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Sept./Early Oct. Roundup: National Champs, Snowmaking in Lake Placid; PyeongChang News

— This past weekend, American ski jumpers and nordic-combined skiers flew high over the Olympic Jumping Complex at Lake Placid, N.Y., for the 2017 U.S. Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined Championships, part of the Flaming Leaves Festival, from Oct. 7-8.

Lake Placid native Nina Lussi, captured national titles in both the women’s ski jumping and nordic combined events, besting her USA Women’s Ski Jumping teammates Nita Englund and Abby Ringquist (who placed second and third respectively) in the normal-hill ski jumping championships. Lussi notched the longest and third-longest jumps of the day with her distances of 94.5 and 88 meters.

Just two women competed in the nordic-combined championships, where Lussi started 4 1/2 minutes ahead of Gabby Armstrong (also of USA Women’s Ski Jumping) based on their jumps. Lussi went on to hold off Armstrong by 2 minutes and 46 seconds for the win. Armstrong recently graduated from Lake Placid High School.

“I feel relieved, honestly,” Lussi told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise. “I was coming into this weekend obviously focusing on the ski jumping competition, so after I jumped well this morning I had the enthusiasm for the day. I lost that quickly on the cross-country course. But I’m really proud of my work out there and happy it’s over.”

She and Armstrong competed in a pursuit-style race separate from the men.

“Gabby knows how to cross-country ski, so that was definitely in the forefront,” Lussi reflected. “When we were on the course alone, I knew to just try and ski what I could. I tried to strategize. It’s nice to have the course spotted with fans to push you along the way.”

On the men’s side, USA Nordic national-team jumper Michael Glasder took the win over Ski Canada’s Mackenzie Boyd-Clowse and Kevin Bickner (USA Nordic), respectively.

Bryan Fletcher, a veteran US Nordic Combined skier who has indicated this is likely his last season, placed fourth in the ski-jumping competition. Later on Sunday, he raced to his third nordic-combined national title, after jumping to first and starting with a 1:14 minute lead.

“It was definitely a confidence booster knowing that I had some time in the pocket,” Fletcher told the Enterprise. “… But I still went out and skied hard knowing that anything can happen. Somebody could have a great race, and you just never know.”

He said wind (and some heavy rain at times) was a major factor in the jumping portion, where he recorded distances of 91 and 82 meters.

“For sure, I had good conditions, a good jump to have that cushion,” he said.

Ben Loomis (US Nordic Combined) started the rollerski race in third behind Fletcher and Nathaniel Mah of Ski Jump Canada. He passed Mah to finish second, 2:16 behind Fletcher. Jasper Good (US Nordic Combined) rounded out the podium in third (+2:57), while Mah slipped to seventh (+3:48).

Results: Ski Jumping | Nordic Combined

 

— A few weeks earlier in mid-September, USA Nordic appointed a new development director in Sarah Anderson, the mother of two ski jumpers who practice at the Nordic Ski Club in Park City, Utah, where USA Nordic is based. According to Inside The Games, Anderson is tasked with “strengthening existing partnerships”, “identifying new opportunities”, “developing strategic relationships” and “assisting in the planning and execution of fundraising events”.

“Her extensive skills in organization and fundraising were evident in a variety of volunteer roles,” USA Nordic stated.

 

— Machine-made snow is flying earlier than ever at Mt. Van Hoevenberg just down the road from the Olympic Jumping Complex in Lake Placid, with the nordic center firing up its TechnoAlpin machine on Oct. 1 in preparation for a U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing training camp Oct. 23-29.

The Snow Factory is on at Mt. Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid, N.Y. According to a Facebook video on Oct. 4: “The 75 degree weather is currently no match for the Snow Factory at Mt Van Hoevenberg. We are now 100% focused on making snow and grooming it out at the end of the month. We have winter on demand here in Lake Placid, New York.” (Screenshot: Mt. Van Hoevenberg Facebook)

“The Snow Factory is on, and we’ve got a quickly growing pile of snow,” Kris Cheney Seymour, Mt. Van Hoevenberg’s manager, said in a phone interview on Oct. 5. “The last week and a half, we’ve had our technicians here. It’s running more efficiently than it has ever run.”

Seymour and John Farra, U.S. Paralympics Nordic’s high-performance director, raced on the same junior ski team in high school. Farra grew up in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., but went to high school in Lake Placid.

“He’s a very good friend and a colleague,” Seymour said.

The two began talking about offseason skiing options — ones closer to home than cost-prohibitive European ski tunnels — about a year and a half ago, Seymour explained. Mt. Van Ho is aiming to blow enough snow for a 20-foot-wide, 500-meter-long strip that enables two-way skiing so that the Paralympic athletes can ski a kilometer out-and-back loop.

Seymour said they would also be setting up a biathlon range for the athletes.

“We have found that there is not much that compares to training on actual snow for sit skiers in particular,” Farra wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “While standing and visually impaired athletes can simulate much of the skiing motions and movements on roller skis, it is not the same for sit skis, which when put on wheels become fixed devices with grippy wheels, and making it impossible to slip, skid, and slide around a corner like happens when they make turns over snow. So we have found it less valuable to host dryland camps for sit skiers, and we have prioritized getting on-snow more often, which becomes a very expensive proposition to find snow in the summer in places like south America & New Zealand, and to ski tunnels in Sweden and Germany.

“In short, we are very excited to schedule a camp in late October in Lake Placid, and hope that it will provide us the opportunity to get Para Nordic skiers some critical on-snow time, without the need to travel overseas,” he continued.

According to U.S. Paralympics Biathlon/Nordic Coach BethAnn Chamberlain, eight athletes will attend the camp, most of which are sit skiers, and they’ll be a mix of elite-level skiers aiming to qualify for the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics as well as a few development skiers.

“I am looking forward to having the opportunity to get this group of athletes together,” Chamberlain wrote in an email. “It is always great to have a group to train together and it is even better to do so when we can get on snow and have the athletes work on tactical elements alongside one another.  It should be a great step in prepping everyone for the winter season.”

And after the camp is over on Oct. 29? “Assuming that everything is going well, we’ll be opening up,” Seymour said. “If everything goes well, our intention is to open up for season pass holders.”

 

— One stop for more than 100 American athletes on the road to PyeongChang, South Korea, for the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics included four days of interviews Sept. 24-27 in Park City. The 2017 Team USA Media Summit, hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), gave attending journalists a chance to access these athletes in advance of the Olympics, which will be held in February 2018. Several U.S. national-team skiers appeared at the event, including Simi Hamilton, Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall and Sadie Bjornsen (U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team), Bryan Fletcher (U.S. Nordic Combined), Lowell Bailey and Susan Dunklee (US Biathlon), and Oksana Masters (U.S. Paralympics Nordic).

In an email to FasterSkier, Hamilton explained this was his second media summit of the year; he also attended one hosted by NBC and the USOC in Los Angeles in April.

“I thought the summit here in Park City was much more relaxed, although it still made for a long day,” he wrote. “I think it made a huge difference having some of my teammates at this one … Even though we all attended the summit in LA in the spring, I think we were all scheduled on different days so there was no overlap between the nordic athletes.

“There’s just so many ridiculous things that happen during the photo shoots and you get asked some pretty funny, random questions, so it’s nice to be able to laugh about those experiences right afterward with some of your close friends,” he added. “… All in all, both the spring media summit and this one were fun experiences.”

Both Hamilton and Bailey dedicated one full day to interviews and photoshoots, all of which took place inside.

“It definitely would have made a big difference energy-wise to be able to have an afternoon to go train or get outside for a little air,” Hamilton wrote. “But it’s great to see a huge amount of excitement and media attention in the lead-up to the Olympics. You can tell that every interviewer and photographer you meet is genuinely psyched to hear your story and add to your stoke as an athlete, regardless of how popular or fringe your sport is.”

After 10 hours of interviews, Hamilton ventured out for an evening mountain-bike ride:

While Hamilton stuck around Park City after for a U.S. Ski Team training camp, Bailey was only there for 24 hours.

“Flew in sunday night, 7am-7pm non-stop media interviews and photo shoots, then back on the plane at 8:30pm to fly overnight and get back for training on Tuesday afternoon in Lake Placid!” Bailey wrote in an email. “It was a whirlwind tour but hopefully worthwhile for the media outlets that attended. There is a lot going on as we head toward the season and I think it’s important that the media gets a good idea of what athletes are up to for training, and what’s on our minds (e.g. the Sochi doping cases) as we approach the Olympics.”

 

— Speaking of PyeongChang, Norway’s Marit Bjørgen is hoping to break the record for career Winter Olympic gold medals there this winter. This is expected to be the 37-year-old Bjørgen’s last Olympics and over the years (in four Olympics), she has accumulated 10 medals — six of which are gold — making her the most decorated woman in Winter Olympic history. She is three medals shy of breaking the all-time record held by 43-year-old Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen, according to NBC Sports, who will be competing in his seventh winter Olympics. At the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Bjørndalen broke the record of retired Norwegian cross-country skier Bjørn Dæhlie, edging Dæhlie by one medal and tying his record for eight gold medals.

Bjørgen reportedly told Norwegian newspaper VG that it’s a dream of hers — but not a goal — and certainly motivation to try and surpass Bjørndalen in PyeongChang.

 

— According to International Ski Federation (FIS) President Gian-Franco Kasper, he has not heard any concerns from skiers regarding their safety at the upcoming PyeongChang Olympics. He visited PyeongChang shortly after North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, including a missile that flew over Japan, on Sept. 3.

“I was in Pyeongchang only a few days ago and it is not an issue for the athletes at the moment,” Kasper told Reuters in mid-September. “In Pyeongchang for the Koreans it is also not an issue.

“I have not specifically heard any concerns, not from any skiers,” he added. “If it stays like that then people should not be worried. We are convinced that Pyeongchang will be the safest place in the world during the Games.”

Kasper acknowledged that the growing tensions could affect ticket sales.

“It could certainly impact foreign visitors,” he said. “That I can imagine, that people think ‘we won’t go there now,’ but they [Pyeongchang] would not have too many foreign visitors anyway.”

According to a Sept. 27 New York Times article, France has stated it will not send its Olympic team to South Korea if its safety cannot be guaranteed. International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has said there is “so far not even a hint” of security concerns, and officials have also insisted it is too late to move the Olympics.

“There is no Plan B,” said Anita DeFrantz, a vice president of the IOC from the United States.

 

— That same New York Times article told the story of two North Korean figure skaters, Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik, hoping to qualify for PyeongChang. The IOC and South Korea are very much in favor of having North Korea participate in what is being promoted as the Games of Peace.

If the skaters fail to qualify, Olympic officials have said they will consider wild-card entries to encourage North Korean athletes to compete.

North Koreans will also try to qualify in nordic skiing and short-track speedskating, according to North Korea’s IOC delegate Chang Ung. The nation has formally complained that international sanctions imposed by the United Nations have made it difficult to purchase skiing equipment, Reuters reported.

“Tensions are high now, but because of that, peace is all the more needed,” said South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in. “If the two Koreas come together at this point in time, it will become a great opportunity to send a message of reconciliation and peace to the world.”

“It’s kind of an insurance policy to have them there,” U.S. alpine skier Ted Ligety told the Times.

 

— Wondering how badly your sleep schedule is going to be disrupted by the 2018 PyeongChang Games? The 2018 Winter Olympic competition schedule has been released and can be found here: https://www.pyeongchang2018.com/en/schedule. The Opening Ceremony kicks off Friday, Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. Korea time (which is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time and a whopping 17 hours ahead of Alaska time), so eastern North Americans should be able to tune in live at 7 a.m. while Alaskans will need to get up at — or stay up until — 3 a.m.

The next day, Feb. 10, cross-country skiing opens with the women’s skiathlon at 4:15 p.m. and biathlon starts with the women’s 7.5-kilometer sprint at 8:15 p.m. Korea time. Most of the biathlon events start around 8 p.m. or later while the cross-country races range from 2 p.m. (start of the men’s 50 k classic mass start on Feb. 24) to 8 p.m. (start of the classic sprint heats on Feb. 13).

As noted by Inside The Games, all of the biathlon and short-track speed skating events will be held in the evening, as will most of the speed skating, ski jumping and luge competitions. There are six new medal events this year, including men’s and women’s snowboard big air and speedskating mass starts. PyeongChang organizers have been criticized for low ticket sales thus far, which could partly be due to the schedule not being released until mid-September.

 

— On Sept. 17, Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk and Russia’s Ilya Chernousov won the women’s and men’s 50-kilometer Fiemme Rollerski Cup marathon, respectively, which featured the grueling climb up Alpe Cermis — the famed final stage of the Tour de Ski — in Italy’s Trentino region. The marathon marked the last leg of the summer World Classic Tour rollerski series for elite skiers, according to Radio Poland. Chernousov took the overall win in 2:10:11 while Kowalczyk was the fastest woman in 2:28:35.

Kowalczyk, 34, is a four-time Tour de Ski winner with five Olympic medals (two golds) and eight World Championship medals (including two more golds) to her name. Since being diagnosed with depression in 2014, she has been working to return to top form. Both Kowalczyk and Chernousov, 31, medaled at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

 

Reijo Puiras, a Canadian Olympic cross-country skier who founded the Lappe Nordic Ski Centre passed away at the age of 65 on Aug. 4. The father of Timo Puiras, the current head coach of Thunder Bay’s National Team Development Centre (NTDC), Reijo was perhaps best known for building ski trails, which he started doing in 1975 on his own property in Lappe, a hamlet just outside Thunder Bay, Ontario. He eventually bought more land to expand his trail system to 14 kilometers over 80 acres and founded the Lappe Nordic Centre in an effort to encourage more Canadians to ski.

“The more racers we have, the more Wayne Gretzkys we’re likely to find,” he once said, according to The Globe and Mail.

In 1993, Puiras was inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame. As an athlete, he competed at the 1974 World Championships in Sweden and 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. The Lappe Nordic Centre has since hosted Canada’s Ski Nationals in 2015 and 2013 Junior World Championships trials, and it will again host nationals this coming spring in 2018.

Puiras frequently served as chief of course for these competitions.

“It gives me great pride to see all the young skiers in Canada racing on these trails,” he said.

 

— Alex Kochon, Peter Minde and Ian Tovell contributed reporting

Aug 31 Roundup: Nygaard and Dahlqvist Top Alliansloppet, Durango Nordic Center Saved, WADA Committee Hoping for Change

-One of the major rollerski races of the summer is the Alliansloppet in Trollhättan, Sweden. Held last weekend, it is a 48 k classic race of three loops. On the men’s sideAndreas Nygaard took top honors in a sprint finish, one tenth of a second ahead of fellow Norwegian Torgeir Thygesen and three tenths before Sweden’s Karl-Johan Westberg. Maybe not surprising: Nygaard, of Team Santander, has won the Visma Ski Classics sprint title for the last two years. Petter Northug broke a pole tip and finished 26th. In the women’s race Sweden got revenge with Maja Dahlqvist beat out Maria Nordström by five seconds. Third place to the Katerina Smutna of the Czech Republic, the 2015 overall winner of the Ski Classics, and University of Utah alum Maria Gräfnings was fourth. Swiss-Canadian Heidi Widmer placed 17th, +9:47.9.

-Just 23% of available tickets for the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, have been sold. According to Inside The Games, this might be the lowest mark yet for any Winter Olympics with just over five months to go until the event opens.

-A golf course in Southeastern Minnesota will be transformed into an Olympic ski jump that will host world-class competition. Bryan Sanders, a former Olympic ski jumper and current executive director of the American Ski Jumping Hall of Fame and museum said that construction should start in August or September according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. The cost of the project is $6-7 million and will happen in two phases. The new venue will allow the U.S. to host World Cup level competitions.

“That hill will be used more in the summer than the winter,” Sanders said. “We’ll probably see training from June to October.”

-The founder of the Lappe Ski Centre, Reijo Puiras died at the age of 65. Puiras was an Olympic cross-country skier for Canada and competed in the 1976 Olympic Games, placing 56th in the men’s 30K race. He established the Lappe Ski Centre in 1975, which has grown into a 5,000 square-foot chalet with waxing facilities, change rooms, and a full service kitchen according to The News Watch. He was inducted into the Thunder Bay Sports Hall of Fame in 1993, and was also the co-winner of the Dave Rees Award for Cross Country Canada in 2011.

-The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Athlete Committee Chair, Beckie Scott, hopes that a new Charter of Athlete Rights and Responsibilities will help create a major change for protection elite sportsmen and women. The charter is currently in the early stages of being drawn up, and it is hoped to be ratified into the constitutions of all International Federations and National Olympic committees. The Charter has two purposes:

“One is aspirational, so it gives the athletes the power to say, ‘Look, I have rights, Scott said, according to Inside the Games. ”We’ve seen, over the years, a surge of athletes coming forward and saying, ‘My rights are being violated’, but there’s never been on single document spelling out that, yes, they have rights as an athlete.

Scott hops that the anti-doping portion of the Charter will be included in the 2019 version of the World Anti-Doping Code.

-The Katz family has purchased nearly 200 acres of land near the Purgatory resort and Durango Nordic Center, saving it from becoming a RV park. The primary goal of the purchase according to the Durango Herald, was to perceive the ski trail system.

“We look forward to working with members of the Purgatory community to preserve and improve the trail system on the property, help plan Phase Two of the Community Park and explore potential for other recreational and cultural uses,” Katz said.

The Nordic Center has been in operation since 1954, and the center has never actually owned the land where the trails are located. The Katz family also owns land in Durango, where they built a property for the community and city to use as a music venue.

-The University of Alaska Fairbanks cross country and nordic ski team have announced the addition of Josh Eide to the coaching staff. He will serve as the assistant coach for the men and women’s programs, replacing Christina Turman and Ross Macdougall. Eide served as UAF’s interim assistant coach during the 2014-15 season. He graduated from Northern Michigan, and served as the wax tech for them before going UAF.

“I’m incredibly excited to work with UAF teams once again,” Eide said according to the Daily News-Miner. “It’s always great to hit the ground running and that’s what we’ve been doing since I arrived in Fairbanks. We have a lot of talented student-athletes here and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish this season.”

-A recent study has revealed a correlation between World Ranking and attractiveness according to New Scientist. However, this only seems to be for the men. The study suggest that women respond to facial cues that reflect athletic ability in potential partners. Tim Fawcett and colleagues at the University of Exeter collected 150 photos of men and women who competed at the 2014 Olympics in biathlon. Each athlete was rated for their facial attractiveness by members of the opposite sex.

“There must be some kind of cues in those photographs that are enabling the women to judge sporting performance,” Fawcett told the Behaviour 2017 conference in Estoril, Portugal, earlier this month.

End-of-July Roundup: New Club Hires; NENSA’s Coach of the Year; Olympic Trials

— On July 17, the New York Ski Educational Foundation (NYSEF) out of Lake Placid, N.Y., announced that Shane MacDowell would take the reins as new head cross-country ski coach on Sept. 1, 2017. Originally from Peru, Mass., MacDowell attended Burke Mountain Academy and raced for the University of New Hampshire. He most recently served as an assistant coach for the Northern Michigan University nordic team.

According to outgoing cross-country coach Margaret Maher, who held the position for more than 11 years, she was “excited to see a fellow UNH Wildcat take over the NYSEF program and look forward to watching the athletes grow and excel to the best of their abilities,” she stated in a press release.

Starting in September, Maher will transition to a full-time job as a registered nurse in orthopedics and sports medicine, while MacDowell will work alongside Maher in August to finish the summer training season.

 

— Also this month, Ben Grasseschi was hired as the new executive director of Tahoe Cross Country (TXC) after spending the last nine years with Far West Nordic.

“Ben has been a cross country skier for over 40 years, raced in college, pursued a post-graduate racing career and began coaching full time as a PSIA Level 3 instructor in 2005,” a TXC press release stated. “His 18 years of coaching experience and 4 years as Assistant Manager, nordic buyer and specialist for Alpenglow Sports in Tahoe City places him as an ideal choice for TXC’s Executive Director.”

 

— The New England Nordic Association (NENSA) recently named Adam Terko,  executive director and head coach of the Mansfield Nordic Club in Underhill, Vt., its Coach of the Year. Terko, originally from Shelburne, Vt., raced for the St. Lawrence University nordic team for four years and went on to serve as its assistant coach. In 2015, he joined the Mansfield Nordic Club, and since then, MNC athletes have taken medals at local and regional championships, and have competed nationally and internationally.

 

— Earlier this month, the Steamboat Today out of Steamboat Springs, Colo., published an in-depth feature on the U.S. Nordic Combined hopefuls. The article describes the complexities of making the 2018 Olympics, especially for the U.S. team where only two spots are essentially locked up (and belong to brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher).

“I need to start scoring World Cup points,” said Steamboat native Ben Berend, one of the athletes who will be vying with childhood friends Jasper Good and Grant Andrews to make the Olympic team. “That’s the easy way to make it without getting into the criteria and the complicated stuff.”

The U.S. team anticipates getting two more Olympic spots to bring its quota to four. But the athletes most likely to qualify — Berend, Good, Andrews, Wisconsin brothers Adam and Ben Loomis, and Park City’s Stephen Schumann — need to score World Cup points to ensure that.

The article hones in on the rise of Steamboat nordic-combined skiers and how three out of more than a dozen have continued their quest for the 2018 Games. Read more here.

 

 

— Speaking of Olympic qualification, U.S. Ski & Snowboard has set the dates for 2018 Olympic Team Trials for ski jumping and nordic combined. These will be held Dec. 30-31 at Utah Olympic Park in Park City, “in a winner-take-all event where the victors will be named to Team USA,” according to a press release.

Nordic-combined trials will be held Saturday, Dec. 30, followed by ski jumping for men and women on Sunday, Dec. 31. According to the press release, NBC will be providing national coverage of the two-day event. “The winner of each event will receive a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. The remainder of the ski and snowboard teams will be named later in January.”

 

— While U.S. cross-country skiing doesn’t have Olympic trials, U.S. Ski & Snowboard released the entire 2017/2018 SuperTour schedule last month, which includes eight stops across the U.S. starting Dec. 2 in West Yellowstone, Mont., and ending with SuperTour Finals in Craftsbury, Vt. At the annual U.S. Ski & Snowboard (formerly USSA) Congress, the decision was made to start the tour a week later than usual to encourage Canadian skiers to participate and thus boost the field size.

U.S. Cross Country Championships (a.k.a. senior nationals) will be held in Anchorage, Alaska, from Jan. 3-8, which will be followed by a regular-season SuperTour in Craftsbury Jan. 26-28 before the SuperTour returns there in late March for the last week of racing (March 23-28).

Two weekends in Canada will double as both SuperTour and NorAm (Canada’s Continental Cup) races. The first will be at Sovereign Lake near Vernon, British Columbia, Dec. 9-10, and the other in Gatineau, Quebec, Feb. 1-3.

“A strong SuperTour calendar is pivotal in providing our juniors, collegiate and senior cross country skiers the opportunity to compete head-to-head and continue to improve,” U.S. Ski Team (USST) Development Coach Bryan Fish said, according to a press release.

“This season will be the most exciting year of racing in the quadrennial, with not only World Cup berths available after every period of racing, but also Olympic team nominations,” USST Head Coach Chris Grover said in the release. “We have an exceptional group of venues and organizers committed to hosting the 2017-18 SuperTour and we are excited to watch the competitions unfold.”

Period 1:
Dec 2-3, 2017
West Yellowstone, MT

Dec 9-10, 2017
Silverstar, British Columbia

Period 2:
Jan. 3-8, 2018
Anchorage, AK

Jan. 26-28, 2018
Craftsbury, VT

Feb. 1-3, 2018
Gatineau, Quebec

Period 3:
Feb. 15-18, 2018
Ishpeming, MI

Feb. 24, 2017
American Birkebeiner
Hayward, WI

Period 4:
Mar. 23-28, 2018
SuperTour Finals
Craftsbury, VT

 

— Some of the women from the Craftsbury Green Racing Project recently held a Girls with Guns biathlon clinic in Lake Placid, N.Y. Emily Dreissigacker “spearheaded” the July 9 clinic with the help of her teammates Susan Dunklee, Clare Egan, Caitlin Patterson, male teammate Alex Howe, and special guest Andrea Henkel-Burke, according to Patterson’s blog post with photos.

 

— The 2021 Winter Universiade will be held in Lucerne, Switzerland, from Jan. 21-31, 2021. According to Inside the Games, Lucerne was the only city to bid on the games, which include nine winter sports contested by international university athletes. Universiade is organized by the International University Sports Federation (FISU), and the last time Switzerland hosted the Winter Universiade was in Villars in 1962.

“We do hope that the National University Sports Federations and their student-athletes competing in snow and ice sports will book these dates to compete in Lucerne and achieve their best performance during these Games while celebrating great moments together,” Milan Augustin, FISU’s director for the Winter Universiade, told Inside the Games.

 

– In the works for the last year, a new website belonging to the Australian Cross-Country Skiing (AUSXC) team was recently launched. Among the website’s features is a national race calendar with competition info. The site will also include competition rules, selection policies and race licenses.

AUSXC will continue to bring you regular news and results from the Australian winter and on Australian skiers racing around the world,” AUSXC said in a statement, according to Inside the Games.

 

July 2 Roundup: RUSADA Can Test Again; Rollerskiiing Record Attempt in UK

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) can now plan and coordinate its own testing based on a decision from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and its independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC). In a June 27 press release, WADA explained that allowing RUSADA to resume testing, under the supervision of WADA-appointed international experts and the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD), is an “important step forward” in the “roadmap toward compliance”, in the words of WADA President Sir Craig Reedie.

WADA’s Foundation Board accepted the CRC’s recommendation on May 18 after both entities were convinced Russia had fulfilled its initial requirements in “rebuilding” its anti-doping program, according to Reedie. Those requirements included:

  1. Changing the RUSADA Statutes to require that the Chair and Vice Chair are secluded from the independent members of the RUSADA Board
  2. Providing the CRC with a RUSADA conflict of interest policy for approval
  3. Releasing all Athlete Biological Passport blood samples at the Russian Anti-doping Center on demand to the anti-doping organization that had those samples sent there for testing
  4. Providing Doping Control Officers access to “Closed Cities”

But RUSADA is still technically considered non-compliant under WADA standards, as it has been since November 2015. Russia will need to continue to follow WADA’s remaining reinstatement criteria outlined in an “agreed roadmap,” which includes a full audit by WADA tentatively scheduled for this September.

 

– Late last month, U.S. Nordic Combined made its new head-coach pick official: Martin Bayer has taken the reins following the departure of longtime head coach Dave Jarrett in April. A two-time Olympic nordic-combined skier, Bayer has been a coach for 17 years, the last two of which he spent as a development and Continental Cup coach for the U.S. Ski Team.

“He found a nice spot in the team pretty quickly and worked well with everyone, including myself,” team veteran Bryan Fletcher told Steamboat Today. ”I’ve enjoyed working with him the last two and a half years. He’s definitely a good coach, and we have a good system with him in place now.”

“Martin’s years spent rising through the club ranks allow him to relate to everyone, from the parents to the athletes, involved with our sport,” USA Nordic Sports Executive Director Bill Demong said in a U.S. Ski Team press release. “He will implement the best plan for the team using the resources we have to ensure we see athletic success this season and beyond.”

 

– A former junior skier from Anchorage, Alaska, Erin Johnson, 27, was attacked and killed by a black bear while doing field work near Pogo Mine in interior Alaska on June 19. She was a Chugiak High School graduate who competed at the Junior Olympics in 2006 and 2007, and went on to study at geology and botany at the University of Montana and University of Alaska Anchorage.

Johnson was collecting geological samples with a coworker about five miles from the mine when a black bear attacked. The coworker used bear spray and survived, but Johnson did not. The fatal attack, which is unusual among black bears, was the second in a 24-hour span in Alaska.

“I broke my back seven years ago and she was one of the first people that went nordic and alpine skiing with me,” Ira Edwards, Rossignol’s longtime nordic racing coordinator who now does sales and marketing for the company, told KTUU.

“Erin’s wonderful energy, quirky sense of humor, dedication, sparkle, generosity, and talent touched everyone she knew, and left them all the better,” her family said in a statement. She was married two weeks earlier.

 

– Chris Gouldsmith, of Hayscastle, Wales, wants to be the first person to rollerski the length of Great Britain, nearly 900 miles from Land’s End to John O’Groats, and he’ll go in the record books if he does so.  An ex-soldier, Ironman coach and nordic-ski instructor, Gouldsmith is planning on rollerskiing 55 to 60 miles per day, starting Aug. 1, to finish in 15 days. He wants to raise awareness of rollerskiing as a sport as well as raise money for The National Autistic Society and the brain-injury charity, Headway. According to the Western Telegraph, he’s also looking for a local sponsor to supplement his travel and equipment costs.

“Training is going well and I’m working on building up balance, flexibility and endurance,” Gouldsmith told the Telegraph. “Hopefully I will be the first person to rollerski the length of Britain.”

— Ian Tovell

June 9 Roundup: Ward Tapped as Biathlon Canada HP Director; John Bower Passes

Biathlon Canada has a new high-performance director: women’s national-team coach Roddy Ward. The announcement was made on Biathlon Canada’s website, following the departure of Eric de Nys earlier this spring.

“We are delighted to have Roddy in the role of High-Performance Director,” Biathlon Canada General Manager Andy Holmwood said, according to the press release. “He brings a strong understanding of biathlon at the international level combined with unique insight to the sport. We are confident both our development and high-performance programs will progress under his leadership.”

A Canmore native, Ward previously competed in biathlon and earned a master’s in education with an emphasis on coaching from the University of Victoria. He has spent “the past several seasons” as a Biathlon Canada national-team coach and will continue to coach the women’s team “in a dual role through the 2018 Olympics”, according to the press release.

 


John Bower, an Olympic nordic-combined skier and U.S. Ski Team nordic director, passed away earlier this week. (Photo: USSA)

– On Tuesday, June 6, former nordic-combined athlete and U.S. Ski Team nordic director John Bower passed away at the age of 76 in Park City, Utah. Bower was an Olympian and the first American to win the prestigious nordic-combined King’s Cup. According to a U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) press release, Bower was instrumental in the development of the Utah Olympic Park and its Olympic legacy facilities in Park City.

Growing up in Auburn, Maine, he became the first skier to win four interscholastic state titles in 1959 at Edward Little High School. In 1961, Bower became the first Middlebury College skier to win an NCAA nordic-combined title and totaled four national titles in his career. He competed at two Olympics in 1964 and 1968, placing 13th and 15th for the best finishes by an American nordic combined skier at the time.

“His milestone accomplishment came at Norway’s Holmenkollen Ski Festival in 1968 where he became the first American to win the prestigious King’s Cup,” the press release explained. “His win at Holmenkollen set the standard for other Americans who followed him including Kerry Lynch (1983), Todd Lodwick (1998), Bill Demong (2009) and Bryan Fletcher (2012). The victory earned him an audience with the king of Norway in Oslo, as well as an invitation to a White House dinner in the king’s honor later that year.”

Bower later coached at Middlebury from 1968 to 1975 and was the U.S. Ski Team (USST) nordic director from 1975 to 1980 — “a highly successful period for the American team” — before serving as athletic director at Principia College in western Illinois. He returned to his post as USST nordic director from 1988-1990.

“John Bower is a great example of a highly accomplished skier who dedicated his entire life to helping other athletes,” USSA President and CEO Tiger Shaw said in the press release. “In particular, his work in developing the Utah Olympic Park leading up to the 2002 Olympics was a key part of the legacy that is still positively impacting athletes today.”

Bower was the first director of Utah Winter Sports Park (now the Utah Olympic Park), who oversaw the development of venues and programs from 1990 to 1999 in the leadup to the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics. He was named to the U.S. Ski Hall of Fame in 1969 and is one of Maine’s most recognized sport stars and a member of the Maine Ski Hall of Fame and Lewiston Auburn Sports Hall of Fame. Middlebury selected Bower to its Hall of Fame in 2014, and he is an honorary member of the Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation board.

 

– Also on Tuesday, Norway’s Therese Johaug attended a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing regarding an appeal by the International Ski Federation (FIS) opposing her 13-month ban. The CAS ruling, which could still be several months away, will determine whether Johaug will be able to compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics. FIS is aiming to extend her ban as it claims the 13-month suspension, handed down by the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports’ (NIF) Adjudication Committee, was too lenient, InsidetheGames reported.

FIS appears to be aiming for a 16-20 month suspension, which would cause her to miss the upcoming Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Meanwhile, Johaug is still training as usual, with a month-long, extremely high (3,000 meters, nearly 10,000 feet) altitude camp planned in Aspen, Colo., sometime before October, according to NRK.

Her coach Pål Gunnar Mikkelsplass claimed her spring and summer tests show she’s in better shape than ever.

“I have had good test results,” Johaug told NRK after Tuesday’s hearing, according to a loose translation. “I have had continuity in training and can focus on just myself. It’s not that I’m necessarily skiing faster, but at least it’s good for me to see that after all I’ve been through, it hasn’t made me a worse skier.”

 

 

– The British Nordic team recently named four skiers to its elite cross-country team for the 2017/2018 World Cup season. The four athletes, Andrew Musgrave, Andrew Young, Callum Smith, and Annika Taylor, all met team criteria for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. Last season, Musgrave placed fourth in the World Championships 50-kilometer freestyle mass start and had the second-fastest time of day in the season-ending 15 k freestyle pursuit at World Cup Finals. In 2015/2016, Young placed third in a World Cup sprint in Toblach, Italy. The lone woman on the team, Taylor is originally from California.

Great Britain sent four athletes to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where it posted results outside the top 10. But with Norwegians Hans Kristian Stadheim and Jostein Vinjerui onboard as specialist coaches, the team is optimistic about its future.

“We are coming into a very exciting time for British Nordic,” Britain’s head coach Roy Young told InsidetheGames. “We have athletes who are capable of podium finishes at world-class level, and it is looking like we will take at least four athletes to Pyeongchang 2018 to represent Team GB.”

 

– FIS approved a Women’s Nordic Combined Continental Cup during its annual meeting in Portoroz, Slovenia. The first race will be hosted by Otepää, Estonia, in January 2018. There will be three races total, with the last race being shared with the men in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. There is currently no senior Nordic Combined World Cup for women, nor is it an Olympic discipline. There will be a test for a Junior World Championships this season, while a Youth Cup took place last year. USSA also announced it will host an inaugural Women’s Nordic Combined National Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Oct. 7. USA Nordic Executive Director Billy Demong explained that the addition of women’s events both nationally and internationally has been one of USA Nordic’s goals.

“We are committed to keeping up and, to the best of our resources, staying ahead of the world as this event makes its debut at the senior level,” he told InsidetheGames. “This is an opportunity that we are fully behind.”

 

Visma Ski Classics Climb leader “lumberjack” bib

– For its eighth season, the Visma Ski Classics is introducing a new climbing competition for pro competitors and will reward its leaders with a red-and-black checkered lumberjack bib. Pro Team racers can collect points at eight different checkpoints (at the top of hills), according to a Ski Classics press release, and the highest-scoring male and female athlete at the end of the season will be crowned “Climb champion” and collect prize money at the final gala in Levi, Finland. The leaders of the legends standings, Anders Auckland and Seraina Boner will start the season wearing these brand-new bibs.

— Alex Kochon and Ian Tovell

May 26 Roundup: CAS Date for Johaug, Chevalier Hit by Car, Russian Athletes May Miss Paralympics

Therese Johaug has a date for her hearing before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). A schedule published by CAS shows that Johaug is on the docket for June 6th. The Norwegian Olympic Committee suspended the Norwegian cross-country ski star for 13 months for testing positive for the steroid clostebol; the International Ski Federation (FIS) is appealing that decision, seeking a longer ban.

– French biathlete Anais Chevalier, the bronze medalist in the World Championships sprint this past season, was hit by a car while training and has broken her collarbone. The 24-year-old will take about a month away from regular training to recover. “I’m angry, motorists, we are naked when we are cycling!!” she wrote on her Facebook page, according to a translation. “Thanks for not playing with our lives.”

– The Visma Ski Classics long-distance race series has released its 2017-2018 competition schedule. Two of last year’s events have been dropped: the Vasaloppet China, and the Årefjällsloppet.

– The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has decided that if the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) does not meet their obligations to address its doping scandal by September, then there is a good possibility that Russian athletes will not be allowed to enter the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

“This is not quite a final warning, but it is saying we are running out of time fast,” IPC President Philip Craven told the Associated Press. “With each day that passes there’s time to sort this one out. The RPC and Russian authorities need to build trust in their actions and prove to us all that from now on sport really is about morals over medals and not the other way round.”

The IPC governing board unanimously decided not to lift the suspension on the RPC after an update from the IPC task force that was appointed to monitor the RPC. The task force will update the IPC once more in September.

-The Finnish Ski Association has nominated 20 skiers for their national teams. Reijo Jylhä will continue as the head coach for both the women and men’s teams, with Teemu Pasanen coaching the distance skiers and Olli Ohtonen coaching the sprints, according to FIS.  The notable members are Matti Heikkinen, Krista 
Pärmäkoski, and Kerttu Niskanen.

-Swedish Paralympic gold medalist Helena Ripa has decided to retire and not attempt to qualify for the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Game. At the age of 46, she will devote her time to her other passion of Para canoe according to a press release from paralympic.org.

“I have always been driven by being able to perform to the fullest at the highest level. But the driving force is not there anymore whilst skiing and feel I do not have much else to give to the sport,” according to Ripa.

-Two time Olympic cross-country champion, Charlotte Kalla has decided to train outside of the Swedish National team again in order to prepare for the upcoming season. The 29-year old spent the 20016-2017 campaign on her own, and confirmed she will be doing the same thing this year.

“I have decided to remain outside the national team for the upcoming training season in favor of developing cooperation with the group who were around me for the last training season,” Kalla said according to Inside the Games.

May 18 Roundup: Britain Hires Norwegians, Northug News, Weng Runs for a Cause

-The British Nordic Team has announced the appointment of two Norwegian coaches, Hans Kristian Stadheim and Jostein Vinjerui. Stadheim joins the team as the distance coach. He was previously with marathon specialist Team Leaseplan in Norway, and before that coached the two-time Norwegian relay champions, Lyn Ski.

“I want to help Great Britain to become a nation to be reckoned with in Cross Country – not only in the build up to Pyeongchang 2018, but also as we work towards Beijing 2022,” Stadheim said, according to Inside The Games.

Vinjerui will be the sprint performance coach. He previously coached the Norwegian Ski Federation’s regional team, and already was working with a British athlete, Andrew Young. Vinjerui was the coach for the Icelandic national team for two seasons as well.

“I am delighted to work with Hans Kristian to help develop the team towards PyeongChang and beyond, and also look to help them win medals,” Vinjerui said.

The Brits are also extending their partnership with the Lillehammer Nordic Ski Club; several of their athletes have been based in Lillehammer previously. That means that local athletes Marthe Bjørnsgaard and Mari Støen Gussiås will join the training group. They had already been training partners for Annika Taylor.

“This is probably the first of many exciting collaborative projects that will see the light of day between the two parties in the coming years,” Lillehammer coach Jostein Buraas said in British Nordic’s Facebook .

Tomas Northug, Norwegian cross-country skier and the younger brother of Petter Northug Jr., has announced that he will be retiring at the age of 27. He won a FIS World Cup Sprint in Otepää, Estonia, in 2015, which helped him get called up to the Norwegian squad for that season’s World Championships in Falun, Sweden. Once there, he finished sixth in the sprint as his brother Petter took gold.

“Thanks to all who have contributed to this journey,” Tomas Northug wrote in Norwegian in an Instagram post.

-Canada’s 10-time Paralympic champion Brian McKeever looks back on the season over at the  World Para Nordic Skiing website, and considers the Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet in Jokkmook, Sweden, a highlight. McKeever is coming off a very successful season that saw him win two gold medals at the World Championships in Finsterau, Germany. He also placde 20th at the Vasaloppet, Sweden’s 90 k marathon and one of the premier long-distance ski races in the world. He ended his season further north at the 220 Km Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet, which is the world’s oldest and longest ski race.

“One thing is for sure, I’ll never look at 6-7 hour training sessions as being long ever again,” McKeever said.

Heidi Weng and Petter Northug participated in the Red Bull Wings for Life World Run in Norway on May 7. Over 150,000 people start at the same time and are chased by “catcher cars” at several locations around the world, unloading, Munich, Vienna, Chile, USA, Italy, etc. according to langrenn.com. The goal of the race is to get as far as possible before the car driving at a constant speed catches you. Northug got 23k, while Weng was able to get to 28.23 kilometers. Northug left the race before he was caught so he is officially listed as DNF.

–Ian Tovell

May 4 Roundup: South Korean Team Shakeup; Lamy Chappuis Returns

— Four male cross-country skiers from South Korea were recently suspended from the national team after being caught drinking during the Asian Winter Games in February in Sapporo, Japan. The four athletes were banned for six months after being caught drinking at the Games and reportedly saying they drank two cans of beer, according to the Korea Herald. Wanting to send a message, the Korea Ski Association handed the four men six-month suspensions to discourage a similar incident from happening again at international competitions. The South Korean men’s national team is now down to two skiers, Kim Magnus and Cho Yong-jin, who did not take part in the drinking.The KSA decided not to renew three coaching contracts and will hire a new staff for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

 

— Jason Lamy Chappuis is making a comeback after a year away from competing in nordic combined at the highest level, according to the French Ski Association. A 10-time World Championships medalist (with five golds and an Olympic gold in 2010), Lamy Chappuis put his career on hold to pursue his other passion: flying. He completed his commercial pilot education last week and plans to compete during the upcoming 2017/2018 season before retiring to become a full-time pilot for Air France.

“It will be very difficult to come back, as I spent two years without ski jumping,” Lamy Chappuis, 30, said at a press conference. “But I am fit, I ran half marathons, I was registered at a gym center, I did not lose all my physical condition. There are many examples of athletes who have stopped their careers to come back. This pause allowed me to step back, to question myself and today I am more peaceful, and stronger in my head. I will not put myself under pressure, before I almost wanted to do too well.”

 

— The Czech cross-country team has a new head coach in IIkka Jarva, according to an announcement last week. He plans to spend 150 days a year with the team and will be joined by other Czech coaches starting in May for the first training camp.

“After 13 years of working as a cross-country ski coach in Finland, I feel really excited to work with the Czech team,” Java said, according to a team press release. “There are many young athletes and young coaches so we have a lot of energy to work hard. Hard work is the only way to succeed in our sport. I would like coaches and athletes to find a Czech way of success.”

 

— Former Swiss cross-country skier Peter von Allmen has accepted a position coaching the Swiss women’s cross-country team, Inside the Games reported. Von Allmen competed at the 2010 Olympics and started 70 World Cup races. With Dario Cologna being the only Swiss skier to earn a medal during the 2016/2017 season, von Allmen is aiming to propel the team to improved results.

“I am convinced that with my experience as an athlete and coach I can contribute to develop the athletes and give them new inputs,” he said. “Together with my coaches, I am already in the middle of the planning of the upcoming Olympics season.”

–Ian Tovell

April 7 Roundup: Ski Tour Canada Wins; Weng Top Earner; Østberg Potentially Done?

-The 11th annual Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance Prestige awards happened own March 21st in Ottawa, Canada according to a press release from Cross Country Canada. These awards recognize events from local to international championships and tournaments as well as honoring outstanding volunteers and organizations. Ski Tour Canada 2016 won the Canada Sport Event of the Year award. The tour consists of 12 days with the world’s best skiers coming from over 25 nations. It was part of the first World Cup Finals ever staged outside of Europe. By live streaming, the event it was able to reach an international audience of over 52 million viewers. The events were held in Gatineau, Montreal, and Quebec City, Quebec, and Canmore, Alberta.

Heidi Weng of Norway was the World Cup’s top earner with winnings of about $274,000 U.S. dollars according to News in English. Though Marit Bjørgen dominated the World Cup races she entered, she didn’t race a full schedule and Weng earned about double as much as Bjørgen (who earned roughly $152,800 U.S. dollars). Weng was able to earn more than the men’s overall winner Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby, who took home about $211,000 U.S. dollars. Canada’s Alex Harvey was fourth in the men’s prize money behind Russia’s Sergey Ustugov and Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, earning roughly $74,770 US Dollars.

Calle Halfvarsson started the World Cup season with two wins before New Year, and was in possession of the yellow jersey for the overall lead. However, in January he suffered a cold that led to a prolonged sinus infection causing him to skip the Tour de Ski. As he was preparing for the World Championships in Lahti, his sinus kicked up him again. Halfvarsson is going to have surgery in order to fix his sinus, which has repeatedly bothered him for the last two seasons. He hopes that this will be the start of his preparation for the Olympic Games in South Korea, where he hopes to win his first individual Olympic medal. He should be back training in May according to sweski.com.

-Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg finished third overall in the World Cup standings, even after not having the season she was hoping for. She has started to play with the idea of retiring from skiing, according to Langrenn. However, a week after mentioning potentially retiring from the sport she stated that she has not evaluated the season and still has yet to make a final conclusion. She said she believe that she can be even better and enjoy skiing again in terms of training and competing.

Youngman Leads U.S. at 2017 Masters World Cup; Gray Finally Gets Gold

Multiple medalist Louise Wholey and U.S. team director John Downing on relay day at the 2017 Masters World Cup on March 10 in Klosters, Switzerland. (Photo: Masters World Cup 2017 Klosters)

By Inge Scheve

“I waited 55 years for this medal,” said Bob Gray.

Bob Gray receiving a bronze medal at the 2015 Masters World Cup in Syktyvkar, Russia. (Photo: Kent Murdoch)

The 77-year-old Vermonter won the 15-kilometer freestyle race in the M10 category (men age 75-80) at the 2017 Masters World Cup in Klosters, Switzerland, earlier this month.

Gray raced for the U.S. Ski Team from 1962 until 1974, but never earned a World Championships medal during that period.

“When I first came on the U.S. Ski Team in 1962, we were ten minutes behind the Europeans in the 15 k event,” he said. “When I left the U.S. Ski Team in 1974, we were three minutes behind in the 15 k.”

“It’s a lifelong dream for me to win a World Championship medal,” he continued. “I’m a frustrated athlete, you know.” Over the last two decades, Gray has participated in more than a dozen Masters World Cup events.

“The competitors get older and there are fewer of them, but in my mind, this was really satisfying,” he said.

The annual Masters World Cup represents an opportunity for skiers 30 and older to ski up to four races of regular World Cup distances in a week.

During the 2017 Masters World Cup in Klosters, U.S. skiers collected a total of 47 individual medals and four relay podium finishes. The Canadian team took home 12 individual medals and one relay podium finish.

A freestyle race at the 2017 Masters World Cup in early March in Klosters, Switzerland. (Photo: Masters World Cup 2017 Klosters)

Among the U.S. individual winners were Gray, Barry Makarewicz, who won two races, and Eric Martin, and for the women, Elizabeth Youngman, who notched three individual titles, Lindsey Bengtson (2), Laura McCabe (2), Trina Hosmer (2), Louise Wholey, and Carolyn Tiernan. For Canada, Silvia Stettler and Nancy Burden won two races apiece, and individual titles went to Pat Pearce, Barbara Turner and Robert Burden.

With two individual classic titles and a skate win as well, Youngman was part of the U.S. women’s gold-medal relay (with Magdalena Bowen, Muffy Ritz and McCabe) in the 4 x 5 k mixed technique race to end the seven-day championships.

The U.S. national director for the World Masters Cross-Country Ski Association (WMA), John Downing, who is also the president of the FIS Masters World Cup Association, said this year’s championships were a great showing for his team.

“When we bring large numbers to Europe, we always see results, that’s simple math,” he said. “When we have more skiers, we also have more upper-level skiers.”

Downing added that medals are not the most important aspect of the Masters World Cup event.

“We want every skier to feel welcome, regardless of level, and we want every ability skier to feel welcome to these events and walk away with good experiences,” he said.

Next year, the Masters World Cup moves to Minneapolis, and Downing is confident the Twin Cities will pull off a great championship week.

“The Loppet Foundation, which is the organizing committee for the 2018 Masters World Cup, has been awesome. They have a lot of resources and talented organizers,” he said.

“They have doubled their snow-making capacity in the last year, and they are ready to increase that even further,” he explained. “So you can easily fly into the Twin Cities and not see a flake of snow anywhere and still know that the organizers will have loop that wont drive people crazy to ski.”

The 2018 Masters World Cup is scheduled for Jan. 19-26, 2018.

2017 Masters World Cup: North American Medal Count

Race 1: Mid-distance skate

U.S. (11 total: 6 gold, 1 silver, 4 bronze)

  • Gold: Lindsey Bengtson (F1), Laura McCabe (F5), Elizabeth Youngman (F6), Louise Wholey (F10), Barry Makarawicz (M6), Bob Gray (M10)
  • Silver: Trina Hosmer (F9)
  • Bronze: Katie Meyer (F7), Carolyn Tiernan (F8), Shauna Thoreson (F11), Eric Martin (M5)

Canada (3 total: 1 gold, 2 silver)

  • Gold: Silvia Stettler (F8)
  • Silver: Nikki Kassel (F3), Barbara Turner (F5)

Race 2: Mid-distance classic

U.S. (4 total: 2 silver, 2 bronze)

  • Silver: Magdalena Bowen (F6), Barbara Lewis (F11)
  • Bronze: James Rucker (M2), Charles French (M12)

Race 3: Short-distance classic

U.S. (10 total: 2 gold, 4 silver, 4 bronze)

  • Gold: Elizabeth Youngman (F6), Trina Hosmer (F9)
  • Silver: Carolyn Tiernan (F8), Shauna Thoresen (F11), Del Pletcher (M9), Charles French (M12)
  • Bronze: Eric Martin (M3), Barry Makarawicz (M6), Barbara Lewis (F11), George Hall (M11)

Canada (1 total: 1 gold)

  • Gold: Pat Pierce (F7)

Race 4: Short-distance skate

U.S (7 total: 1 gold, 2 silver, 4 bronze)

  • Gold: Lindsey Bengston (F1)
  • Silver: Katie Meyer (F7), Shauna Thoresen (F11), Joanne Davis (F11)
  • Bronze: Kent Murdoch (M6), Abbie Spencer (F1), Louise Wholey (F10), Inge Scheve (F3)

Canada: (3 total: 3 gold)

  • Gold: Barbara Turner (F5), Nancy Burden (F6), Silvia Stettler (F8)

Race 5: Marathon skate

U.S. (10 total: 5 gold, 3 silver, 2 bronze)

  • Gold: Laura McCabe (F5), Carolyn Tiernan (F8), Trina Hosmer (F9), Eric Martin (M3), Barry Makarawicz (M6)
  • Silver: Lindsey Bengston (F1), Shauna Thoresen (F11), Bob Gray (M10)
  • Bronze: Louise Wholey (F10), Joanne Davis (F11)

Canada (3 total: 1 gold, 2 silver)

  • Gold: Nancy Burden (F6)
  • Silver: Nikki Kassel (F3), Barbara Turner (F5)

Race 6: Marathon classic

(Note: Race course was shortened due to avalanche in the upper end of the valley)

U.S. (5 total: 1 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze)

  • Gold: Elizabeth Youngman (F6)
  • Silver: Barbara Lewis (F11), George Hall (M11), Charles French (M12)
  • Bronze: James Rucker (M2)

Canada (2 total: 2 silver)

  • Silver: Pat Pierce (F7), Silvia Stettler (F8)

Relays

U.S. (4 total: 1 gold, 3 silver)

  • Gold: Elizabeth Youngman, Magdalena Bowen, Muffy Ritz, Laura McCabe (F3)
  • Silver: Chris Clark, Wilhelm Northrop, Seth Downs, Eric Martin (M4); Odd Bersvendsen, Richard Powell, Barry Makarawicz, Kent Murdoch (M6); Trina Hosmer, Connie Meek, Louise Wholey, Carol Monteverde (F5)

Canada (1 total: 1 silver)

  • Silver: Pat Pierce, Lois Johnston, Silvia Stettler, Maureen Clement (F4)

Complete results

March 17 Roundup: Randall Not Racing; Sundby Stays in Norway; Arendz Elected Athlete Rep

U.S. women’s team members training at World Cup Finals on Thursday in Quebec City. (Photo: USSA/Reese Brown)

– Despite training on Thursday, American Kikkan Randall will not be competing in the season-ending World Cup Finals in Québec City this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. According to a U.S. Ski Team press release, Randall was not feeling 100 percent during warmup training on Thursday and decided to sit out the races. Fourteen other women are slated to represent the U.S. in Friday’s freestyle sprint, 12 U.S. men, 15 Canadian women, and 15 Canadian men.

The World Cup track on the Plains of Abraham as seen on Friday morning before the freestyle sprint kicks off the World Cup Finals weekend in Quebec City, Quebec.

– This season’s overall and distance World Cup winner Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway will not be racing at World Cup Finals in Quebec this Friday through Sunday, March 17-19.

Instead, he’ll be racing for Team United Bakeries in Saturday’s 54-kilometer Norwegian Birkebeinerrennet, the 10th event of the Ski Classics series. Another Norwegian national-team member, Eirik Brandsdal will also be racing the Birkebeinerrennet from Rena to Lillehammer.

While the International Ski Federation (FIS) initially threatened to reduce Sundby’s prize money and bonuses if he didn’t come to Quebec, FIS Race Director Pierre Mignerey explained they retracted that by Monday.

“We have decided not to reduce the prize money, no matter what he or others will do,” Mignerey told NRK, according to a loose translation. “I do not quite understand why he did not come, but it’s his decision.”

The Norwegian Ski Federation’s media officer Gro Eide explained that Sundby wanted to spend the time with his family.

So while Sundby will miss the awards ceremony for his third Crystal Globe, Mignerey added that FIS will not likely change its rules to require top athletes to compete at every World Cup.

“My point is that we should not force any athletes or teams to participate, but that we should focus on setting up a World Cup calendar that is attractive to athletes, instead of trying to force anyone,” he said.

On the flip side, the Ski Classics is happy to have him.

“With Martin Johnsrud Sunday on the start line in Birken that, due to its topography, fits World Cup quality athletes quite well, we can look forward to another epic battle,” Ski Classics CEO David Nilsson said according to a press release. “I am sure Martin wants to show his strength against the tough long distance skiers, and they want to show him that long distance skiing is a sport for tough gentlemen …. now we can’t wait until Sunday!”

American Birkebeiner Executive Director Ben Popp caught up with Sundby earlier this week and posted the live video on the American Birkebeiner’s Facebook page. Sundby spoke about the possibility of doing the American Birkie in the future.

 

— Speaking of the Birkie, while this year’s annual ski marathon from Cable to Hayward, Wis., was canceled, the “world’s largest” fat-bike race took place on March 11 in Hayward, with the fifth annual Fat Bike Birkie. More than 1,200 riders participated in either the Big Fat, a 49 k race, or the Chico, a 20 k race, according to a Birkie press release. Bikers from more than 18 states and two nations competed on a brisk morning at the American Birkebeiner Trailhead. Due to unseasonably warm weather leading up to the event, the course was moved to an alternate looped course adjoining the Birkie Trail and included five laps for the Big Fat and two laps for the Chico.

Results: Big FatChico

 

– Mark Arendz of Canada’s Para-Nordic Ski Team was recently elected as the athlete representative for nordic skiing on the World Para Nordic Skiing’s Sport Technical Committee. According to World Para Nordic Skiing, Arendz, a 27-year-old skier who competes in the standing division of International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cups, received the most votes at the recent PyeongChang test event and World Cup. Arendz, a multiple World Cup and Paralympic medalist, gave a speech among his athletic peers about his goals of increasing participation in both biathlon and cross-country skiing. This will be a two-year term and Arendz is the third winter sport athlete to be voted on the Sport Technical Committee.

 

FIS Cross-Country is looking for feedback on competition formats, and which are of most interest to the public. Here is the link to its short survey.

 

– Darya Dómracheva, a Belarusian World Cup biathlete and multiple-time Olympic and World Championships gold medalist, has gone into retail and is selling a variety of merchandise, including buffs, coffee mugs, baby clothes, and smartphone cases, online at shop.daryadomracheva.by.

March 5 Roundup: Ski Classics Launches Nordic Trophy; NCAA Champs Coming Up in N.H.

– The Visma Ski Classics series is launching a new competition within the tour called the Visma Nordic Trophy, which will take place in Nordic countries. The competition started Sunday with the Vasaloppet in Sweden, the ninth event of the Ski Classics series. According to a Ski Classics press release, there will be prize money for the top three in both the men and women’s race. The next race will be the Birkebeinerrennet on March 18 in Norway.

 

– During 2017 Nordic World Championships in Lahti, Finland, the International Ski Federation (FIS) and Finnish Anti-Doping Agency spread the anti-doping message to athletes and coaches. At the athletes’ village in Vierumäki, Finland, competitors were given the opportunity to show their commitment to clean sport by signing a giant snowball as well as having their photo taken, according to a FIS press release. More than 400 athletes, coaches and support personnel joined the movement during the championships, held Feb. 22-March 5.

 

–  NCAA Skiing Championships will take place this coming week March 8-10, with cross-country races being held at the Jackson Ski Touring Center in Jackson, N.H., and alpine racing at Cannon Mountain in Franconia, N.H., hosted by the University of New Hampshire (UNH). According to the Eastern Intercollegiate Ski Association (EISA), the top-two teams from their division, Dartmouth and the University of Vermont (UVM), will be be vying for the overall NCAA title. The men’s overall cross-country leader, Fabian Stocek (Dartmouth) and the women’s overall winner Alayna Sonnesyn (UVM) will be looking to cap off their season with a NCAA title.

 

– For the second year in a row, the Stowe Derby, which was supposed to happen on Feb. 26 was canceled. This historic downhill cross-country race had been held since 1945, before being canceled last year due to lack of snow. It was canceled this year because of boiler-plate conditions, according to StoweToday.com. The Derby is one of the oldest races in North America and attracts 800 competitors annually.

— Ian Tovell

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 time that Otepää is hosting a World Cup, which is the biggest winter event in Estonia.

“The stadium and sprint course are in good condition,” Otepää organizing committee chairman Jaak Mae said, according to a press release. “The last section of the 5 km course will be covered during next few days and after that all the tracks are completed.”

The races will be a freestyle sprint on Saturday and 10/15 k classic individual starts on Sunday. The course will include the half-kilometer-long Tehvandi Climb, which increases in steepness toward the top.

 

— The International Biathlon Union (IBU) has decided to pull 2021 World Championships from Tyumen, Russia. The IBU gave the Russian Biathlon Union 14 days to voluntarily give up its hosting responsibilities and plans to increase the fines tenfold when it comes to doping disciplinary measures to a maximum of $1 million euros, according to Ski-Nordique.

 

 

— Ian Tovell

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 the 42nd annual 34-kilometer Boulder Mountain Ski Tour on Saturday as part of the eighth-annual Sun Valley Nordic Festival in Ketchum, Idaho. Race director Kelly Allison told the Idaho Mountain Express, “The course is in unbelievable shape. It’s about as good as it gets.” Caitlin and Brian Gregg will be returning as the defending champions from last year. Some of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team members, including U23 World Championships competitor Cole Morgan, will be competing as well.

– The lack of snow won’t stop the sixth stop of the Ski Classics at the 40th Gran Fondo Dobbiaco-Cortina on Sunday, Feb. 11. The start for both days will be at Prags-Schmieden/Braies-Ferrara, which is the same start as in 2016. The 50 k race has been shortened to 40k due to lack of snow, but the hope is more snow will fall and the track will be able to be extended, according to a  Dobbiaco-Toblach Cortina press release.

– South Korean skier Kim Magnus missed Friday’s 1.5 k World Cup sprint at home in PyeongChang due to an illness, according to Yonhap News Agency.  Magnus is considered one of South Korea’s rising stars.  He won two gold medals and one silver medal at the 2016 Winter Youth Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.  He pulled himself out of the sprint, and it was uncertain if he will be competing in the skiathon on Saturday or not. Without Magnus, South Korea had five skiers compete in the sprint. None of them qualified for the heats.

— Ian Tovell

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 the news that he will be starting. Northug was disappointed not to be in the original starting lineup for Falun, but is excited to be racing and is ready to compete at top level. He hasn’t raced a World Cup in nearly two months and most recently placed 26th in a 15 k freestyle FIS race in Sjusjøen, Norway.

 

— The sixth event in the Ski Classics series will be this weekend’s Marcialonga from Moena to Cavalese, Italy. The marathon was shortened from 70 kilometers to 57 k due to low snow.

“The course is in a great shape at the moment, even if we had to shorten it to 57km,” Gloria Trettel, the Marcialonga CEO said, according to a Ski Classics press release.

There is rich history when it comes to this race as it dates back all the way to the ’60s. Two Italian athletes in 1969 raced the Vasaloppet for the first time and decided they wanted to have a similar race in Italy. The two valleys of Femme and Fassa were chosen as the locations, but it still needed to choose an appropriate name. They finally decided on Marcialonga, or Long March, to represent the idea of hard work and friendly competition of the athletes. The first Marcialonga was held February 7, 1971 and has now become one of the most popular long distance races in the world.

On Sunday, Jan. 29, Britta Johansson Norgren and Tord Asle Gjerdalen will be attempting to defend their wins from last year’s Marcialonga. Norgren and Gjerdalen are currently both leading the standings, with Norgren also leading the sprint competition. Andreas Nygaard, who is currently second in the Ski Classics standings, is currently leading the men’s sprint competition.

 

— Calle Halfvarsson isn’t happy with his anchor leg in last weekend’s World Cup relay at home in Ulricehamn, Sweden, where he lost the sprint finish to Norway’s Finn Hågen Krogh. Halfvarsson said that it was not mentally good for him going into 2017 World Championships, where Krogh will most likely be Norway’s anchor again. The Swede has been struggling with illness all season and said he’s starting to get back to normal. He mentioned that he tried to convince someone else to go last, but no one stepped up. According to Langrenn, Sweden’s head coach Rikard Grip understands Halfvarsson’s concerns and hopes that this will fuel him moving forward.

 

— Polar wants to see who skis the hardest — cross-country skiers or biathletes — with a team challenge that ends on Feb. 28, 2017. The company has selected six athletes to see who will rally the most active fans and rack up the most kilometers. They are: Kikkan Randall (USA), Mark Rajack (Trinidad & Tobago), Sergey Ustiugov (Russia), Erik Lesser (Germany), Kaisa Mäkäräinen (Finland), and Mona Brorsson (Sweden). The way the contest works is that you register your Polar product or use their free training application Polar Beat. Then choose your athlete and join their team and get out and start skiing. The main prize is 2 VIP tickets to the FIS World Cup race of the winner’s choosing. Complete details can be found here.

— Ian Tovell

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 LangrennPetter 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 the final climb just over a week ago, her mom ran alongside her, all the way up the hill, which was caught on video and posted on Petter Northug’s Facebook page. She won by more than a minute and a half.

 

— After making the switch to biathlonDenise Herrmann went back to her roots this past weekend to race in the Cross-Country World Cup sprints in Toblach, Italy, where she placed 13th in the individual freestyle sprint (as the second-best German woman) and notched fourth in the team sprint with teammate Sandra Ringwald. According to Sportal.de, Herrmann is aiming to qualify for the upcoming 2017 Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland, next month. She explained that while she wants to be a top biathlon World Cup competitor, she’s also hoping to race in Lahti and represent Germany in the women’s relay. She earned bronze with the relay at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and started competing in biathlon in December. As of now, it does not look like she will qualify for the Biathlon World Championships in Hochfilzen, Austria, Feb. 9-19.

 

— From Jan. 13-20, Ukraine is hosting its first-ever International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup, leading up to the upcoming 2017 Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Finsterau, Germany (Feb. 10-19). “This is the first time our country will have hosted such a high-profile event and we are really proud to welcome the other nations,” said Ukrainian four-time Paralympic champion Oleksandra Kononova, according to a Paralympic.org press release. “We feel even more responsibility to perform well. We hope that each victory will show our country’s sporting strength and power. We are ready.”

 

— Ian Tovell and Alex Kochon

Hendrickson Again Top American as China TDS Comes to a Close

Daniel Maka of the Czech Republic (left) crosses the line to take the narrow victory ahead of Wang Qiang of China (bib 2) to win the freestyle sprint final in Stage 6 of the 2017 China Tour de Ski in Yanqing. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

Daniel Maka of the Czech Republic (left) crosses the line to take the narrow victory ahead of Wang Qiang of China (bib 2) to win the freestyle sprint final in Stage 6 of the 2017 China Tour de Ski in Yanqing. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

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 the 450-meter mark of the 1.5-kilometer stage. The rest of the lap featured more gradual rolling hills leading up to a downhill finish.

Czech skier Daniel Maka was victorious on the day in the men’s race, winning the final sprint for his first stage victory of this year’s tour. Wang Qiang and Zhu Mingliang, both of China, rounded out the podium.

Nick Hendrickson (now University of Utah, former U.S. Nordic Combined) reached the semifinal for the third time in four sprint stages, finishing seventh on the day. Behind him, Jack Novak (APU) made it as far as the quarterfinals, finishing 16th. Skyler Kenna (APU) was 25th in qualifying, missing out on the 16-racer heats.

It was an all-Chinese podium on the women’s side: Li Xin, Man Dandan, and Chi Chunxue. Li Xin won four out of six stages in this year’s Tour (Stages 1, 4, 5, and 6), but was deemed ineligible for the overall Tour title because she failed to finish Stage 3, the 50 k classic Vasaloppet China.

Behind them, Lauren Fritz (APU) qualified in 12th, but again saw her day end in the quarterfinals in 14th overall.

The overall podium for the tenth annual China Tour de Ski was Meng Hongliang of China, Julia Jansson of Sweden, and Veronika Mayerhofer of Austria for the women. Mayerhofer skied in this country for the University of Utah, and was the FasterSkier Collegiate Skier of the Year in 2015. For the men, the Norwegian Hjelstuen in first overall was followed by Samuel Rege Gianasso of France in second and the Czech Maka in third.

Complete final standings were not immediately available. As of the close of Stage 5, Hendrickson had been eighth overall in the Tour standings, Novak 15th, and Kenna 23rd for the men. Fritz had ranked 15 out of 37 for women.

Results: women | men

— Gavin Kentch

Fritz, Hendrickson 14th in Stage 5 of China TDS

Haakon Hjelstuen of Norway (bib 3) crosses the line ahead of Didrik Fjeld Elset of Norway (bib 4) to win the freestyle sprint final in Stage 5 of the 2017 China Tour de Ski in Xiwuqi. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

Haakon Hjelstuen of Norway (bib 3) crosses the line ahead of Didrik Fjeld Elset of Norway (bib 4) to win the freestyle sprint final in Stage 5 of the 2017 China Tour de Ski in Xiwuqi. (Photo: China Tour de Ski/tourdeskichina.com)

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 race, Norway’s Haakon Hjelstuen (formerly of Michigan Tech), who also won Stage 1, logged his second victory in this year’s Tour, coming out ahead of a French–Norwegian four-person final. Behind him, Hendrickson qualified in 12th and ended his day 14th overall. Jack Novak (APU) was 19th in qualifying (only the top 16 made the heats). Skyler Kenna (APU) was a few places back in 23rd.

Hjelstuen has already wrapped up the overall Tour victory; with Monday’s final stage still remaining, Hjelstuen leads Samuel Rege Gianasso of France by 102 points. With 100 points awarded for a stage victory, Hjelstuen is assured of the final overall title and an additional 20,000 yuan (slightly under $3,000). The women’s overall race is much tighter, with Li Xin holding a 31-point lead over her countrywoman Meng Honglian going into Stage 6.

Hendrickson is currently eighth in the overall Tour standings, Novak 15th, and Kenna 23rd out of 42 racers. Fritz ranks 15th out of 37 on the distaff side.

The Tour ends with Stage 6, one last 1.5 k skate sprint, at Shijinglong Ski Resort, in Yanqing, roughly 80 kilometers outside of downtown Beijing, on Monday morning. Tour racers are due in the hotel parking lot at 4:30 a.m. Sunday for the bus from the hotel to the airport to begin the process of returning from Inner Mongolia to Beijing.

Results: women | men | women’s Tour overall | men’s Tour overall

— Gavin Kentch

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