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Caldwell, Hamilton Win OPA Cup Sprints in Planica

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 faster, qualifying in fifth (+3.60).

Both Caldwell and Sargent made the A-Final. Caldwell won it, over Laurent in second and Italy’s Francesca Baudin in third. Sargent ended her consistent day with a fifth in the A-final. Times for the final were not immediately available.

In the men’s race, Hamilton qualified second, 2.93 seconds behind Lucas Chanavat of France. The other American in Planica for the weekend, Andy Newell (also USST and SMST2), qualified eighth, 5.06 back, near the top of a 94-racer field.

Newell’s day ended in the quarterfinals, leaving him 13th overall. Hamilton advanced to and won the A-final, taking the victory over French skiers Baptiste Gros and Chanavat. Again, Hamilton’s winning time is unknown.

Results: Women (qualifying and final) | Men (qualifying and final)

— Gavin Kentch

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…

Jan. 5 Roundup: Cheating in Worldloppets; Ustiugov on Public Perception; Sundby Defends Russians

– According to the International Association of Worldloppet Skiers (IAWLS) in a Dec. 29 post on its website, cheating has infiltrated the highest level of master’s cross-country ski racing, with a system that’s existed for “many years” and was carried out by multiple participants. The scheme was a bit elaborate, so bear with us: One racer would carry the timing chip of another skier who didn’t race, nor was anywhere near the race, in their pocket during the Worldloppet marathon. The racer also had their own timing chip, which registered at the start, finish and throughout checkpoints on the course — as did the chip in their pocket. After the race, two Worldloppet passports were stamped, and two Master Diplomas were later granted — one for the person that raced and one for the one that didn’t. This has created problems with results across the circuit, spanning for several years. “This means there are many invalid…

Hendrickson Repeats as Top American in 6th in China TDS Stage 2

It was déjà vu all over again in Stage 2 of the China Tour de Ski, as Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) led four American skiers with a sixth place finish in the semifinals of a 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint for the second stage in a row. Stage 2 brought the racers, 40 men and 36 women, to Changchun, in China’s Jilin region, closer to Vladivostok than to Beijing. Race-time temperatures were -11 Celsius, or 12° F, for the one-lap, 1.5 k skate sprint. Hendrickson was consistent throughout the day, qualifying in sixth and ultimately advancing to the semifinal for a final position of sixth. Jack Novak (APU) qualified in 10th, and ended his day in the quarterfinals in 14th. Skyler Kenna (APU) finished 25th today, out of the 16-person heats, after qualifying in 16th in Sunday’s Stage 1. The sole American woman, Lauren Fritz (APU),…

Hendrickson Leads Americans in 6th in China TDS Stage 1

All four Americans made the heats, with a final finishing position as high as sixth, in Stage 1 of the China Tour de Ski, a 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint, in Changbaishan on Sunday, Jan 1. On the men’s side, the top 20 qualifying times in a 40-racer field moved on to the heats. Jack Novak (APU) led the Americans in qualifying in 10th, Skyler Kenna (APU) was 16th, and Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) was 17th. Their positions were largely reversed by the end of the day: Hendrickson finished second in the four-person semifinal for sixth overall, while Novak (16th) and Kenna (20th) ended their days in the quarterfinals. For the women, Lauren Fritz (APU) qualified in 10th. (The women’s field was more selective than the men’s, with less than half of the field – 16 racers out of 36 – moving on.) Fritz ended her day in the quarterfinals in 14th overall. Finishing times were not…

Dec. 26 Roundup: Ski to Sea Decides to Keep XC; Northug Skips Tour; Fischer and Rossi Team Up

– A week ago on Monday, Dec. 19, the Ski to Sea team relay race announced that it was eliminating the cross-country ski leg in the upcoming edition of the race on May 28, 2017, according to The Bellingham Herald. Organizers cited a recruitment problem for teams when it came to finding cross-country skiers and considered swapping out the nordic leg for something else. But ultimately, they simply cut it, making the relay consist of six legs: downhill skiing, running, road biking, canoeing, cyclocross, and kayaking. “When we looked through our registration records and saw that we had so many teams that were full except for a cross-country skier, we knew this was the right choice. It’s something we have been hearing from races for years,” race director Anna Rankin said. Less than 24 hours after the Ski to Sea board decided to nix XC, it reversed its decision, The Bellingham Herald reported. Organizers stated that they take public concern very seriously,…

Dec. 18 Roundup: Broomhall Turns 97; Di Centa is Back

– Wendell “Chummy” Broomhall celebrated his 97th birthday on Dec. 3 and reminisced with a reporter from The Advertiser Democrat about being a two-time Olympian and World War II veteran at the Maine Veterans’ Home in Paris, Maine. Broomhall who was born in 1919 in Mexico, Maine, but grew up across the river in Rumford, where he and his 14 siblings grew up on a dairy farm. “They called me Chubby,” he said. “I was a little chubby guy, but when you get up on a farm you don’t stay chubby at all. They put you to work. They started calling me Chummy and that stuck with me the rest of my life.” Broomhall ski raced, and went to war, then returned to racing once again. He qualified for the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz as well as the 1952 Olso Olympics. He served as chief of competition for the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics and 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, where he also designed…

Dec. 11 Roundup: Tongan Summer Athlete Takes Up XC; La Clusaz is a Go

Pumped! This is for those who have a dream soo big it scares them! Come join me, let's do this Together! Mathew 17:20. #tonga #ski #neverSkiedInMyLife #@tongaskiteam A video posted by Pita Taufatofua (@pita_tofua) on Dec 5, 2016 at 8:29am PST — You might not know the name Pita Taufatofua, but you would probably recognize him. Taufatofua, the taekwondo athlete from Tonga made world news after his oiled body appeared during the opening ceremonies during the Rio 2016 Olympics. Though he was eliminated in the first round, he now has his sights set on the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea, where he is hoping to compete in cross-country skiing, according to InsidetheGames. According to MSN, Taufatofua said, “I’m going to be taking my Olympic dreams on step further. My goal is to let people see if I can do it, they can do it.” Taufatofua would only be the second Winter Olympian from…

Davos World Cup to Be Held on Shortened Course

Saturday’s FIS Cross Country World Cup 15/30 k interval-start races in Davos, Switzerland, will be held on a six-kilometer loop for men and a five-kilometer loop for women, the organizing committee has announced, due to low snow conditions. The standard World Cup course is 7.5 kilometers. While Switzerland got snow in early November, with some ski resorts opening early, since then warm temperatures have dominated. MétéoSuisse, the federal meteorological bureau, reported that the month of November was 0.5 to 0.7 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1981-2010 average, depending on location, and that some places saw all-time temperature records. Some of this was driven by Föhn winds, warm, down-slope winds that warm central Europe after dropping their water on the other side of the Alps. Through November the Föhn stayed in the Swiss alps, raising temperatures in some valleys to 20°C or nearly 70°F. The Davos organizing committee has an extensive snow-saving operation,…