Strong Qualis But Challenges in Heats

Tom Kelly
2016-12-02 10:12

LILLEHAMMER, Norway (Dec. 2, 2016) - The U.S. Ski Team had an impressive showing in qualifying for the classic sprint, but ran into challenges in the opening heats. Sadie Bjornsen (Anchorage, AK) opened the day by leading qualifying before finishing 17th, while Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) led the USA in 14th to open a three-day mini tour on the 1994 Olympic venue.

Sweden's Calle Halfvarsson won the men's sprint with Norway's Heidi Weng taking a huge .48 win for the women.

Sadie Bjornsen (bib 1) led qualifying on Friday. (U.S. Ski Team-Bryan Fish)

Coming off a good opening weekend at the Ruka Nordic Opener, Bjornsen set the pace in qualifying with the fastest time by .29 seconds over Norway's Maika Caspersen Falla. Diggins was ninth and Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT) 10th. On the men's side, Erik Bjornsen (Anchorage, AK) qualified for his first classic finals - creating Bjornsen bookends for the brother-sister team. Ida Sargent (Orleans, VT) also qualified for finals.

"We started the day looking like a team that was ready for change," said Coach Matt Whitcomb. "The qualifying had some incredible highs, including three women in the top-10. But the quarters showed that we still need some time to stabilize in Europe."

Erik Bjornsen qualified for his first classic finals. (U.S. Ski Team-Bryan Fish)

No one made it through quarterfinals, despite a heroic finish by Diggins to move up from fifth to third in the final 100 meters.

Caldwell ended up 21st with Sargent 28th, with Erik Bjornsen 24th for men.

Neither Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) nor Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO) qualified for the heats, but both have been suffering from illness since coming to Europe two weeks ago.

Sophie Caldwell finished 21st. (U.S. Ski Team-Bryan Fish)

By plan, Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) is skipping the weekend. "We have eight athletes on the road but only seven quota spots, including the Continental Cup leader, so Kikkan was selected to miss these races this weekend so she can focus on some shorter, hard training efforts to give her skiing more speed," said Whitcomb.

The three-day tour continues Saturday with the first freestyle racing of the season. The men will run 10k and women 5k. NBC Sports will live stream both events.

NBC Sports

Saturday, Dec. 3
4:00 a.m. - Men’s 10k freestyle
6:50 a.m. - Women’s 5k freestyle
Sunday, Dec. 4
4:15 a.m. - Women’s 10k classic pursuit
6:00 a.m. - Men’s 15k classic pursuit

Men's Classic Sprint 
Women's Classic Sprint