KUUSAMO, Finland (Nov. 27) - The U.S. Cross Country Ski Team is ready to kick off its World Cup sprint season today with a classic sprint race in Kuusamo, Finland. The classic sprint will be the technique used in individual sprint racing during the 2010 Olympics.
Andy Newell (Shaftsburry, VT), Torin Koos (Leavenworth, WA), and Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) make up the starters for the men and Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, AK), Morgan Arritola (Ketchum, ID) and Liz Stephen (East Montpelier, VT) will start for U.S. women.
According to U.S. Cross Country Coach Chris Grover, the athletes are ready to go thanks to some warmup time already spent in Europe competing in a Norwegian Cup.
"None of the athletes were very acclimated at the time, but now have had two and a half weeks in Europe and are fully ready to demonstrate their fitness," Grover said.
Both Newell and Koos have been strong in classic sprint with Koos' best classic sprint finish a third in 2007 and Newell's best a fourth in Kuusamo in 2008. Randall joins the two in top-10 finishes in classic sprints with her seventh in 2007 and, according to Grover, she's looking stronger than ever.
"She has made good technique improvements this season and is poised to break through to a new level in classic sprint," Grover said.
For Freeman, who finished fourth in World Championships in the 15K classic, it will be his first World Cup sprint start in over a year as he makes his way back from a surgery to help correct his compartment syndrome. It will also be the first full year on the World Cup tour for Arritola and Stephen.
"The track has been pretty fast. The courses are a bit shorter than many of the sprints we do these days, but make up for them with lots of climb," Grover said. "The men have two big hills and the women have one big hill."
Check out usskiteam.com, facebook.com/usskiteam and twitter.com/usskiteam for news from the Kuusamo World Cup.