World Championship medalist Kikkan Randall was among a group of seven athletes, including six Olympians, named to the 2011 U.S. Cross Country Ski Team. Aspiring future stars in Sun Valley got a chance for a sneak preview of the squad this past weekend when the U.S. Ski Team spent an afternoon with young athletes from the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation.
Headlining the Team are three-time World Cup podium finisher Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, Vt.) and top distance athlete Kris Freeman (Andover, N.H.), along with 2009 World Championship silver medalist Randall (Anchorage, Alaska). They were among five athletes named to the A Team along with Olympians Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, Vt.) and Morgan Arritola (Ketchum, Idaho).
“We have a small team with only seven athletes, but everyone has two things in common. First, they are proven athletes who have demonstrated that in Europe, racing at the highest levels. They have what it takes to be the best in the world. Second, they are ‘all in,’ 100 percent committed to discovering their absolute potential in the sport,” said Head Coach Chris Grover. “This has been a great camp and we’re proud to showcase our 2011 U.S. Cross Country Ski Team in Sun Valley.”
“It’s cool to be able to meet the kids because cross country skiing in the U.S. is a grassroots sport,” said the Team’s star sprinter Newell, back for his ninth year on the Team. “The clubs around the country are what fuel the talent and what make it so that the next generation’s skiers can be better than the ones before them. The Sun Valley Ski Club and the resort have been really helpful in providing us with support so that way we can come in and train with everyone in the community. It’s a great motivational boost for the young skiers to see the U.S. Ski Team training, and its cool for us to train and hang out with the youngsters, too.”
Newell and his teammates wrapped up their training day Saturday by meeting local athletes and signing autographs. The Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation is one of a number of top USSA cross country clubs actively pushing athletes up to the U.S. Ski Team. The Team was in town for a late-summer dryland training camp.
Joining the decorated A Team are U.S. Cross Country B Ski Team athletes Noah Hoffman (Aspen, Colo.) and 2010 Olympian Simi Hamilton (Aspen, Colo.). Hoffman, who dedicated himself to cross country after high school, took charge in 2009, earning a second place finish in the U.S. Championship 50k. Keeping the momentum flowing into 2010, he secured a spot on the U-23 Championship Team (under 23), scoring a top-20, before finishing fifth in the U.S. Championship 15k freestyle.
Hamilton, like Hoffman, had a strong 2010 season racking up two U.S. Championship titles. An Aspen native who was an NCAA All American at Vermont’s Middlebury College and now skis out of Sun Valley, his performances at U.S. Championships, in NorAms and on the U.S. SuperTour earned him a spot on the 2010 Olympic team and set him up for a promising 2010-11 season with the U.S. Ski Team.
The 2010-11 season will be centered around the 2011 World Championships in Oslo, Norway Feb. 23-Mar. 6. World Championships will showcase different techniques than the Olympics including the freestyle sprint, pursuit, relay, classic individual, classic team sprint and freestyle mass start. The two-week event will kick off with the individual sprint finals on Thursday, Feb. 24, moving up in distance throughout the weeks to end with the men’s 50k on Sunday, Mar. 6.
“We’re really looking forward to World Championships with the event line-up, techniques and disciplines playing to the strengths of the athletes on the U.S. Ski Team this year,” said Grover. “The events really line up well for us. Another thing about Oslo, is that we know we can be successful there. Kikkan Randall was second in the World Cup on the new sprint course there last March. We walked away from that World Cup feeling really confident in our ability to go there and be successful on those particular courses.”
“I’m looking forward to this World Championship because it’s in Oslo, which is going to be like the Super Bowl of nordic skiing with all the spectators there,” said Randall, who was continuing to train at her home in Anchorage. “We had such great team momentum from Liberec, with the success of the nordic combined athletes and the cross country team. We’re looking forward to building on that and, for me personally, taking one more step on top of the podium.”
The Team will be in Sun Valley until the 19th, followed by a short break before heading to the East Coast in mid-October for a final camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. The season is set to begin in Gallivare, Sweden with the World Cup opener Nov. 20-21.