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Feb. 24 Roundup: Venezuelan Skier’s World-Famous Story; Northug Gives Up Starts

– Venezuela’s Adrian Solano had a long road to World Championships. While trying to get to Sweden to train last month, he was stopped by French border agents on Jan. 19 while trying to make a connecting flight in Paris. The 22-year-old, who took up rollerskiing about a year ago, told the officials that he was competing in World Championships, which they didn’t believe. He was detained and questioned for five days, and with just 28 euros in cash on hand, he eventually decided to return to Venezuela.

“I told them that we train on wheels. I only had €28 with me and the police accused me of trying to immigrate because things were going badly in my country,” Solano told the BBC.

“My expectations were to train and finish in a good place at the competition,” Solano later told The New York Times. “But that got broken the minute I didn’t get to Sweden.”

Thanks to a joint effort from his coach César Baena and Aleksi Valavuori, a sports and television personality in Finland who caught wind of his story, a GoFundMe page raised the $2,000 euros Solano needed to fly to Finland for World Championships in just three hours on Monday night, the Times reported.

“The campaign eventually reached its overall goal of 4,000 euros, and three main sponsors have since helped with Solano’s expenses,” the Times noted.

“When he arrived, it was like love at first sight with everybody,” Valavuori told the Times. “But he only told me about having not seen snow after he got here.”

Solano had never before skied on snow, yet he competed in the 10-kilometer classic individual start on Wednesday, a qualifying race for the championships. He didn’t finish, but smiled after completing one loop. He went on to finish the 1.6 k freestyle sprint qualifier in last place (156th) on Thursday. And again, he was smiling at the finish.

“The part I actually enjoyed the most was falling down,” Solano told the Times, “because now I am more motivated to get up and keep achieving my goal.”

 

– Norway’s Petter Northug only planned to contest two races at Lahti World Championships: the sprint and the 50 k that he qualified for as the defending world champion. He reportedly relinquished his spot on Norway’s 12-man World Championships team for the rest of the races, which, in turn, granted starts to Hans Christer Holund. Northug told Langrenn he was excited to see what the 27-year-old Holund could accomplish.

 

– The Norwegian team’s leading man, Martin Johnsrud Sundby is considered one of the world’s best skiers, yet an individual World Championships gold eludes him. He will be aiming for his first at 2017 Nordic World Championships in Lahti, Finland, over the next week. He has two individual medals — bronze in 2011 and silver in 2013. Also in 2011, he won gold with the men’s 4 x 10 relay. According to Sweski, Sundby planned his taper about 10-12 days before World Championships.

 

– Before the 44th annual American Birkebeiner was canceled on Friday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced that Feb. 19-23, 2017, was officially “American Birkebeiner Week” across the state. The American Birkebeiner, a.k.a. the Birkie, is North America’s largest cross-country ski race with more than 13,000 skiers typically racing from Cable to Hayward, Wis. The event brings in an estimated $26 million to the state’s northwestern region. This year was to mark a new era for the race with a new start and trailhead, but organizers had to cancel because of a lack of snow. In its place, an event called BirkieStock 2017 is being held Saturday at the trailhead with live music, a jumbo screen to watch Nordic World Championships, food, drinks, on-snow ski and fat-bike demos, and a roughly 5-kilometer loop for recreational skiing from 11:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

– German biathlete Miriam Gössner’s new career plan is to become a mountain biker. The 26 year old placed sixth at national championships last year in the “eliminator sprint”, and previously broke several lumbar vertebrae three years ago while mountain biking, which really hurt her nordic career.  She has decided to join the German pro team ROSE Vaujany for at least part of the year.

“This is a great new goal that gives me a distraction, and already in 2016 I was able to see that there is a great atmosphere in the team,”Gössner said, according to rad-net.  “Everyone is super nice to me, and I look forward to exciting moments together.”

“We are happy to welcome Miri in our team,” Rose Head Coach Kerstin Thum said.  “She is a positive personality who has achieved a lot and is a true professional.  On top of that Miri always creates a good mood and will surely mix up our team a bit. … We will not only experience Miriam on the sprint course. Her conditioning is at such a high level that she can use that better on longer distances.”

 

— Ian Tovell and Alex Kochon

Feb. 11 Roundup: IPC World Champs This Week in Finsterau; Otepää World Cup Next Weekend

— The 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships are happening from Feb. 10-19 in Finsterau, Germany. Over the next week, there will be a total of 38 competitions taking place between biathlon and cross-county skiing, according to World Para Nordic Skiing. More than 120 athletes from 19 countries are competing, including three-time world champion sit-skier and Paralympic gold medalist Andrea Eskau. Eskau is hoping that the home crowd will help her return to the top of the podium. “If I win a medal, I can celebrate this with my family. This is a nice thought!” Eskau said. “I hope to be able to compete in Finsterau in very good shape.” Other notable skiers include overall World Cup leader Lidziya Hrafeyeva of Belarus, two-time Paralympic medalist Oksana Masters of the U.S., and Germany’s Martin Fleig. Live timing at Finsterau2017.com.   – The Otepää World Cup will take place as planned next weekend, Feb. 18-19, according to its local organizing committee. This will be the 14th…

Feb. 3 Roundup: Caldwell to be Inducted into VT Hall; 800 Skiers Expected for Boulder Mountain Tour

– John Caldwell of Putney, Vt., will be inducted into the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame on April 22 in South Burlington, Vt., at the Hilton Hotel Burlington, according to the Brattleboro Reformer. Caldwell represented the U.S. at the 1952 Olympics, both in cross-country skiing and nordic combined. After retiring, he returned to where it all started, The Putney School, to teach and coach. He was the U.S. coach for the 1968, 1972, 1980, and 1984 Olympics, and is known as the grandfather of nordic skiing, having coached some of the best U.S. skiers, such as his own son Tim Caldwell, Bill Koch, Mary Heller, Jim Galanes, and Martha Rockwell. A member of the first U.S. women’s nordic team at the 1972 Olympics, Rockwell will also be inducted into the Vermont Sports Hall of Fame. Caldwell is the author of “The Cross Country Ski Book,” which is known as the bible for cross-country skiing. – Eight hundred skiers are expected at…

Jan. 26 Roundup: Calgary Considers Bid for 2026 Winter Olympics; Northug in Falun

— Calgary is considering a bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games. Both the provincial and federal governments are interested in moving forward. Calgary’s mayor, Naheed Nenshi, said that there is a lot to do, but knows there is plenty of time to prepare, according to GamesBids. They want to make sure that the public, federal government and province supports it, as well as determine what the revenue and profit potential would be to host. The city council has set at June 30 date to decide whether or not it will bid. Other cities considering bids for the 2026 Olympics are Sapporo, Japan, Stockholm, Sweden, and Almaty, Kazakhstan.  The IOC will select the host for those Games in 2019.   — Petter Northug plans to start Sunday’s 30 k classic mass start at this weekend’s World Cup in Falun, Sweden. He will replacing Didrik Tønseth, who has been struggling with food poising all week and has not been able to recover, according to Langrenn. Northug was training in Meråker, Norway when he got…

Jan. 16 Roundup: Eliassen Out; Weng’s Biggest Cheerleader; Herrmann Returns to XC

— There was a familiar face missing from the start line this past weekend at the Kaiser Maximilian Lauf, part of the Ski Classics series, in Seefeld, Austria. According to Langrenn, Petter Eliassen of Team Leaseplan did not race to a persistent illness that he’s had since Christmas. He won the Kaiser Maximilian last year, which helped him win the overall 2016 Ski Classics title. Eliassen told Langrenn that he has been sick for a few weeks and didn’t feel ready to race. In his absence, Team Santander’s Andreas Nygaard rolled to his second-straight Ski Classics victory on Saturday, after winning the Vasaloppet China. Nygaard leads the overall Ski Classics standings by 34 points over his teammate Tord Asle Gjerdalen, while Eliassen dropped from fifth to eighth overall.   — Heidi Weng has a lot of fans, especially in Norway, but perhaps none bigger and more energetic/ enthusiastic than her mom Mary Bente Weng. As Weng raced to her first overall Tour de Ski victory in…

Hendrickson Again Top American as China TDS Comes to a Close

It’s a long ways from Norway to China, but that wasn’t slowing down Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen (formerly of Michigan Tech) who will be taking home an additional 20,000 yuan for first place overall in the men’s division as the 10th annual China Tour de Ski wrapped up at Shijinglong Ski Resort, in Yanqing, outside Beijing, earlier Monday. Meng Hongliang of China took the women’s overall title. (The references are to something or someone who loves snow, particularly plants that have grown through a snow cover, and someone fond of Chinese people and customs, respectively. And 20,000 yuan is slightly under $3,000.) The six-stage tour was heavy on the freestyle sprints, with four of the stages featuring short skate sprints. Monday’s Stage 6 was no exception, as racers once more competed in a 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint. This one was not easy, as racers faced a climb of at least 40 meters before…

Fritz, Hendrickson 14th in Stage 5 of China TDS

Lauren Fritz (APU) and Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) each reached the quarterfinals to finish 14th overall in Stage 5 of the China Tour de Ski, a 1.2-kilometer freestyle sprint held in Xiwuqi, in the Inner Mongolia region of China, earlier Saturday. The two-lap race was held beneath sunny skies and cold temperatures, with race-time temps a barely FIS-legal –17 C, or 1.4° F. It was the third skate sprint in five stages, following 1.5 k skate sprints in Stages 1 and 2 in Changbaishan and Changchun. First place in the women’s race went to Li Xin of China, who also won the sprint in Stage 1 and the prologue-distance mass start in Stage 4. Chinese and Swedish skiers made up the rest of the four-person final. Fritz made it as far as the quarterfinals on the day after qualifying in 13th. In the men’s…

Caldwell, Hamilton Win OPA Cup Sprints in Planica

Fun day to stand on the podium at the beautiful Planica OPA sprint. Really fun day to watch my teammates @jessiediggins and @sbjornsen get a double podium in the #tourdeski #proudfriend #burnthosebuns A photo posted by Sophie Caldwell (@sophiecaldwell) on Jan 6, 2017 at 12:09pm PST U.S. Ski Team (USST) skiers raced well throughout the weekend in a three-race series of OPA Cup races in Planica, Slovenia, including an American podium sweep in the opening sprint races. On Friday the first couple of American sprinting, Sophie Caldwell (USST and SMST2) and Simi Hamilton (USST and SMST2), ruled the day, with each skier winning their final in a 1.25-kilometer freestyle sprint. On the women’s side, Caldwell was eighth in qualifying in the 44-racer field, 4.45 back from the leading qualifying time set by Italian Greta Laurent. Fellow USST sprinter Ida Sargent (USST and Craftsbury Green Racing Project) was roughly a second…

Bjornsen Out of Tour de Ski, Battling Cold

One day after earning the first World Cup podium of her career, Sadie Bjornsen was forced to call it quits on the 2017 Tour de Ski. “I woke up battling a little something yesterday, but was hoping I would kick it out of the house with a night of sleep,” Bjornsen wrote in an email on Saturday morning. “But that wasn’t quite possible. It’s just a little cold, but there is a lot of racing left this season and I don’t need to miss another block of training trying to find health… so I’m playing the smart card. Health first.” Bjornsen was in ninth position in the overall Tour de Ski standings going into the final two stages, but will end up watching from the sidelines. “So sad to not be finishing this amazingly fun tour, but I am still soaking in some good moments to motivate my immune system back…

Novak Reaches Podium in Stage 4 of China TDS

Jack Novak (APU) recorded the first American podium finish in this year’s China Tour de Ski, coming out of a group sprint to place third in a 5.7-kilometer freestyle mass start race in Stage 4 of the Tour in Xiwuqi, China, earlier Friday. Following Wednesday’s Stage 3 in Changchun, the Tour moved close to 1,000 kilometers northwest, to the Inner Mongolia region of China, for Friday and Saturday’s races. Friday, athletes competed on a 1.9 k loop with minimal elevation change. Men raced three laps for a 5.7 k mass start skate race. Women raced two laps for a 3.8 k mass start skate race. Samuel Rege Gianasso of France won the men’s race, finishing in 13:06.9. The top four finishers all crossed the line within 0.9 seconds of each other. Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen (formerly of Michigan Tech) was second (+0.3). Novak was third (+0.6). Another Norwegian, Erlend Moian Nydal, was…