Oslo, Norway – Kikkan Randall and Andy Newell both advanced to the heats in the 1.3/1.5km freestyle sprint this morning in Norway.
Randall posted the 8th fastest qualifying time, 3.11 seconds behind leader Justyna Kowalczyk (POL).
Kowalczyk sped through the course in a time of 3:02.19, a full 1.45 seconds ahead of Hanna Falk (SWE) in 2nd.
With a little more time gone by since the Olympics and a large Nations Cup group from Norway, the fields are large and very strong. A number of top skiers failed to advance, including Aino Kaisa Saarinen (FIN), Stephie Boelhler (GER), Pirjo Murnanen (FIN), and Miriam Goessner (GER).
The Norwegian women advanced seven to the heats, and Sweden and impressive five.
Dasha Gaiazova, the lone Canadian woman in the race, was 37th, 1.54 seconds out of the top-30.
Caitlin Compton (USA) was 21.22 seconds off Kowalczyk’s pace – finishing last (61st).
All 30 qualifiers were within 10 seconds of the lead.
The men’s race featured even more upsets than the women’s but as usual, Emil Joensson (SWE) was near the top.
Joensson was actually the second qualifier, a significant 2.06 seconds behind Anders Gloersen (NOR).
Gloersen led a contingent of nine Norwegians in the heats. Top sprinter Ola Vigen Hattestad barely squeaked through, placing 29th. Times were tightly packed, and Marcus Hellner (SWE) in 30th was just 7 seconds in back Gloersen, and 5 behind Joensson.
Newell qualified in 23rd, not as high as he usually does, but considering the tight times, and the fact that he has made aneefort to relax a little in the first round, this is not surprising.
Simi Hamilton was just outside, placing 34th, .52 seconds from 30th position. Hamilton beat John Kristian Dahl (NOR), Kalle Lassila (FIN), Yuichi Onda (JPN), and Boerre Naess (NOR) among others. This is an excellent result, and given the strength of the field, more impressive than his Olympic performance.
Mike Hinckley was 66th, +13.25, and Brian Gregg 73rd, +19.90.
Stefan Kuhn (CAN) finished 63rd, +12.56.
Heats start in roughly 30 minutes.
Both Randall and Newell are in quarterfinal 5 of their respective races, and while there are certainly no easy heats, their matchups look favorable.