DRAMMEN, Norway (Feb. 20) - Under a sunny sky with cold, hard packed snow, the U.S. Ski Team’s Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) won her second straight sprint World Cup, going head-to-head with Norway's top two sprinters on their home snow for the win. Randall returned to competition Sunday in a most impressive fashion by taking a 1.2k sprint World Cup win in the final test before the Nordic World Ski Championships which open in nearby Oslo Thursday.
Randall battled the best in the finals, including Norway's Maiken Caspersen Falla and Marit Bjoergen as well as Ida Ingemarsdotter of Sweden, to take the win. Randall extended her World Cup sprint points lead over Arianna Follis of Italy.
Her win set the stage for a rematch in front of tens of thousands of fans this Thursday when the 2011 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships opens with the free technique sprint at Holmenkollen.
"This is a great confidence booster today," said Randall. "I'm just really looking forward to finally getting to the World Championships because I've been thinking about it a lot for the last year or so. I've raced well on that course at the end of last season and this season all the sprints have been going really well for me."
The Alaskan started the day off with strong form as she qualified in sixth position, 2.63 seconds off the women’s leader Falla who set the pace in 2:16.57.
Randall won her quarterfinal Head then skied a smart and tactical race against some of the world’s best in the semifinals and bested them all to take the win.
"It was a fun day up there, a really good atmosphere and lot of fans," said Randall. "I just kept feeling better and better. It ended up being a good day."
In the men’s sprint competition, Sweden's Emil Joensson took the win over a fine showing by Canadian skier Alex Harvey, with Petter Northug of Norway third.
Newell qualified third, just 1.6 seconds behind the field’s number one finisher Joensson who had the top time in 3:00.3. Italy’s up and coming sprint star Federico Pellegrino qualified second. Newell was impressive with fast skiing. Although in the lead for much of his quarterfinal heat, he was passed on the home straight and finished fourth. He ended up 18th overall.
"Today wasn't my best day, but I'm feeling strong and healthy," said Newell. "It was a very tactical race and you definitely had to save something for the long uphill finish. I chose to get out in front which probably hurt me in the end. I feel like the course in Oslo suits me much better so I'm still feeling confident going into Thursday."