KUUSAMO, Finland (Dec. 1) – World Cup sprint champion Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) fought hard to earn a fifth-place finish during Sunday’s 10k freestyle pursuit, the finale of the Ruka Triple mini-tour and cross country World Cup season opening weekend. Randall posted the best result for the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team while Marit Bjoergen from Norway took the victory for the second-straight year. In the men’s 15k pursuit, Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) posted the fastest race time of the day, emerging with an impressive ninth-place finish after starting 38th. Hoffman finished only 12.2-seconds behind winner Norwegian Martin Johnsrud Sundby.
World Cup sprint champion Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) fought hard to earn a fifth-place finish during Sunday’s 10k freestyle pursuit, the finale of the Ruka Triple mini-tour and cross country World Cup season opening weekend. Here's Kikkan competing in Quebec. (USSA/Reese Brown)
I’m super happy to wrap up a successful Ruka Triple today with a fifth place finish. It felt so good to be back on my skate skis! In classic I feel like I have to focus so hard on my technique and I can't always use all the power and fitness that I have. But today I felt so comfortable on my skis and was able to use my full capacity. I had a good battle with Jacobsen and Tcheckaleva on the last two laps and had a strong gear in the finish.
It’s really cool to see so many strong performances from the team today! Sadie, Jessie, Liz and Holly all skied really strong in the women's race and Hoffman skied an incredibly gutsy race to take the fastest time of the day and ninth place.
Spirits are high now for the start of the season and we're really excited for the relays next weekend in Lillehammer. We feel especially proud of the success this weekend because all the other big teams have their big wax buses here and armies of support staff and yet our small team is right in there skiing as well as any of them!
I’m happy with the way I skied. I get 50 World Cup points and 5,000 Swiss francs on top of that. It’s not a full World Cup win by any means but I’ll take it. Skiing in ninth in the tour is a big improvement over where I was yesterday so I’m happy with that as well.
I’m really encouraged by my energy and my fitness right now and feeling like the best part about it is that my coaches and I have really good control over the situation, over my energy. I don’t think this happened by accident and so I think it’s repeatable and I’m looking forward to continuing on the rest of the season.
I owe a huge amount to the incredible sports medicine staff at the U.S. Ski Team for getting me back to 100 percent so quickly. My skis were wonderful today as well and my wax tech Randy Gibbs deserves a huge congrats as well. Our service staff does an incredible amount with very little relative to the other teams in terms of resources. We are entirely grateful and also so lucky to have them.
Ruka was a fun and exciting way to start the World Cup Season. There is a long season ahead and many more races to come, but I am excited to have a great series under me. It was fun to get my first top ten in distance, fun to figure out some classic sprinting and even more fun to challenge myself on an intimidating course surrounded by fast people today! While it wasn't as good as the other two races this weekend, I was pleased with today. I held myself together, and spent some time skiing with some of the fastest skiers in the World. I know what it looks like to skate ski at the highest level, and I am excited to do some more skate racing this season and improve my skills!
I look forward to next weekend filled with more classic racing, and a relay race that, for the first time ever, we can start two woman's teams! That is going to be an exciting moment for all of us!
Chris Grover, U.S. Cross Country Ski Team Head Coach
We had a great day here in Ruka. Noah Hoffman skied the fastest time of the day in the 15 km skate pursuit to move from 38th to ninth overall in the mini-Tour. Kikkan Randall, Jessie Diggins and Liz Stephen skied the seventh, eighth, and ninth fastest times of the day, and Jessie did this despite having her pole and glove pulled off when someone stepped on her pole. Jessie skied most of the race without a glove in -14 Celsius temperatures. Kikkan moved from seventh in the Tour to fifth, outsprinting Astrid Jacobsen and Yulia Tcheckaleva to secure the top-five finish. She put the hammer down around the last corner and into the finishing straight and the others could not respond. Once again, we had incredible skis thanks to the hard work of our service team.
It was an excellent start to the World Cup season for the U.S. with many personal bests. The Team's results have certainly exceeded our expectations.