Ski Team disciplines keep pace with global masters
The weekend was filled with cross-country ski, ski jumping, Nordic combined and World Cup downhill action. Here is a summary of how the U.S. Ski Team did as the Tour de Ski concluded, how the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team charged back onto the podium, how Ted Ligety failed to finish his second run in the Croatian slalom and who the victors were in the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships at Soldier Hollow, Utah.
As it came down to one finals stage, the final climb up get-wrenching Alpe Cermis, the U.S.’ Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, Alaska) was in seventh place behind runaway leader Justyna Kowalczyk from Poland. Randall started the day 11th in the 10k classic mass start as Kowalczyk padded her lead to more than two minutes. Randall remained more than three minutes back, but was within 12 seconds of fourth place. However, she didn’t quite make up the difference on Sunday. Randall, who finished 10th a year ago, dropped from seventh to 12th.
Meanwhile, Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, Vt.) combined with Randall to be the second American in the top 15 at the close of the seven-stage Tour de Ski. Stephen was second fastest up the climb, and jumped from 22nd to 15th for a career best Tour finish. Tour rookie Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) moved up to 21st for an impressive first-year showing.
Kowalczyk needed all of her two-minute-plus lead as she took a 27.9-second win over a hard-charging Therese Johaug of Norway who chopped off 1 minute, 40 seconds to finish second. Kristin Toermer Steira, another Norwegian, was third, 2 minutes, 39.5 seconds back. The victory was Kowalczyk’s fifth stage race and fourth consecutive overall victory.
Russian Alexander Legkov won his first men’s Tour de Ski title over defending champion Dario Cologna. He surged away from his rivals on the final climb up Mount Cermis after starting the final stage in the nine-day race 6.5 seconds behind three-time champion Cologna of Switzerland. Cologna couldn’t keep pace when Legkov went ahead on the way up the downhill ski slope.
Legkov won the 9-kilometer freestyle handicap-start race in 31 minutes, 3.4 seconds and finished 18.7 seconds ahead of Cologna, with fellow Russian Maxim Vylegzhanin third, 40.7 back.
Memories of Olympic silver in Vancouver were rekindled Saturday as the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team charged back onto the podium finishing third in an historic first World Cup team event podium for the U.S. Ski Team.
The USA started sixth in cross-country, 57 seconds behind Norway, which ultimately went on to win. The USA slowly moved up through the pack with Bryan Fletcher, Taylor Fletcher, Todd Lodwick (all Steamboat Springs) and Billy Demong (Vermontville, N.Y.) pacing to pass Austria to take third.
In Sunday’s individual event in Schonach, Germany, Bryan Fletcher jumped to 11th and led the U.S. Ski Team in 22nd overall at a FIS Nordic Combined World Cup event. France’s Jason Lamy Chappuis won by 1.9 seconds over Japan’s Akito Watabe.
In the women’s competition, Sarah Hendrickson (Park City, Utah) soared to fifth in the second weekend World Cup in Schonach. Norway’s Anette Sagen won her first individual World Cup. The finish left Hendrickson in fourth place in the World Cup standings.
The Nordic combined tour now heads for Chaux-Neuve, France, for a pair of events next weekend.
Defending champion Marcel Hirscher reclaimed the overall World Cup lead Sunday by winning a slalom for his third victory of the season.
The Austrian trailed Jens Byggmark by 0.01 seconds after the first leg but took advantage of the Swede’s mistake in the second to win in a combined time of 1 minute, 56.17 seconds. Andre Myhrer of Sweden was 0.57 back in second, and Hirscher’s Austrian teammate Mario Matt came in 1.09 behind to take third.
Hirscher overtook Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who usually skips slalom events, atop the overall standings. Hirscher has 740 points, followed by Svindal with 689 and American Ted Ligety, who skied out in the first run Sunday, with 552 points. The race took part in rainy and partly foggy conditions, while mild temperatures further softened the course.
Ligety was 0.47 off the lead when he straddled a gate about a third into his opening run.
“Straddling is part of the sport,” Ligety said, but he was frustrated by the conditions. “Not good. It was really rough already at (starting number) 11. … It’s definitely a surface that is not easy to push on and when it’s foggy too, that makes it pretty difficult.”
APU Nordic had a strong day at the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships with Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash./APU Nordic) and Rosie Brennan (Park City, Utah/APU Nordic) taking their first U.S. titles at Soldier Hollow, the 2002 Olympic venue in Utah.
Bjornsen won the men’s 15k freestyle individual start in 37:02.7, a six second margin over U.S. Ski Team teammate Tad Elliott (Durango/Ski and Snowboard Club Vail). Matt Gelso (Truckee, Calif./Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation) took bronze.
APU Nordic swept the women’s podium with Brennan winning the 10k in 29:12.3 – an 11-second margin over Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash./APU Nordic). Kate Fitzgerald (Palmer, Alaska/APU Nordic) won bronze.
Action continued Sunday with mass start classic distance racing where Torin Koos (Wenatchee, Wash.) of the Bridger Ski Foundation and APU Nordic’s Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) were winners.
Koos won the men’s 30k classic with a final sprint to break away from the field in the last kilometer. Sadie Bjornsen won her first gold after a pair of silvers, taking the win over APU Nordic’s Kate Fitzgerald (Palmer, Alaska) and Sophie Caldwell (Peru, Vt.) of Stratton Mountain.
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