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Freeman Finishes 30K Pursuit in Lead Pack

FIS Nordic World Ski Championships

Sat, Feb  24, 2007 - By US Ski Team

SAPPORO, Japan (Feb. 24) - Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) skied with the lead pack throughout the race and survived a late crash to finish 19th Saturday in the men's 30K pursuit (15K CL+15K FR) as cross country racing switched from sprints to distance at the 2007 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships.
 
Kris Freeman flies through the stadium in eighth position during the 30K pursuit (credit: Doug Haney/U.S. Ski Team)
 
Former World Cup champion Axel Teichmann of Germany nipped teammate Tobias Angerer, the current World Cup champion and points leader, by a half-second at the finish with a time of 1:11.35.8.

Freeman skied with a pack of 20-25 skiers through all eight laps - four in the 15K classic technique phase and four on the 15K freestyle course - but a crash in the third skating leg cost him time and energy. When he caught the pack, the leaders took off and he eventually tired, finishing in 1:12.43.8. James Southam (Anchorage, AK) was 47th with Lars Flora (also Anchorage) 49th and Andrew Johnson (Greensboro, VT) 50th at the Shirahatayama course.

"Kris is so strong. The result doesn't show how well he skied," said Head Coach Pete Vordenberg. "Obviously, you have to stay on your feet, but he skied so well and so strong. I'm really looking forward to that 15K skate" next Wednesday.

Downhill spill, uphill battle to get back
"It was a bummer, but I'm still happy. A little disappointed with how things played out," said Freeman, a two-time Olympian, "but I'm feeling good...

"A Swede went down in front of me on a downhill on the skating course, and I went down, too. I worked really hard to get back on the pack after I fell - that whole third lap I worked really hard and finally caught back up, but then it was pretty much over. When I caught up, I caught my breath for an instant, and then they started the final hammer surge...and that was it," he said.

Freeman, who turned-in his best World Cup result in three years 10 days ago in China when he was 10th in a 15K freestyle race, said he's "in the best fitness of my life." He had little problem staying with the lead pack throughout the mass start race.

"That's the way the World Cup's been playing out now - more and more like bike racing" with a big lead pack rather than several skiers trying to make an early break. I felt awesome in the classic race - the guys really nailed the kick wax. I was so psyched about it," he said.

The hilly Shirahatayama course is a challenge, perhaps more than is necessary, according to Freeman. "I liked the course a lot but the downhills were a little ridiculous. For a mass start you don't need to do stuff like that; the first time down the classic course, there were literally sharp pole fragments raining out of the sky from the crashes. You just don't need that," he said.

Coach marvels at stamina of lead pack
Vordenberg said the corner where Freeman crashed "wasn't that tricky, but it was really fast and a lot of people were on edge. Kris really hammered for about two laps and caught up, but then lost a minute in the last two or three Ks. He really staged a helluva battle and I'm really proud of the way he came back."

He was surprised by the endurance of the lead pack "but the level and depth of the field is pretty big these days. I thought, though, 'This is gonna separate out' - but it didn't happen. And there are a lot of hills on this course and I was wondering, 'What does it take to separate these guys?' I couldn't believe that many guys were that strong; I mean, these are huge climbs...and they all stayed together."

If Freeman hadn't gone down, he said, "You never know, but safely somewhere maybe five to 10th place, certainly 10-15. When you're in that kind of group, anything's possible," Vordenberg said.

The next men's cross country race is the 15K Wednesday. After opening with the sprints and team sprints in the Sapporo Dome - the first indoor races in Worlds history, all distance events are set for Shirahatayama.

Multimedia:
Photos from Sapporo are available at http://ussa.smugmug.com.

Audio of Kris Freeman from the 30K pursuit is available at www.ussamedia.com.

2007 FIS NORDIC WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS
Shirahatayama
Sapporo, JPN - Feb. 24, 2007
Men's 30K Pursuit (15K CL+15K FR)
1. Axel Teichmann, Germany, 1:11.35.8
2. Tobias Angerer, Germany, 1:11.36.3
3. Pietro Piller Cottrer, Italy, 1:11.36.7
4. Jens Filbrich, Germany, 1:11.39.0
5. Petter Northug, Norway, 1:11.44.0
-
19. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, 1:12.43.8
47. James Southam, Anchorage, AK, 1:17.13.5
49. Lars Flora, Anchorage, AK, 1:17.46.9
50. Andrew Johnson, Greensboro, VT, 1:17.47.9

For complete results:
http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?cal_suchsector=CC&event_id=22246