Nordic

Breakthrough for Kikkan in Freestyle Sprint

by
USSA
2017-01-28 10:41
 

FALUN, Sweden (Jan. 28, 2017) - Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) skied to a breakthrough finish in a FIS World Cup freestyle sprint in Falun Saturday, coming in fifth - her best performance in nearly two years. Italy’s Federico Pellegrino won the men’s sprint with Sweden’s Stina Nilsson taking the women’s victory.

“Today sure was fun to be back in the final,” Randall said. “My sprint racing has been steadily improving all season and today was another step forward both in terms of getting closer to that top race feeling and building my confidence. Now with a month to go until World Championships and a good training block ahead, I am feeling optimistic and excited about where my trajectory is headed.”

The USA had a strong day in qualifying with seven Americans - two men and five women - making the top 30 field. Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT) qualified third with Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) fifth.

Diggins and Randall both came through finishing second in the quarterfinals - the fastest two heats of the round. Diggins was .33 behind Norway’s Maiken Jaspersen Falla while Randall was .62 behind Swede Hanna Falk.

Both Diggins and Randall drew the same semifinal - a star-studded heat with Falla and Falk. Diggins fell, finishing fifth, but Randall went on to finish second, .35 behind Falla, to move on to the finals.

“I’m really proud of how I skied today,” Diggins said. “My energy felt awesome, my tactics worked well and I felt like my leg speed was where it needs to be with the World Championships coming up. Of course, with my eyes on the podium it would have been awesome to not have a spill, but overall I’m happy with where my body is. I’m slowly getting my sprint heat confidence this season and it’s great to feel like I’m able to see the windows open up and be able to move through them.”

In the finals heat, Nilsson and Falla stole the show in a photo finish, with Nilsson taking the win. Randall was fifth, 2.56 seconds back.

“I purposely tried to stay relaxed in the first half of each race and then move up coming into the stadium,” Randall said. “That tactic worked great in the quarters and semis and I was really happy with how strong I was skiing the finish stretch. I stuck with that tactic again in the final only this time I got trapped behind Sundling when the break happened and I lost the crucial draft. Almost made it back into the race for third but wasn't able to bridge that last gap before the final stretch.”

Newell Sprint Quarterfinals

Norway's Finn Haagen Krogh (4) and Andy Newell (23) in the men’s 1.4 km quarter-finals sprint in Falun, Sweden, Sunday. (Getty Images/AFP-Ulf Palm)

In the men’s race, Andy Newell (Shaftesbury, VT) was 16th with Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO) 18th

Action continues in Falun, the site of the 2015 World Championships, on Sunday with a men’s 30k freestyle mass start and a women’s 15k.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) was fifth in a freestyle sprint at Falun, Sweden - her best finish in nearly two years.
  • Seven Americans qualified for the heats led by third place Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT).
  • Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) had a strong day cut short when she fell in the semifinals, finishing 10th.
  • Sunday the men race a 30k freestyle mass start with the women running 15k.

 

QUOTES
Kikkan Randall
Today sure was fun to be back in the final! My sprint racing has been steadily improving all season and today was another step forward both in terms of getting closer to that top race feeling and building my confidence. Now with a month to go until World Championships and a good training block ahead, I am feeling optimistic and excited about where my trajectory is headed.

I had really fast skis out there today which was really key for allowing me to come on strong in the last half of all my heats. I purposely tried to stay relaxed in the first half of each race and then move up coming into the stadium. That tactic worked great in the quarters and semis and I was really happy with how strong I was skiing the finish stretch. So I stuck with that tactic again in the final only this time I got trapped behind Sundling when the break happened and I lost the crucial draft. Almost made it back into the race for third but wasn't able to bridge that last gap before the final stretch.  

While I know what I've been capable of in the past, this year has really been about rebuilding from the ground up. So today was a good boost to feel another gear sharpening.  Still have some work to do on my qualifier, though -- just sneaking into the top 30 as 26th is quite nerve-wracking!

One funny story from today was the start of the qualifier. I started bib No.1 and so I was the first in the start gate. There were classic tracks for 10 meters out of the start, which we never have in the qualifier lane. I think I asked the starter five times if I needed to double pole all the way down the tracks before skating. He gave me a confusing nod which I wasn't sure if it was a "yes you have to" or an "I don't understand what you're saying." So I double poled to be safe and so did everyone behind me and then later we found out it was actually a mistake by the groomer.

Jessie Diggins
I’m really proud of how I skied today. My energy felt awesome, my tactics worked well and I felt like my leg speed was where it needs to be with the World Championships coming up. Of course, with my eyes on the podium it would have been awesome to not have a spill, but overall I’m happy with where my body is. I’m slowly getting my sprint heat confidence this season and it’s great to feel like I’m able to see the windows open up and be able to move through them! 

We had awesome skis and a big thanks goes out to the service team and coaches! So cool to have five girls and two guys in the heats today.

RESULTS
Men’s Freestyle Sprint
Women’s Freestyle Sprint