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Aug. 14 Roundup: Kowalczyk Sweeps NZ Races; Bjerke Signed for VO2 Max

— Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk dominated all three Australia/New Zealand Cup races last weekend at the Snow Farm near Wanaka, New Zealand, winning the 10-kilometer classic, skate sprint and 5 k skate race, respectively. A two-time champion there last year, Kowalczyk isn’t ready to leave the NZ Winter Games just yet. According to her coach, Aleksander Wierietielny, Kowalczyk will compete in the 42 k Merino Muster ski marathon on Aug. 18 as well as the Winter Triathlon, which involves running, mountain biking and cross-country skiing, on Aug. 27.

“The conditions are so perfect,”  Wierietielny said in a translated version of Kowalcyzk’s blog. “Snow is maybe a little less than a year ago, but all the routes are well prepared. Besides, [they] have excellent weather conditions. At night it’s minus five, six degrees Celsius, so the snow is frozen, and the beautiful sun shining days. We call it the Italian weather.”

Last Thursday, Kowalczyk beat a small field of five, including five Japanese skiers and one Austrian, in the 10 k classic. She won again on Saturday ahead of a similar group, and on Sunday, beat Russia’s Julia Tikhonova by more than 30 seconds to win the 5 k freestyle.

Kowalczyk’s training partner, Maciej Kreczmer of Poland won the men’s 15 k classic and 10 k skate. He edged Japan’s Nobu Naruse by 7.8 seconds in the first race and 8.2 in the second to claim the top spots. Russia swept the sprint’s top four, with Alexey Petukhov capturing the win, Nikita Kriukov taking second, Alexander Panzhinskiy placing third and Igor Usachev finishing fourth. Kreczmer placed fifth.

Complete results from NZ Winter Games’ Snow Farm races


— Elsewhere in the world, Federico Cichero won on his home turf near Ushuaia, that capital of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, at the first FIS-sanctioned race on a homologated course in South America. Cichero captured his first international victory in Friday’s 10 k classic interval start and repeated the feat Saturday in the 15 k skate at the Francisco Jerman Nordic Ski Area. On Sunday, he was second in the classic sprint to fellow Argentine Carlos Lannes, who currently lives in Spain. Leandro Ribela of Brazil took third in all three races.

Through an interpreter, Argentina’s developing nations group coach, Sebastián Menci, told FIS News what the races meant for South American skiing.

“Everything went really well,” he said. “On one hand it was a small race but on the other it was start … I was not sure I would have ever seen this day actually happen.”

Complete results


Team Exspirit, a world-leading nordic distance squad based out of Sweden, announced Monday it signed Norwegian skier Espen Harald Bjerke for the upcoming season. Of the qualities they’re most excited about in the 32-year-old? His VO2 max.

“[He’s] a skier with extremely high oxygen uptake and he’s the only one together with Björn Dählie who has reached a test value of 96,” Team Exspirit Director David Nilsson said in a press release. “Espen Harald has a lot of experience from both World Cup, National team and long distance skiing, something Team Exsprit will benefit from a lot.”

Living in Lillehammer with his girlfriend and their two children, Bjerke previously skied for the Lillehammer Ski Club and Team Birken, and placed third in the Norwegian Birkebeinerrennet last season.

“It feels great to join a team who aims 100% at long distance skiing,” Bjerke said. “I get the opportunity to develop as a skier only focusing on long distance. We have good service around the team and the best opportunities to only focus on training and ski fast.”


— We’ve heard from the North American women at the Swedish national-team training camp, but what about the Swedes? According to Anna Haag on her website, all is going well. She recently blogged about a session in which someone said she looked strong.

“If there anything you want as a skier, it is to look strong,” Haag wrote, according to a translation. “The body. In the bud. Physically and mentally. Radiate some sort of desire to win. … Feeling strong is something even better. Perhaps the best feeling there is.”

After some long racing seasons, she wrote that her body felt like it was falling apart and her muscles were like a sponge, unable to bounce back. This year has been different for the 26-year-old.

“It is so wonderful that after several months of hard training again to begin to recognize my body stronger. With muscles,” she wrote. “The head is included. The tanks are in the right place. It is focused, but alert to the environment, changes. Ready for anything. Nothing is a surprise. All situations manageable. No barrier impossible to cross.”

Haag was told she looked strong before the Olympics, and she went on to win silver in the 15 k pursuit and team sprint in the 2010 Vancouver Games.

“Today I was told that I looked strong. Just like that. Spontaneous. Damn happy I was! Psyched,” she continued. “Happy! Words that may not really mean much, but at the right time, by the right person it can get me to lift to the skies and move mountains!”


Diggins Reports from Sweden; Randall in a Walking Boot

How do you know you’re working hard at a cross-country skiing training camp? Go bowling. The youngest woman on the U.S. Ski Team, 20-year-old Jessie Diggins felt the post-workout burn last night during a laid-back bowling session with the Swedish national women’s team. Diggins, four of her teammates and Canadian Chandra Crawford kicked off their joint camp with the Swedes four days ago in Sälen, Sweden. On Friday, they’ll head south on a rest day to the Torsby ski tunnel, then go hard again with the team for four more days. According to Diggins, it’s definitely been challenging so far. “Last night we went bowling as a team, and it was very funny because our arms were so tired from strength that we could barely lift the bowling balls!” she wrote on her blog. That was after a 2 1/2-hour run Wednesday morning and a 1 1/2-hour skate session that afternoon….

Aug. 8 Roundup: FIS Hires Randall’s Husband; Royal Gorge Sold

— The International Ski Federation (FIS) recently hired Kikkan Randall’s husband, Jeff Ellis, a former Canadian skier, to assist with media relations. In an email, FIS Communications Manager Riikka Rakic confirmed that Ellis, a former track and nordic-skiing standout, would be involved with their organization during the 2012/2013 season, but declined to elaborate until closer to the start of the World Cup season. Ellis held off on commenting as well until he knew more about his role. — Speaking of Kikkan Randall, FIS News recently interviewed the reigning World Cup sprint champion from Anchorage and asked her some random questions, such as where in the world she’d love to go swimming and what musician she’d want to jump out of her headphones and into her workout. Her answer to the first, Australia — when it’s warm — or her husband’s family cottage in Ontario. “The water is deliciously warm there and life…

Hoffman Runs Away With Oberhof Time Trial

The U.S. Ski Team held an 11-kilometer skate time trial in the ski tunnel in Oberhof, Germany, on Monday, and Colorado’s Noah Hoffman let it rip by posting an huge win – almost a full minute over Tad Elliott, his teammate on both the national team and Team Homegrown. “I was happy with how I felt, especially considering the snow was fast and a little icy, which is a surface I’ve struggled on in the past,” Hoffman wrote in an e-mail to FasterSkier. The race was six laps of the entire tunnel loop, about 1.75 k. Stratton Mountain School T2 racer Eric Packer, who is on the trip as a special guest, finished third, 49 seconds behind Elliott. USST sprinter Simi Hamilton was 24 seconds behind him in fourth, while Andy Newell did not race due to stomach troubles. USST Head Coach Chris Grover cautioned against analyzing the results, which…

Jerome Repeats as U.S. Ski Jumping Champ; Frenette & Johnson Tie

At the 2013 U.S. Ski Jumping Championships last weekend in Park City, Utah, national-team member Jessica Jerome defended her large-hill title for her ninth career win at nationals. She was second overall on Saturday after Canadian Alexandra Pretorius, who nailed two jumps of 125.5 meters each for the outright victory. Jerome was the top American with a first jump of 119.5 meters and second jump of 117.5 meters. She was followed by Canada’s Atsuko Tanaka in third. In a USSA press release, Jerome acknowledged that her jumping this summer hasn’t been as technically good compared to years past. “I knew that I had to work a little harder and I’m definitely satisfied,” she said. “The Canadian girls are giving me a run for my money, but it’s really good to see because it means the sport is growing as a whole. It’s nice to have competition out there. Conditions were great today…

Lodwick Locks Up 20th National Title

U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team veteran Todd Lodwick racked up his 20th career national title on Saturday, coming from behind to win at the 2013 U.S. Nordic Combined Championships in Park City, Utah. According to a USSA press release, Lodwick made up 1 minute and 7 seconds on the field, beating out teammates Johnny Spillane (2nd) and Taylor Fletcher (3rd) after ranking eighth in the jump. Bryan Fletcher finished fourth, and Ales Vodsedalek of the Czech Republic placed fifth after notching the best jump. Defending champion Billy Demong was in third position after the jump, but collided with Lodwick on a corner, fell and finished sixth. “This win is huge,” the 35-year-old Lodwick told USSA. “For me it’s a benchmark. I won my first U.S. Championship in 1994 and to be U.S. Champ 18 years later is humbling. “I’m very fortunate to be doing what I’m doing and have the support…

U.S. Ski Team Wraps Up in Ramsau

The U.S. Ski Team men’s August training camp is in full swing. The group wrapped up the Dachstein Glacier segment in Ramsau, Austria, on Friday to take off for the ski tunnel in Oberhof, Germany. By all accounts, the skiing on Dachstein was beautiful. After taking a tram up to 8,500 feet to get on snow every morning, the team got busy logging easy distance hours in the spring-like conditions. Joining the team in EUrope is Stratton Mountain School T2 rookie Eric Packer, a recent Dartmouth graduate and part of the USST National Training Group (NTG). As one of the top senior skiers in the U.S., Packer is at Dachstein on special invitation from the USST coaches. “Having Eric here has been an excellent addition to the group; he is training well and skiing technically well,” head coach Chris Grover wrote in an email. We asked Packer a bit about…

North American Women Off to Sweden

Twitter is lighting up like that neighbor’s house who should take the Christmas lights down already, as several North American women and their friends on the Swedish national team anxiously awaiting their first joint camp in Sweden. Five U.S. Ski Team members and one from the Canadian national team are gearing up for the two-week camp, which will be held in Torsby and Sälen. Ida Sargent, Jessie Diggins and Holly Brooks all planned to leave the U.S. on Thursday to meet two of their teammates, Kikkan Randall and Liz Stephen, in Orsa, Sweden. Anna Haag and other Swedish skiers would likely be there as well, and hardly anyone could contain their excitement. On Tuesday, Haag tweeted: “On my way to Orsa to meet my American Sisters ‪@lizstephen & ‪@kikkanimal, have been longing for them so long now!! Will be amazing as always!” Stephen responded: “Cannot wait Swedish sis! We are already…

July 31 Roundup: Australian Championships Begin; Pierre Harvey Talks Olympism

— Winter is in full swing in the Southern Hemisphere, and the 2012 FIS Australia/New Zealand Cup began last weekend with the start of the Australian Championship at Perisher Valley. Esther Bottomley (AUS) won both the freestyle sprint and 5 k classic for a strong start in defending her 2011 championship title. Lucy Glanville (AUS) was the runner-up to Bottomley on both days. There was more variety on the men’s podiums; after two races there is currently a three-way tie in the series between Callum Watson, Alex Almoukov and Phillip Bellingham, all Australian. Almoukov won the sprint on the first day, and Watson took the 10 k classic a day later. The overall championship is scored by points, and all three currently have 160. The series resumes August 9 – 12 at the Snow Farm in New Zealand, where skiers from Russia and Japan are also expected to compete. The…