MEDIA NOTE: Audio of Randall and Valass is available at www.ussamedia.com.
SAPPORO, Japan (Feb. 23) - Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) and Laura Valaas (Wenatchee, WA) narrowly missed qualifying for the 1.2K team freestyle sprint final heats Friday, finishing 2.7 seconds out as Finland moved on to take women's gold on Day Two of the 2007 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. U.S. men finished 15th.
In a race less than 18 hours after the classic technique individual
sprints Thursday night that opened the championships, Finland's Virpi
took charge in the final 100 meters of the 1.2K loop and brought
teammate Riitta Liisa Roponen the team gold medal. Germany's Evi
and Claudia Kuenzel-Nystad finished second with Norwegians Astrid
Jacobsen and Marit Bjoergen bronze medalists.
In the team sprints, each skier races three loops - in tag-team format - with the top five teams in each of two semifinal rounds moving into the medal round. Randall, who collected the first World Cup podium by a U.S. woman last month in a sprint in Russia, closed fast after dropping off the lead pack, but finished just behind Italy's Arianna Follis.
The men's twosome of Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) and Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) were eighth in their semifinal race on a 1.4K course. In the final, Italy took the gold medal in a race where the top five teams were within nine-tenths of a second.
"Kikkan skied up a storm - she was firing like we know she can," said Head Coach Pete Vordenberg. "Laura was a little timid in her first lap, but she learned and she was stronger, more forceful as the race continued. For her first time at this level - she still hasn't skied in a World Cup, she's skied well; she's learning and Laura's the real deal. I'm pleased with what she's done."
Newell - who was fifth Thursday night in the classic technique sprint - and Koos, he said, were missing their snap. "The guys were really pooped from last night. This is one of the toughest events in skiing. You have to be ready for a distance race and a sprint, and if you're not ready, if your fitness isn't up there, you won't do well because you're racing continually," Vordenberg said.
"So now we know we have to work even more on our fitness. Fifteen or 18 hours after last night is a short time, and we're just not in a place where they can do that. Some of these other nations have enough skiers that they don't have to race both events and they can be better prepared for this team sprint.
"Y'know, progress is measurable and now we've learned where we're at...and, really, this is where we are. And next year we'll be farther along," he said.
Italy's Cristian Zorzi - who didn't race the sprint, which was in classic technique - and Renato Pasini won the men's gold medal by a half-foot in a photo finish with 2005 sprint champ Vassili Rotchev and Nikolay Morilov second.
The next cross country race is Saturday with the men's 3K pursuit, starting with a 15K classic technique race leading into a 15K freestyle race.
Photos from Sapporo are available at http://ussa.smugmug.com.
Audio of Randall and Valaas is available at www.ussamedia.com.
2007 FIS NORDIC WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS
Sapporo, JPN - Feb. 23, 2007
Men's Freestyle Team Sprints - 1.4K
(2x3 1.4K loops - 10 teams make finals)
1. Italy (Pasini/Zorzi) 17:50.6 (won photo finish)
2. Russia (Morilov/Rotchev) 17:50.6
3. Czech Republic (Sperl/Kozisek) 17:51.3
4. Germany (Angerer/Teichmann) 17:51.4 (photo finish)
5. Poland (Kreczmer/Krezelok) 17:5.4
15. USA (Andy Newell - Shaftsbury, VT/Torin Koos - Leavenworth, WA)
Women's FR Team Sprints - 1.2K
(2x3 1.2K loops - 10 teams make finals)
1. Finland (Roponen/Kuitunen) 16:20.9
2. Germany (Sachenbacher-Stehle/Kuenzel-Nystad) 16:21.6
3. Norway (Jacobsen/Bjoergen) 16:24.0
4. Sweden (Norgren/Andersson) 16:40.5
5. Kazakhstan (Jatskaja/Kolomina) 16:42.8
11. USA (Laura Valaas - Wenatchee, WA/Kikkan Randall - Anchorage, AK)
For complete results: