DAVOS, Switzerland (Dec. 14) - Norway's Ola Vigen Hattestad and Petra Majdic of Slovenia took their second World Cup sprint victories of the season Sunday in Davos, Switzerland. The U.S. Ski Team's Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) and Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) both crashed in their quarterfinal heats to each finish the 26th overall.
Newell skied the third fastest qualifying sprint and Randall qualified for the women's sprint final with the 11th fastest time.
"It was very, very disappointing. Both Kikkan and Andy were in such good positions," Head Cross Country Sprint Coach Chris Grover said.
Newell, who finished 11th in the season-opening freestyle sprint in Kuusamo, Finland, was positioned perfectly in second place at the top of the final hill in his quarterfinal lap. All he had to do, Grover said, was zip down around a corner to the finish line.
"It was just heartbreaking, he basically had it locked up. He was at a point in the race where no one could overtake him, but his skis just came out from underneath him around the sharp corner before the finish," Grover said.
Randall, who finished fifth in the final freestyle sprint of 2008, suffered similar misfortune, getting tangled with Sweden's Charlotte Kalla during a climb in the middle of her quarterfinal lap.
"She tried to catch up after she went down, but there was just no chance," Grover said.
Both skiers were eliminated as just the top two skiers advance in final heats.
Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) and Chris Cook (Rhinelander, WI) did not qualify for the finals. They were 41st and 59th respectively.
The sprint courses were a lot tougher than the last visit to Davos two years ago. The men's course was 1.7K, the longest freestyle technique sprint course on the tour, while the women's course was 1.4K.
"It was really more aerobic than anaerobic because of the length," Grover said. "A lot of the pure sprinters like Torin didn't make it into the top 30."
Grover said this season a new rule is in effect which allows sprint races to be up to 1.8K long.
"The rule was designed for classic sprints because a lot of strong skiers were simply double poling through the races. Lengthening the courses forces the athletes to use kick wax and actually use classic technique," he said.
The rule change, he said, will mix up the athletes seen in the top 30 this season.
From Davos the sprinters will pack up ad head to Dusseldorf, Germany where the men and women race freestyle sprints on Saturday, December 20, and a team sprint on Sunday, December 21.
"Overall I feel really confident about the team. Somebody's going to have a great day," Grover said.
2009 VIESSMANN CROSS COUNTRY FIS WORLD CUP
Davos, Switzerland - Dec. 14, 2008
Men's Freestyle Sprint
1. Ola Vigen Hattestad, Norway
2. Johan Kjoelstad, Norway
3. Renato Pasini, Italy
4. Dario Cologna, Switzerland
5. Dusan Kozisek, Czech Republic
26. Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT
-(Top 30 qualify)
41. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA
59. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, WI
Women's Freestyle Sprint
1. Petra Majdic, Slovenia
2. Celine Brun-Lie, Norway
3. Marit Bjoergen, Norway
4. Arianna Follis, Italy
5. Magda Genuin, Italy
26. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage