Author of Story: Peter Graves
OSLO, Norway – Norwegian media were full of race previews pitting the epic sprint battle at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships between Norway’s Marit Bjoergen and pre-race favorite Kikkan Randall (Anchorage). Yet, it was a battle not to be as Randall fell in the quarterfinals. Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) led the U.S. Ski Team in 10th.
The U.S. sprint star Randall qualified ninth and was in good form as she went into competition as an event favorite. She ended the day in 26th when a fall around a tight turn took her out of contention as thousand’s of fans gasped. Randall was a clear favorite of the fans here, recognized for both her skill and sportsmanship.
The first gold medals of the Championships were taken by Norway’s popular Marit Bjoergen in the 1.3k sprint and Sweden’s distance man Marcus Hellner in the men’s 1.5k event.
The USA put five skiers into the heats – the most ever in an Olympics or World Championships. Disappointed but still smiling, Randall spoke of the fall after the race.
“One moment I was skiing really well and the next I was going down backwards – and I was going fast,” she said. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t turn it around. I was going for that third position around the corner and I thought I had the advantage but my skis crossed with Ida’s [Ingemarsdotter] and it just whipped me around before I even knew what happened.”
Randall, who won back-to-back World Cups coming into the Championships, also saw it from a larger point of view.
“It’s sprint racing. Anything can happen. My plan was just to be relaxed and stay out of trouble and try to stay on my feet. I knew if I did that I could get to the final,” said Randall “I’m just really bummed. I definitely had more today. It’s just unfortunate to have the day end so early.”
Randall’s next race will be the 10k and she has another four races to go.
Newell led the U.S. finishing 10th. He was fourth in his quarterfinal heat but had one of the two fastest times among non-qualifiers of the day and moved to the semifinals to advance as a lucky loser , where he finished fourth.
“I was feeling really good and even with a bad start lane I was able to get a good position on the back hill and was feeling really strong,” said Newell. “Coming into the flat before the downhill, I ran into a little bit of trouble and tangled up with Alex Harvey. He was right on my skis and I had to push off of him. I broke a basket on my pole which didn’t help in the finishing lanes.
“A goal for a medal today would have been a bit of a stretch for me but this is a better result than what I’ve had the last few weeks so I think it’s a positive,” he said. “It was still a fun day. Now I’m just focusing on the sprint relay.”
“It was a day that was both good and bad,” said Head Coach Chris Grover. “It was bad, in that we know Kikkan was in the kind of shape necessary to win but good in that we were really impressed by the young skiers with Simi [Hamilton], Jessie [Diggins] and Sadie [Bjornsen] all in the top 30. We are proud of them all and we had great skis.”
Other U.S. qualifiers included Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO) who was 25th plus American women Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) 24th and Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) 25th.
The next event for the cross country is Saturday with the women’s 15k pursuit.
FIS World Nordic Ski Championships
Oslo, Norway – Feb. 24, 2011
Gold: Marcus Hellner, Sweden
Silver: Petter Northug, Norway
Bronze: Emil Joensson, Sweden
10. Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT
25. Simi Hamilton, Aspen, CO
36. Torin Koos, Wenatchee, WA
Gold: Marit Bjoerngen, Norway
Silver: Arianna Follis, Italy
Bronze: Petra Majdic, Slovenia
24. Sadie Bjornsen, Winthrop, WA
25. Jessica Diggins, Afton, MN
26. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage
45. Ida Sargent, Orleans, VT