LIBEREC, Czech Republic (Feb. 20) - Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) raced to an impressive fourth-place finish Friday at the 2009 FIS Nordic Ski World Championships. He came from behind, steadily improving his splits to finish 1.3 seconds off the podium. Andrus Veerpalu of Estonia won the men's 15K classic race in 38:54.4 minutes. It matched his fourth-place finish in the same event at the 2003 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
"Fourth place is just not the place you want to be at World Championships. This has happened to me twice now. I don't know whether I should have a party or go cry somewhere," Freeman joked.
Despite his frustration, the results are also the two best of his career - not an easy thing to accomplish at the sport's biggest races outside the Olympics, especially given what Freeman is up against.
"I felt great today, the skis were great, they did an outstanding job and I skied the best I could have. I can't think of a section where I could have done any better," Freeman said.
Conditions were snowy and, according to Freeman, "the kind that are a nightmare for classic racing."
"Ten minutes before the start we were all huddled around the benches trying to figure out what skis to go with," Freeman said. "Those kind of conditions are always very stressful."
Freeman went with a pair of "hairies" or skis with a section of base scuffed with sandpaper, which were chosen over skis with warm kick wax.
Freeman went out pacing himself, having gained confidence in his fitness during the last World Cup when he came in 16th. He posted the 21st fastest split at the 5k mark, then came through the 10k mark in 6th.
"You definitely want to be moving forward, I knew based on last week that my fitness was there, so I was confident in going out a bit slower and building through the race," he said.
"He's only a second and a half from the podium, which is a little short of our goals, but he skied so well," Cross Country Head Coach Pete Vordenberg said. "It was as good as he could ski, he skied to the max."
2009 NORDIC SKI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Liberec, Czech Republic - Feb. 20, 2009
Men's 15K Classic
1. Andrus Veerpalu, Estonia, 38:54.4
2. Lukas Bauer, Czech Republic, 39:00.7
3. Matti Heikkinen, Finland, 39:10.8
4. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, 39:12.1
5. Jaak Mae, Estonia, 39:25.1
49. James Southam, Anchorage, 42:37.8
52. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, WI, 42:49.7