KUUSAMO, Finland (Nov. 29) - The U.S. Ski Team's Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) kicked off the first World Cup classic sprint of the season with an 11th place finish Saturday in Finland. Norway swept the men's podium.
Ola Vigen Hattestad, Tor Arne Hetland and John Kristian Dahl finished first, second and third, respectively.
Norway's Ola Vigen Hattestad charges to victory in Kuusamo. (Getty Images/AFP-Olivier Morin)
Newell, who is steadily becoming one of the fastest men in the sport, was the only U.S. athlete to make it past qualifications in the classic technique race, which is the style of sprint that will be used in the 2010 Olympics.
"Obviously we felt that a podium was within our grasp, but we came up short of that and we'll take stock of why," Cross Country Head Coach Pete Vordenberg said. "We still feel really confident. The team still has a lot of racing ahead of them. Today didn't put us on the podium, but it's going to happen this season."
"It was a really hard course - harder than what they've had here in the past - because they added another hill. It had the most vertical of any sprint I have done, so it was really hard," Newell said. "I had 12 minutes in between all my heats to recover, but that's not enough for me to recover and get ready to race again.
"Eleventh place wasn't exactly what I was hoping for in the first sprint weekend, just because in the past we've had some good results here."
However, Newell believes that the race did serve as an opportunity to get his World Cup feet wet again, which will be an asset to him this season.
"Every sprint, whether you're on the podium or in the top 15, is a good chance to get used to working on tactics. Nothing is the same as a World Cup - having people all over you all the time and changing the pace so much," Newell said. "Even though I was only 11th today, I think it was good practice to get used to the tactics and the speed."
In the women's competition, Kikkan Randall (Anchorage), who is the first U.S. woman to win a World Cup cross country event, finished less than a second outside of qualification in 33rd.
"Kikkan just got here under a week ago and I think she's still getting used to being in Europe," Vordenberg said. "It has been a really good summer and fall of training for her, but she had a setback this spring and we need to give her a little time to see how things are.
"I feel like she's going to be back where she was last season - and even ahead of that - but it might take a little time."
Slovenia's Petra Majdic won the women's event, followed by Lina Andersson of Sweden in second and Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk in third.
Norway's Hattestad moved into a tie for the World Cup lead with Sweden's Marcus Hellner, who won last week in Gallivare, Sweden. Majdic's win put her into a slim lead after two races.
The action in Kuusamo continues Sunday with a men's 15K and women's 10K race, both classic technique.
Santa on course in Kuusamo. (Getty Images/AFP-Olivier Morin)
2009 VIESSMAN CROSS COUNTRY FIS WORLD CUP
Kuusamo, FIN - Nov. 29, 2008
Men's Classic Sprint
1. Ola Vigen Hattestad, Norway
2. Tor Arne Hetland, Norway
3. John Kristian Dahl, Norway
4. Kalle Lassila, Finland
5. Nikolay Morilov, Russia
11. Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT
- (top 30 qualify)
35. Torin Koos
66. Chris Cook
Women's Classic Sprint
1. Petra Majdic, Slovenia
2. Lina Andersson, Sweden
3. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland
4. Alena Prochazkova, Slovakia
5. Aino Kaisa Saarinen, Finland
- (top 30 qualify)
33. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage
# # #
For complete results click here.