Liz Stephen leads four U.S. into 30k top 30

Posted By: The Ski Channel on March 5, 2011 7:26 am

Author of Story: Elizabeth Karam USSA.ORG

Liz Stephen (E. Montpellier, VT) paved the way in 16th as all four U.S. athletes finished inside the top 30 Saturday in the women’s 30k freestyle at the 2011 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Oslo. Norway’s Therese Johaug picked up her second win and third medal of the Championships.

Stephen showed composure throughout the race finishing 6:22.2 behind Johaug and besting her 17th result in the 30k from the 2009 World Championships by one spot – her best result of the season.

“This morning I assumed that I would have a slow start. I was just going to chase right off the bat and get on a pack that I wanted to be on. If you lose it in the beginning it’s really hard to catch at it later,” said Stephen of her strategy coming into Saturday’s race. “I figured I’d rather blow up half way through and have not such a good result but a really good effort.”

Norway once again proved dominant taking five out of the six women race titles. The host country laid down the hammer in the final women’s race with Johaug and Marit Bjoergen feeding off each other to open a slight gap between them and the rest of the field.

Johaug came out on top crossing the finish in 1:23:45.1. Bjoergen finished seconds back to take silver, ending her World Championship gold medal streak. Leading into Saturday’s 30k, Bjoergen had won every race she entered. She ends the Championships with five podiums – four gold and one silver. Poland phenom Justyna Kowalczyk rounded out the top three, landing her third podium in Oslo.

USA sprint powerhouse Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) latched onto a pack that included teammates Morgan Arritola (Fairfield, ID) and Holly Brooks (Anchorage).

“It was super fun skiing in a really big pack – we were all taking our turns pulling – especially with skiing the majority of the race with two teammates was really fun,” said Brooks, who was separated from Randall and Arritola after they opted for a ski change around the 21k mark. “A good pack of black and USA chants for a crowd seeing a group of us together.”

Randall ended her 2011 Championship run in a solid 18th position passing Arritola on the final climb. Arritola rallied to 21st, while Brooks finished 25th.

“I was really looking forward to racing with those guys because I know it’s a tough event,” said Randall. “It was nice to show some teamwork out there.”

Saturday’s race concludes the World Championships for the women. Nordic combined star Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY) along with Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO), Lars Flora (Anchorage) and Tad Elliott (Durango, CO) will represent the U.S. Sunday in the final race, a men’s 50k freestyle technique, of the 2011 Nordic World Ski Championships.

Gold: Therese Johaug, Norway, 1:23:45.1
Silver: Marit Bjoergen, Norway, +44.0
Bronze: Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland, +1:34.0
16. Liz Stephen, E. Montpellier, VT, +6.22.2
18. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, +7:12.2
21. Morgan Arritola, Fairfield, ID, +7:24.7
25. Holly Brooks, Anchorage, +7:54.4

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