think Julia would tell you that it’s a very long shot and instead of focusing on that, she’s more focused on the World Cup experience.”

Julia Kern (U.S. Ski Team D-team/Stratton Mountain School) racing in the quarterfinals of her first World Cup race in the women’s freestyle sprint at 2017 World Cup Finals in Quebec City. She finished fifth in the heat for 24th overall. (Photo: Gretchen Powers)

On what he would tell other on-the-bubble women who didn’t get a World Cup Period I invite: “We definitely like to look at the points lists, they give us direction from time to time, but they’re really challenging in that the points that are awarded at a lot of races in the U.S. don’t really match up with the points that skiers are getting in Europe or that those same skiers are earning over in Europe…. for example, why aren’t we naming a tenth woman to start in the Ruka mini tour? The reason is there’s no place for them to go the next weekend. Ruka is a special situation because we can bring in these top sprinters from last year, but once we get to Lillehammer we’re down to seven start rights [for the women] per day, with a total of our nine-woman team over there, so athletes are starting to have to sit out races over there. The other thing I think most athletes have recognized is that the path for those athletes that are interested in qualifying for the Olympic Winter Games, the path toward qualification [through the World Cup] is generally more difficult than racing domestically, so athletes that would target the Olympics… I think many of them are aiming toward racing domestically in order to better their chances of making the team.”

The post World Cup Windup: USA appeared first on FasterSkier.com.

Norja ei suostu luopumaan Therese Johaugin kuvasta huoltorekassaan – ”Liitto haluaa tehdä kantansa selväksi”
Kilpailukieltoa kärsivän Therese Johaugin kuva on edelleen Norjan huoltorekan kyljessä.
Iivo Niskasen valmentaja ei halua huippupestiä – myös toinen kova nimi kieltäytyi
Olli Ohtonen olisi erittäin todennäköisesti hiihdon uusi päävalmentaja, mutta muut haasteet odottavat keväällä.
Caitlin Gregg Suffers Lightning Strike in West Yellowstone, Unharmed and OK

Caitlin Gregg heading out on an early morning jog before sunrise on Tuesday, Nov. 14, in West Yellowstone, Montana. Later that morning, a little before 9 a.m., she was essentially struck by lightning while running to the nordic ski trails there. (Photo: Instagram/@caitlincgregg)

She never heard thunder and never saw lightning before it happened, but in an instant, Caitlin Gregg realized the surge running through her body was a one-in-a-million type of occurrence.

This past Tuesday morning started out like most others for Gregg, who turned 37 exactly a week earlier, during her annual visits to West Yellowstone, Montana. With her skis and poles in each hand, she headed for the Rendezvous Ski Trails on foot — a short jog from the hotel she and her husband, Brian, were staying at.

It was 33 degrees Fahrenheit around 9 a.m. that morning and snow was falling, “a strange grapple type of snow/sleet”, Gregg, a 2015 World Championships bronze medalist, recalled in an email.

Caitlin Gregg (Team Gregg) racing to first in the women’s 10 k freestyle at 2017 U.S. nationals last January at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah.

She hadn’t been aware of any thunderstorms in the forecast. If she had, she would have never ventured out on her own, but rather caught a ride to the trailhead and waited for the storm to pass.

“Many of my teammates throughout the years know how terrified I am of lightning and thunderstorms,” wrote Gregg, a member of Team Gregg and Loppet Nordic Racing, based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

But it was just snowing, or so she thought.

As she jogged along the road, wearing metal spikes on her shoes for traction, Gregg reached the corner of Electric Street. Suddenly and without warning, lightning — stemming from a natural phenomenon called thundersnow — struck a nearby tower.

Simultaneously, an electric current surged through her body — up her left leg and out her left arm. She felt the surge followed by her jewelry burning on her skin.

“It felt like touching an electric fence x 1,000,000,” she wrote. “I had no idea what was happening but a split second later I heard the largest clap of thunder. I realized right away that I needed to get help.”

Gregg sought out medical attention at a hospital about an hour north in Big Sky, Montana.

“They checked out my heart’s electrical signal and for any muscle breakdown,” she wrote. “Thankfully all are normal. So, I am a bit shaken but everything seems to be okay.”

Her left hand “had some peripheral neuropathy and a pins and needles feeling for the rest of the day”, she recalled, but her jewelry didn’t leave any burn marks and she was cleared by the doctors to resume training as she felt up to it.

“I have been taking it pretty easy and just being careful if I notice any changes,” she wrote. As of Thursday, she hadn’t.

“I am grateful that I had a great group of teammates and coaches here who could help me out all day and have been skiing with me everyday since,” she added.

“I learned (through this whole ordeal) that the majority of lightning ‘strikes’ on people are from nearby objects getting hit the the current traveling through the ground,” Gregg explained. “Totally crazy experience. There have been a lot of lightning jokes now circulating the team (CXC and LNR) about how my it will give me super powers [smiley face]. We will see but I am pretty happy to have walked away okay.”

The day after, she posted a photo on Instagram of herself skiing with Midwest training partners.

While the odds of being struck by lightning in the U.S. in any one year is about 1 in 1 million (and the odds of being struck in one’s lifetime is 1 in 13,000), Gregg was feeling fortunate to be one of the survivors. According to the National Weather Service, she is one of about 300 Americans who survive lightning strikes each year. Ten percent of all lightning victims don’t make it.

“I have a new perspective on life for sure now,” Gregg wrote. “I looked up some of the lightning statistics and reports and I am feeling very lucky!”

And in a small town like West Yellowstone, with a population of about 1,200 (that sees an influx of several hundred skiers each November for the Yellowstone Ski Festival), news — as well as rumors — apparently spread fast.

“A lot of people thought I died,” Gregg wrote. “The hotel manager was trying to convince people that I am not dead and still staying at his place :)”

Feeling perhaps more alive or sparky, as she put it, than ever, Gregg is back on the path of trying to qualify for her second Olympics. (She represented the U.S. at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. Her husband Brian, the other half of Team Gregg, raced at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.)

The Greggs arrived in West Yellowstone earlier than usual this year to get acclimated to the altitude, some 6,700 feet above sea level. She planned to race the International Ski Federation (FIS) sanctioned race there on Nov. 25 (women’s 5-kilometer freestyle individual start) before starting the season in earnest with the SuperTour opener: a freestyle sprint and 10 k classic mass start Dec. 2-3, also in West Yellowstone.

“Despite this strange start to my season Brian and I are still very focused and driven to represent Team USA at the 2018 Olympics in Korea this February,” Gregg concluded.

— Jason Albert provided reporting

Caitlin Gregg (r) with fellow American Jessie Diggins (l) and Sweden’s world champion Charlotte Kalla after reaching the podium in the 10 k freestyle at 2015 World Championships in Falun, Sweden. Gregg earned bronze, Diggins silver and Kalla gold.

The post Caitlin Gregg Suffers Lightning Strike in West Yellowstone, Unharmed and OK appeared first on FasterSkier.com.

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