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Nordic Notes: Freeman, Combiners Prep 15Ks

FIS Nordic World Ski Championships

Wed, Feb  28, 2007 - By US Ski Team

SAPPORO, Japan (Feb. 27) - Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) leads a group of four U.S. skiers competing Wednesday in the men's 15K freestyle race at the 2007 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships.

Freeman, who lost a chance to contend Saturday when a skier fell and took him down for a short time midway through the skating portion of the 30K pursuit, said he's in the best shape he's ever felt in midseason and he's been pointing to this race. "I'm looking forward to the 15K. The time trial [i.e., 30-second interval starts] - that's the real event," he said, describing mass start races as "made-for-TV" events.

"I've never had more than four top-20s in a season," he said, adding "and [the pursuit] was my fourth...and there's quite a ways to go."

Along with Freeman in the massive 121-skier starting pack will be Andrew Johnson (Greensboro, VT) and two skiers from Anchorage, AK - Lars Flora and James Southam. Freeman, Johnson and Flora were on the 2002 Olympic Team and Southam was thir teammate in Torino a year ago.

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The off day with no competition in any of the three nordic sports gave athletes and coaches a chance Monday to catch their breath, get in some shopping ("It's an hour by bus into downtown Sapporo because of the traffic or 16 minutes by train," Cross Country Head Coach Pete Vordenberg said) or do something else.

Nordic combined skier Bill Demong (Vermontville, NY) took a busman's holiday and went cross country skiing before playing some golf at an indoor driving range. "It was pretty mellow," he said. He hooked up with Sarah Konrad (Laramie, WY) and they discussed how to handle some sections on the 5K course which was used Tuesday in the women's 10K freestyle race.

He also spent time watching episodes of 24, the Fox network hit show. "We've got Internet in each room, so I downloaded a full year's worth of episodes," he said.

Konrad, who never had been to Japan before Worlds, joined Team CXC teammates Laura Valaas (Wenatchee, WA) and Caitlin Compton (Minneapolis) in learning about the ritual aspects of the traditional tea ceremony and wearing a kimono.

Vordenberg led his coaches and waxing staff to a sushi dinner. "It's just such good sushi over here. They have better sushi in the grocery stores than in a lot of restaurants I've been in at home," he said.

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Nordic combined skiers have two new venues for their final event, the traditional individual event, two normal hill jumps and a 15K race Saturday. Everyone begins official jump training Wednesday on the 100-meter hill at Miyanomori, the historic site where Japanese jumpers swept all three medals in the 1972 Olympic normal hill competition.

"The small hill reminds me of Lake Placid [NY - where he grew up skiing and jumping]. It's a nice hill and I think we all had a good time jumping there when we had a camp in Sapporo last fall," he said.

Coach Lasse Ottesen echoed Demong. "We've been lucky so far with no real wind problems. Sapporo has run into wind through the years and you're never quite sure what you'll find, but so far so good. When I jumped [through the mid-Nineties for Norway], I liked the big hill because you really had that feeling of flying...but the guys did well here last fall, and I think they're going into the last comp with good feelings."