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Nordic Notes: Kimonos and Tea at Worlds

FIS Nordic World Ski Championships

Tue, Feb  27, 2007 - By US Ski Team

SAPPORO, Japan (Feb. 26) - The 2007 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships got an off day Monday after some blistering skiing and some history-making in its opening days.
 
(l-r) Laura Valaas, Sarah Konrad and Caitlin Compton in race leisure gear (credit: www.lauravalaas.com)
 
Three cross country skiers - Laura Valaas (Wenatchee, WA), Caitlin Compton (Minneapolis) and Sarah Konrad (Laramie, WY) - took advantage of the down day to get fitted for kimonos as part of a special Girls' Day program arranged by Sapporo Worlds organizers. The events also included a traditional tea ceremony and instructions in how to make the tea, according to ritual.

On her Web site, www.lauravalaas.com, Valaas - a Whitman College graduate - detailed in photos the myriad steps necessary to don a kimono, the traditional woman's garb in Japan. Compton graduated from Northern Michigan University while Konrad, a 2006 Olympian, is a Dartmouth College alumna.

"I really wish now that I had counted how many separate pieces of clothing were put on us," Valaas said. "I was too busy watching Konrad and Compton being dressed to count though." But, where her math may have failed, Valaas' photos more than suffice.

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The history-making at these Worlds began with the first events: the sprints last Thursday night started and finished indoors - in the 42,000-seat Sapporo Dome. They were the first nordic Worlds events to be staged indoors and the first cross country races at night; jumping has held nighttime events since the 1989 Worlds Championships in Lahti, Finland, when hometown hero Jari Puikkonen ignored stinging cold to win the normal hill (K90 in those days) gold medal before a crowd estimated at 60,000-plus.

These are the first stand-alone World Championships in Japan, not to be confused with the 1972 Olympics in the era when the Winter Games doubled as the World Championships. Earlier, Sapporo was to have hosted the 1940 Winter Olympics but gave up the Games after its 1937 invasion of China. (The 1940 and '44 Olympics eventually were canceled because of World War II.)

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Racing action resumes Tuesday with the women's 10K freestyle race at the Shirahata course on the outskirts of the city.

The U.S. Ski Team has entered three women - Compton and Konrad, who will be competing in their first race in Sapporo - plus Lindsey Weier (Mahtomedi, MN), the NMU senior and two-time Olympian who raced Sunday in the 15K (7.5 CL+7.5K FR) pursuit.

Konrad, a skating specialist - she's also competes in biathlon where skating is the lone technique, had the top U.S. result at the 2005 World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany, finishing 24th. These are the first Worlds for Compton and Weier.