KUUSAMO, Finland (Nov. 29) – World Cup sprint champion Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK) skied into second place in the cross country sprint World Cup opener Friday, earning the best classic World Cup sprint result of her career. Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk pulled out the victory. Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) qualified third for the sprint, her career best, but did not advance past the quarterfinals. Friday was the sprint portion of the three-day Ruka Triple. On Saturday the men and women race a 5k/10k classic race and then ski a 10k/15k freestyle pursuit on Sunday.
I felt really strong all day and my skis were excellent in every round. There is a big climb near the end of the course and my strategy was to save some energy to come over the top strong and carry the speed to the finish. I got caught behind a fall midway through the final and had to work my way back up through the field on the climb but had good speed in the end.
It was great to have many members of the team ski well today. Sadie was amazing in the qualifier, less than 0.3 off the lead. Ida skied a super gutsy quarterfinal and if she had larger than size 5 feet might have made the semis.
This is a great start to the season for the team and we're looking forward to two more competitions here in Ruka!
Chris Grover, U.S. Cross Country Ski Team Head Coach
We are really excited for Kikkan. Getting her first podium in classic sprint was a major goal of hers, so it's so gratifying to see her meet that goal in the first World Cup of the season. She looked increasingly strong throughout the day. Both her striding and her double-poling looked very powerful and efficient.
We also had great races out of our other three qualifiers for the rounds: Sadie Bjornsen, Ida Sargent, and Andy Newell. Sadie had a breakthrough day in qualification, laying down the third fastest time of the day. Ida missed going through to the semis by a boot length. Andy ended up in the fastest men's quarterfinal of the day and just missed out on being a lucky loser. Simi Hamilton and Sophie Caldwell missed qualifying for the rounds by a second. Jessie Diggins looked technically very good but suffered a crash in the qualification round. We are all looking forward to having another great day in tomorrow's 5k and 10k individual classic.