WHISTLER, BC (Jan. 16) - The U.S. Cross Country Ski Team's Andy Newell (Shaftsburry, VT) led the way for five U.S. athletes into the final heats of a World Cup classic sprint in Whistler, finishing seventh at the site of the 2010 Olympic Games.
Emil Joensson of Sweden won the event. In addition to Newell, Chris Cook (Rhinelander, WI) finished 21st, Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) 23rd, Colin Rodgers (Ketchum, ID) 27th and Garrott Kuzzy (Hayward, WI) 29th.
Newell, who won the quarterfinal round, went down on a particularly tricky corner of the course, which put him in the B final.
Andy Newell charges his way to the finish during a World Cup
at the Whistler Olympic Park. (Getty Images-Jonathan Ferrey)
"Unfortunately I did go down, which is frustrating to have another crash under my belt for the season. But, the good news is I am feeling really fit right now. It will come together one of these days," Newell said. "I felt really good in the B final, so I feel like if I were to have been in the A final it would have been a good day to get a podium."
According to U.S. Cross Country Coach Chris Grover, Newell's crash was a combination of a tricky corner and bad luck.
"He got tangled up with a Russian on the hardest corner of the course where there were quite a few falls today. I think he feels like he took too big of a risk and cut the corner too quick," Grover said. "I'd say he's had more than his share of bad luck this year in terms of crashing. Last year he went through the whole season without a crash. The positive takeaway for him is that he looked very fit and he skied really well."
Randall led the U.S. women, finishing 14th in the classic event.
"I was really happy to be in it in my quarterfinal. Unfortunately I lost my second spot over the last 30 meters, but I felt really good and was really close to making it and moving on to the next heat," Randall said.
As far as Grover is concerned, finishing 14th was strong for Randall who is traditionally not a classic sprinter.
"She's definitely a stronger skate sprinter and that's usually where she excels," Grover said. "She doesn't often qualify for that many classic sprints. For her to qualify 16th, it was a decent result for her."
The sprinters now have a day to go before the team event, in which everyone is anticipating good results.
"The team sprint is going to be awesome. We have a really good chance of being on the podium," Newell said. "It's also awesome to be able to be on the Olympic course. It skied really well and had a lot of really good striding sections. It's long, so there are plenty of places to pass. It was a sweet course to race."
For Randall, the team event is also an opportunity to show everyone what she's really made of.
"I'm usually a stronger skate sprinter so I am really looking forward to Sunday," Randall said. "I think if we get a solid team in there then we can do really well. I sprinted well skating on this course last March and I am looking forward to doing it again."
"Even though it was awesome to have five guys qualify, which is something I don't think we've ever done, we still have some important work to do between now and the Winter Games," Grover said.
The events in Whistler continue Saturday with a men's 30K and a women's 15K.
2009 VIESSMANN CROSS COUNTRY FIS WORLD CUP
Whistler, BC - Jan. 16, 2009
1. Emil Joensson, Sweden
2. Ola Vigen Hattestad, Norway
3. Josef Wenzl, Germany
4. Nikita Kriukov, Russia
5. Renato Pasini, Italy
7. Andy Newell, Shaftsburry, VT
21. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, WI
23. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA
27 Colin Rodgers, Ketchum, ID
29. Garrott Kuzzy, Hayward, WI
1. Alena Prochazkova, Slovakia
2. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland
3. Anna Olsson, Sweden
4. Katerina Smutna, Austria
5. Natalja Naryshkina, Russia
14. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage
25. Morgan Smyth, Vernon, VT
35. Rosie Brennan, Park City, UT
45. Lindsey Dehlin, Mahtomedi, MN
46. Lindsay Williams, Hastings, MN
52. Katie Ronsse, Anchorage
53. Nicole Deyong, Ketchum, ID
57. Laura Valaas, Wenatchee, WA