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Nordic Notes: Mid Distance Races Next

FIS Nordic World Ski Championships

Sat, Feb  24, 2007 - By US Ski Team

SAPPORO, Japan (Feb. 23) - With the individual and team sprints completed at the 2007 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, the cross country focus turns to distance races with the first competition Saturday - the men's 30K pursuit, mixing a mass start 15K classic technique race which leads into a 15K classic technique race.

The sprints were staged at the Sapporo Dome while the remaining races are scheduled for Shirahatayama, a traditional outdoor race course. The pursuit will feature four laps in each technique.

Live interval timing is available at midnight ET at http://livetiming.usskiteam.com.

Coach Pete Vordenberg has named four starters - Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), Andrew Johnson (Greensboro, VT), James Southam (Anchorage, AK) and Lars Flora (also Anchorage). Freeman, Johnson and Flora have been teammates at the last two Olympics while Southam is a 2006 Olympian.

With temperatures expected again in the 30s, if not higher, waxing could be problematic. Vordenberg said, "It's changing daily, sometimes hourly. We've found very volatile weather," he said Friday. "We expect it to be cool in the morning and then warm to zero [C. - or 32 F.]...and it again promises to be exciting in the waxing cabin."

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There will be no U.S. jumpers competing Saturday night in the large hill competition at Okurayama Jumping Hill. Clint Jones (Steamboat Springs, CO) missed the top-30 cut by one place Friday in the qualifying event on the 134-meter hill and Alan Alborn (Anchorage, AK) was farther back.

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International newcomer Laura Valaas (Wenatchee, WA) has a special relationship to enjoy while she's competing in Japan - her maternal grandmother is from Murakami, Japan, on the northwest coast of Honshu, the main island (where Tokyo is located). grandmother married a Swedish sailor and they moved to the United States, according to Valaas. On her father's side, there's another Scandinavian tie since her paternal great-grandfather moved to the USA from Norway.

"It's a little complicated," said the Whitman College alumna. For a hasty visit to her family tree: http://www.ussamedia.com/photos_audio/2006_07/cross_country/sapporo/

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Former nordic combined sprint world champion Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, CO) may sit out Sunday's combined team event so he can continue regaining use of his left shoulder, which was reinjured this week while playing volleyball in dryland training.

"There wasn't any crash or anything dramatic, but Johnny said at one point his shoulder was bothering him," Head Coach Lasse Ottesen said. When Spillane, a three-time Olympian who won gold in the combined sprint at 2003 Worlds, didn't jump well Friday in the sprint, he decided to skip the 7.5k race to reduce potential aggravation to his left shoulder, which underwent reconstructive surgery last spring.

"If we sit Johnny for the team event, that gives him another few days for his shoulder to get stronger for the individual event [March 3]. We'll decide [Saturday] after checking with him, of course, and with the doctor and the PT [physio therapist]," Ottesen said.