2015 has been a remarkable year for the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team. History was made, unforgettable moments were shared and most of all, the U.S. Ski Team’s unbreakable bond has made the year and the team unlike anything else. Take a look back on a few of the top moments of 2015 that reflect on the successes of this past year and hopefully propel the Team to success in 2016!
“Why not me?” seemed to be the theme of the day as Jessie Diggins and Caitlin Gregg took advantage of fast skis and weather conditions to finish second and third in the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships 10k individual freestyle race in Falun, Sweden on February 24. The result marked one of the best finishes ever by the U.S. Ski Team at a World Championships.
The American girls grin after taking third in the 4.5k relay in Lillehammer. (Getty Images/AFP-Cornelius Poppe)
Jessie Diggins skied the fastest anchor leg to give the USA third in the 4.5k relay in Lillehammer, Norway on December 6. The third place finish was only the third time in history the USA has been on a relay podium. The relay team included Rosie Brennan, Sadie Bjornsen, Liz Stephen and Diggins.
Kikkan Randall and her husband Jeff Ellis announced they are pregnant. (USSA)
Kikkan Randall announced on October 15 that she would be missing the 2015-16 season for a very special reason: she and her husband Jeff Ellis are expecting their first child in April 2016. Randall plans to return to her skiing career for the World Championships in 2016-17 and is also focused on the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang. Randall joined a few other expecting mothers on the World Cup Circuit including 14-time World Champion Marit Bjorgen, Slovenia's Katja Visnar and Germany’s Claudia Nystad.
Simi Hamilton celebrates his second place in Toblach. (Getty Images-Trond Tandberg)
Simi Hamilton revisited the sprint podium with a second place finish during the 1.3k freestyle race in Toblach, Italy on December 19. It was Hamilton’s second podium, having won a stage World Cup in Lenzerheide, Switzerland in 2013. It was the sixth sprint podium for the U.S. men in history.
Liz Stephen stands on the podium at Rybinsk. (Getty Images/AFP-Alexander Nemenov)
Liz Stephen claimed a significant result for the U.S. as she finished second in a 10k freestyle race in Rybinsk on January 23, making it a top World Cup distance result by an American woman. “Before you can actually stand on the podium, you have to believe that you can be there,” said Stephen after the race. “And that’s been something that I struggled through until today.”
Kikkan Randall skis to third in Lahti. (Getty Images/AFP-Martti Kainulainen)
Kikkan Randall reclaimed a spot on the World Cup podium in a freestyle sprint with a third place finish in Lahti, Finland on March 7 after a tough few week-long USA podium drought. The result marked Randall’s 27th podium finish.
NBC highlighted the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team's fun energetic music video to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” as one of the best social media posts from Olympic athletes and teams. Choreographed by Jessie Diggins, the video was played more than a half million times on Facebook in the first 24 hours of it being posted. The athletes made the video three weeks before the 2015 FIS Nordic World Championships in Falun, Sweden, sending them on to a superb showing at the event.
Andy Newell trains in Lillehammer. (Andy Newell/blog)
Despite tough conditions in a classic sprint in the opening weekend of the 2015 World Cup races in Ruka, Finland, Andy Newell skied his best World Cup race since 2013, finishing fourth. “It’s going to be fun to watch Newell this 2015-16 season,” said coach Matt Whitcomb after the sprint race. “He’s in form in a way I don’t think we’ve seen before.”
Erik Bjorsen holds a team-made award for skiing the fastest second-leg time. (Liz Stephen)
Erik Bjornsen displayed his strong classic skiing abilities during the men’s 4x7k relay in Lillehammer, Norway on December 6, when he brought the U.S. men’s team from 15th to 5th during the second leg. Bjornsen skied the fastest second-leg time of 18 teams. Unfortunately the men were unable to hold on to fifth, but the strong efforts showed by the men’s team proved what they are capable of in the future.
Sophie Caldwell and Jessie Diggins try on their new gear. (USSA)
In October, the athletes donned brand new uniforms in anticipation of the upcoming World Cup season from first-year partners L.L.Bean and CRAFT Sportswear. Not only are the uniforms amazing, but the athletes had input on the performance process. “This is the first time we've been able to work so closely in the design and functionality of our gear," said Andy Newell. "There is a lot of team pride involved in our uniforming this year.”
Liz Stephen grabs best American result ever in a multi-stage race
Liz Stephen proved herself once again as a strong hill climber in a 9k hill climb at the Alpe Cermis hill in Val Di Fiemme, Italy on January 11. Stephen finished fifth overall in the seven-stage Tour de Ski—the best result ever by an American in the multi-stage event. Her result came after finishing fifth in a classic mass start on January 10th in Val di Fiemme and fourth overall in the 9k final hill climb up Alpe Cermis, an alpine ski resort.
Here's to many more great moments to come in 2016!