WHISTLER, BC (Jan. 18) - Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) and Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) finished fourth in Sunday's World Cup team sprint, claiming an historic result for American women. The event wrapped up three days of pre-Olympic competition at the Whistler Olympic Park.
Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) and Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA) led the men in eighth.
For Randall it was her third best career World Cup finish including a win in Rybinsk last year. Stephen, a Westminster College student starting in just her fourth World Cup, continued to show her depth and talent and U.S. Cross Country Head Coach Peter Vordenberg said the pairs' skiing "rescued" the weekend.
"Liz and Kikkan were outstanding. They skied really, really well and they fought hard," Vordenberg said.
The men's race was won by Sweden and the Italians took the women's win.
"It was a really exciting race," Randall said. "Not only was it a great finish but we were also very competitive. If I had another 20 meters I think we could have done even better."
Randall explained she and Stephen charged hard in the semifinal. During her final lap she tucked in behind another competitor then sprinted it out for the line, putting she and Stephen into the finals.
"It was satisfying to win that lunge and qualify third. We felt like we were not just in the final but that we could be competitive, too," Randall said.
In the final Randall said she and Stephen skied a smart race, hanging with the pack and saving energy for the final all-out efforts.
"Liz had an awesome final lap, putting us into fifth. Then I was able to catch up. I had a lot of energy left and if I had had another 20 meters I think I could have caught up to third. It was really exciting to be that close," Randall said.
The team sprint is a grueling challenge, which not only requires the athletes to turn in several maximal physical efforts throughout the day but also requires skiing with tactics. In Sunday's race the women who made it to the final skied a total of 7.8K, while the men hammered out 9.6K.
"They qualified third, which was exactly what they needed, and managed to conserve enough energy to post an outstanding result," Vordenberg said. "It's for sure the best result for the women ever."
Randall said the result will provide confidence and momentum for the next races and that knowing there is a group of teammates skiing fast will be a huge asset.
She also mentioned having done so well on the Olympic track will a big boost come February next year.
"It's a fabulous course. It's amazing what they were able to do here and the crowds were great this weekend. Maybe not as big as the ones in Europe, but they made a lot of noise," Randall said.
The men's race, while solid, was not as big a success given the U.S. Team's high expectations for the series of races held at the site of next year's Olympics.
"This is our home and we hoped for a much better weekend. We are really going to have to put our heads together and figure out what we can do," Vordenberg said. "We had no excuses not to do better."
For now, the racers won't get a break. The World Cup teams will travel to Estonia while others will head to Junior Worlds and U23 Championships.
2009 VIESSMANN CROSS COUNTRY FIS WORLD CUP
Whistler, BC - Jan. 18, 2009
1. Sweden, Robin Bryntesson, Emil Joensson, 19:44.1
2. Italy, Fabio Pasini, Renato Pasini, 19:44.4
3. Canada, George Gray, Alex Harvey, 19:44.7
4. Russia, Nikolay Morilov, Alexei Petukhov, 19:44.9
5. France, Cyril Miranda, Roddy Darragon, 19:46.0
8. USA 1, Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA), Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT)
12. USA 2, Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), Garrott Kuzzy (Hayward, WI)
13. USA 4, James Southam (Anchorage), Colin Rodgers (Ketchum, ID)
15. USA 3, Chris Cook (Rhinelander, WI), Michael Sinnott (Sun Valley, ID)
1. Italy, Magda Genuin, Arianna Follis, 17:20.1
2. Germany, Nicole Fessel, Stefanie Boehler, 17:30.0
3. Sweden, Lina Andersson, Anna Olsson, 17:31.2
4. USA 1, Kikkan Randall (Anchorage), Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT), 17:32.1
5. France, Karine Laurent Philippot, Laure Barthelemy, 17:32.6
14. USA 2, Lindsay Williams (Hastings, MN), Laura Valaas (Wenatchee, WA)
17. USA 3, Caitlin Compton (Minneapolis, MN), Morgan Smyth (Vernon, VT)
18. USA 4, Morgan Arritola (Ketchum, ID), Rosie Brennan (Park City, UT)
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For complete results click here.