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Friday Olympic Notes: Flagbearer, Athlete Rep, Men’s 50 k Starters

The women’s team-sprint medal ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, with (from left to right) Sweden’s silver medalists Charlotte Kalla and Stina Nilsson, American gold medalists Kikkan Randall and Jessie Diggins, and Norway’s bronze medalists Marit Bjørgen and Maiken Caspersen Falla. (Photo: FlyingPointRoad)

A smattering of Friday Olympic news in advance of Saturday’s men’s 50-kilometer classic mass start race:

Diggins Named Flagbearer

Jessie Diggins will be the flagbearer for the American delegation at Sunday’s closing ceremonies, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) announced earlier today. Diggins will be the first cross-country skier to serve this role for America (although nordic-combined athlete Bill Demong carried the flag at the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Games in 2010, and biathlete Lyle Nelson was the flagbearer for the opening ceremonies at Calgary in 1988).

Diggins won an election open to all Team USA athletes over the past two days, following her nomination by the national governing body for U.S. skiing. The other six candidates, as nominated by other American sports national governing bodies, were “snowboarder Jamie Anderson, hockey player Meghan Duggan, luge athlete Chris Mazdzer, figure skater Adam Rippon, bobsled athlete Elana Meyers Taylor and Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn,” American cross-country skier Noah Hoffman wrote earlier today.

“This is such an incredible honor for me,” said Diggins in a USOC press release. “I’m really humbled and moved that the athletes voted for me. It’s so inspiring to feel the support and cheering from everyone. The coolest thing for me about the Games has been getting to meet other athletes on Team USA, and getting to cheer them on at their events and learn about what they do. I have so much respect and admiration for everybody here and am beyond honored to be able to lead us out of these Games.”

Randall Elected to Athletes’ Commission

Peer recognition continued to pour in for the gold medal-winning duo this week, as it was announced on Thursday that Randall had been elected to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Athletes’ Commission for an eight-year term.

Randall was elected along with Finnish ice hockey player Emma Terho. She was narrowly ahead of Norwegian cross-country skier Astrid Jacobsen in the final vote tally, although a third athlete may be seated to the commission as well depending on what happens with internal commission logistics over the next several months.

Voting turnout among the 2,919 athletes attending the 2018 Winter Olympics was slightly less than 84 percent.

The commission is a representative body established in 1981 for the purpose of representing athletes and their concerns within the IOC context. The commission’s mission is “to ensure that the athletes’ viewpoint remains at the heart of the Olympic Movement decisions,” says its website.

Randall spoke with FasterSkier last fall about her plans to run for the athletes’ rep position, and what she hoped to achieve in that role.

Randall said at the time that she had “really enjoyed” serving as the cross-country representative to the FIS Athletes’ Commission, and that “to take that experience and expand it to the IOC level would just be really interesting.”

She added, “I think now is a great time to get involved and help strengthen the Olympic movement, get it back to a point where it’s being a good force in the world, because I want to see the Olympics still be important for my children, still be important for your children,” she said. “I don’t want to see the Olympics go away. I’m hoping I can blend my experience having been an athlete at four Olympics, hopefully number five coming up, and then also having worked on the other side, representing the athletes, being in the business side of the sport, and I just think it would be a really cool way to stay involved.”

Randall spoke with FasterSkier again on Friday, following the gold medal and the election, to give more details about what she hopes to achieve while serving on the commission.

Three U.S. Men to Start 50 k

The start list is up for Saturday’s 50 k classic mass start, the longest cross-country race at the Olympics. Switzerland’s Dario Cologna leads out the 71-racer, 32-nation field in bib number 1, followed by Canada’s Alex Harvey (2), Norwegians Hans Christer Holund (3) and Martin Sundby (4), and Alexey Poltoranin (5) of Kazahstan.

Scott Patterson (U.S. Ski Team/APU) racing to 21st in the 15 k skate at the 2018 Olympics. (Photo: FlyingPointRoad)

For the Americans, look for Scott Patterson in bib 29, Noah Hoffman in bib 42, and Tyler Kornfield in bib 57.

Yes, that’s only three racers total, against four possible U.S. start spots for this race.

On his blog, Hoffman explained why one start spot is going unused: “All of the suspense about who was going to start the 50K was for naught. Erik Bjornsen ended up declining his spot because of lingering fatigue from the team sprint and his desire to target races coming up after the Olympics. Paddy Caldwell then declined his spot as well because he is not completely healthy and ready to race after last week’s cold. Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton, both primarily sprinters, also declined to race, and the Hanneman brothers have already left the Olympics. Therefore, we will only have three starters (out of a possible four) in tomorrow’s race. Though this is not the fault of any one person, it is disappointing to leave a start spot unfilled when there are so many great skiers in the US who would love to start this race.”

The 50 k starts at 2 p.m. Saturday local time, 8 p.m. Friday Alaska time, midnight East Coast time. Racers will cover six laps of the 8.4 k “redblue” course, a combination of two courses previously used in these Games. Athletes will face an average climb of slightly less than 37 meters per kilometer, and will climb a total of 1,866 meters, or over 6,000 vertical feet, over the course of the race.

— Gavin Kentch

Women’s Olympic Relay Goes Down Saturday

The U.S. women’s relay, with Sophie Caldwell, Sadie Bjornsen and Liz Stephen, hugs anchor Jessie Diggins at the finish after she secured second for the best-ever U.S. women’s relay result in a cross-country World Cup in January 2016 in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.

It’s relay time.

Or, as longtime American anchor leg and effervescent team cheerleader Jessie Diggins put it, “Grab your relay socks. Get your glitter. ✨ Favorite day of the whole darn year coming up tomorrow! 🙊

The women’s 4 x 5-kilometer relay goes off on Saturday. Start time is 6:30 p.m. local time, 12:30 a.m. Alaska time, 4:30 a.m. East Coast time. The symbolism is at once both obvious and profound: The strongest American team in, well, ever, working together in the ultimate team event. Longtime team leader Kikkan Randall, in perhaps her last-ever Olympic race of a brilliant five-Olympics career, skiing alongside athletes who grew up idolizing her. Lots going on here.

So who’s going to be wearing bib number 4 for the Americans? Sophie Caldwell, Sadie Bjornsen, Kikkan Randall, and Jessie Diggins, in that order. That’s classic – classic – skate – skate, all on the same “blue” course. And then, presumably, medal or not, a large hug at the finish line.

The coaches had some idea about potential relay lineups coming into the Games but used the first three races to finesse those picks, U.S. Head Women’s Coach Matt Whitcomb told FasterSkier in a phone interview on Friday.

“The way the Olympic schedule worked out is that it gave us a chance to look at eight of our athletes in the first three days,” Whitcomb said. “So we had the knowledge coming into the Olympics as well as the knowledge of how athletes are actually skiing at the Olympics. And so there were a few items left for discussion, it took us about three hours to come up with this team. But at the end of the discussions it circled back to what we initially were leaning towards following the 10 k skate.”

(In Thursday’s freestyle interval-start race, Diggins led the way for the Americans in fifth. Bjornsen and Randall were seconds apart in 15th and 16th. Stephen was roughly 45 seconds farther back in 31st, telling FasterSkier afterwards, “I definitely didn’t have the best race I was hoping for, but I mean, our team has so much good to focus on, and that’s what I plan on doing.”)

So let’s take it leg by leg.

Here’s Whitcomb on putting Caldwell as the first leg: “We have run Sophie in three relays in the past. … And she has been on the podium, she has been a member of our best-ever relay result which was a second place where we beat Finland on laps three and four, legs three and four. … And we feel that Sophie has really taken a step forward this year, has posted a few results in or around the top 30 which she has never done with consistency before, and her sprinting has taken a huge step forward, too, where she is ranked number three in the world going into the Olympics. So that’s a really exciting first leg for us. It’s also reasonably tricky conditions for kicking, which is something Sophie excels in.”

Caldwell is “really stoked” at this opportunity, Whitcomb noted. He quoted a text she had sent him calling this a “dream come true” when he asked her if she was interested in skiing that leg. (“Before we drop the team on the athletes we make sure that we talk with each of the sort of nominated legs,” Whitcomb clarified, “to make sure that they’re feeling good, and feeling like they are the right choice for that particular leg.”)

Sophie Caldwell then hands off to Sadie Bjornsen, a skier with whom she has long been linked. (You can just call them both “Sodie.”)

“Sadie has been our go-to classic skier,” Whitcomb explained. “She is someone who can ski any leg of this relay, and we feel like you put your best distance classic skier in Leg 2, as we see on the start list Sweden is doing that in Kalla, and Norway has a very strong Leg 2 in Jacobsen, and Finland has a very strong leg in Kerttu Niskanen. And that’s to say nothing of the Russians who have been skiing great in classic all week.”

So did Whitcomb have to say much to Bjornsen to help prepare her for this opportunity? Not really.

“Sometimes the best kind of coaching in these situations is just to assess whether or not there are any problems, and if there aren’t then just kind of step back and let the professionals do their job,” Whitcomb said. “Sadie is someone who performs extremely well under pressure in a race, but she can also get a little stressed out if you talk about an upcoming race too much. So she’s got this, and has shown us time and time again through eight or ten World Cup relays that she is prepared for Leg 2.”

Bjornsen will hand off to Randall, the woman she came to Alaska Pacific University to train with earlier this decade. Randall has more often skied the classic leg for the American women than the skate leg, though that has been more out of necessity than design.

“Historically as a team we have always felt like the leg that we have been missing is one of the classic legs,” Whitcomb notes. “And Kikkan has often been prepared for both skate or classic, but it’s been the classic that we’ve needed to switch somebody in to. And she’ll admit it herself, she is a little bit of a wildcard when it comes to the 5 k classic and is much more dependable as a skate leg. But we just over the years have had ample skaters to fill that position. So she has been tossed into some really challenging situations, even at times when she is not feeling on point in her classic skiing, and has done a great job for us. So I think she is really excited to try this third leg, and we are excited to see her in it.”

Randall skied to a strong 16th on Thursday, while Liz Stephen, another longtime relay stalwart, was 31st. U.S. coaches looked both to Randall’s strong performance and the fact that “we didn’t feel like Liz skied to her potential,” Whitcomb said.

“She had been feeling great four days earlier in a piece of intensity that she did and just unfortunately wasn’t able to put together that race,” Whitcomb said of Stephen. “And it’s heartbreaking for Liz because historically she has been our third legger. But she said it straight up to me right after the race, she said, ‘I’m not ready for this relay tomorrow, kills me to say it but I’m not.’ And so Kikkan put together a solid skate race and also said she felt really good early on, was able to start a little harder than she intended, and oftentimes she is more of the cut where she has a hard time getting going, so it was really promising to hear that she was able to start hard yesterday.”

The final handoff will be from Randall to Diggins, hearkening back to a certain team sprint event at World Championships four years ago this month. (Technically, Randall was the anchor leg in that race.)

Diggins is a superb skier in any context, but has long been able to summon remarkable performances in relays specifically.

“For years, I would pull out these awesome performances on relay day and I was like, ‘Oh my God, where did that come from?’ ” Diggins told FasterSkier in a 2016 phone interview. Her individual performances have perhaps since caught up to her relay efforts. But the relay magic remains strong.

“We are relieved that we can throw Jessie right into the spot where she is most comfortable in and thrives in,” Whitcomb observes.

Speaking to Diggins’s overall Olympics, Whitcomb says, “She has had an unbelievable Olympics so far, she has been extremely close to the medals in two races. And we get a few texts here and there saying, ‘Oh you guys must be disappointed,’ and it’s quite the opposite. We are just amazed, we are elated she is skiing great. She had a recovery day today, and she is still a young woman and is recovering very quickly. So she is excited.”

So that’s a really stoked Caldwell, a rock-solid Bjornsen, a seasoned Randall, and an excited Diggins. Watch out, world.

Who will the Americans be up against? Norway (bib 1) will have Ingvild Flugstad Østberg, Astrid Jacobsen, Ragnhild Haga, and Marit Bjørgen. For Sweden (bib 2), it’s Anna Haag, Charlotte Kalla, Ebba Andersson, and Stina Nilsson. For Finland (bib 3), it will be Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, Kerttu Niskanen, Riitta-Liisa Roponen, and Krista Pärmäkoski. And Olympic Athletes from Russia (bib 5) will start Natalia Nepryaeva, Yulia Belorukova, Anastasia Sedova, and Anna Nechaevskaya.

Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, Canada, Czech Republic, Slovenia, France, and Belarus round out the field. One odds site lists Norway as the heavy favorite going in, with Sweden a strong pick for second, and the U.S. slightly ahead of Finland for third. But that’s why you run the race.

Start list

— Gavin Kentch (Jason Albert and Harald Zimmer contributed reporting)

Olympic Classic Sprint Goes Off Tuesday

Jessie Diggins was frank about the historic stakes involved coming into these Olympics.

“We’ve never had a Women’s XC medal at the Olympics,” she wrote in her final pre-Olympic blog post. “You know that. I know that. Your second-cousin-once-removed knows that.”

Diggins’s post goes on to outline five process goals that she has going into the Olympics, while leaving the results goals to others but making it clear that she is not afraid to strive for difficult things. U.S. Ski & Snowboard was happy to make those results goals explicit, writing in a video preview of the course, “The cross country team is READY for the Olympic sprint tonight. And they’re hungry for their first medal in 42 years. Let’s do this.”

So who’s doing this? Mostly a collection of familiar names, plus one Olympic newcomer. And, in a generational shift, one very familiar name will be cheering from the sideline.

The U.S. women currently boast one of the strongest sprinting teams in the world. Five athletes are ranked in the top 50 in the current Sprint World Cup rankings: Sophie Caldwell (3rd), Sadie Bjornsen (7th), Diggins (9th), Ida Sargent (19th), and Kikkan Randall (21st).

Qualification for the women’s 1.25-kilometer sprint starts Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. Korea time. Bjorsen will be on the course at 5:31 p.m. in bib 4. Diggins (bib 15), Caldwell (bib 18), and Sargent (bib 21) follow within the next four-plus minutes.

Five serious sprint contenders (all five athletes have World Cup sprint podiums to their names) plus four Olympic start spots per nation equals one well-credentialed athlete cheering from the sideline. In this case, it will be Randall, who has finished 36th and 42nd in her two classic sprint qualifiers this year.

Sprints were added to the Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City in 2002. Randall raced there, finishing 44th in qualifying as a 19 year old. She also raced in 2006, 2010, and 2014. Tuesday will mark the first ever women’s individual Olympic sprint event contested without Randall.

The Canadian team has entered three women: Dahria Beatty (bib 33), Emily Nishikawa (bib 44), and Cendrine Browne (bib 48). On the men’s side, it’ll be Alex Harvey (bib 15), Len Valjas (bib 39), Russell Kennedy (bib 46), and Jess Cockney (bib 52).

Harvey is a 2015 World Championships silver medalist in the classic sprint and also earned bronze in the classic sprint at 2013 Worlds. In the two World Cup classic sprints he’s raced this season, Harvey’s best result is 21st. He currently ranks 18th in the Sprint World Cup rankings.

On that same Sprint World Cup rankings list, the U.S. has Simi Hamilton in 14th, Andy Newell in 36th, and Erik Bjornsen in 56th.

Hamilton will be the first American and second athlete on the men’s 1.4 k course Tuesday night, pushing through the start wand for qualifying at 6:15:15 p.m. wearing bib 2. He will be followed by Newell (bib 21), Bjornsen (bib 34), and Logan Hanneman (bib 44).

Hamilton, Newell, and Bjornsen are all U.S. Ski Team members, longtime World Cup starters, and multiple-time Olympians. Hanneman earned his first World Cup starts earlier this season, after narrowly edging out older brother Reese Hanneman as the best qualifier at U.S. nationals. In his only prior World Cup classic sprint, the Fairbanks native and Alaska Pacific University skier finished 35th in qualifying last month in Planica, Slovenia, less than two seconds out of making the heats.

Qualification starts at 11:30 p.m. tonight Alaska time (3:30 a.m. Eastern), with the heats starting at 2 a.m. Alaska time Tuesday (6 a.m. Eastern), and the finals at 3:25 a.m. (7:25 a.m. Eastern). 

Start lists: women | men

Viewing guide

— Gavin Kentch

City of Dresden to Host First World Cup on Manmade Loop

A view of the 1.2 k World Cup sprint course from the bridge that spans the Elbe River in Dresden, Germany. Racers will ski beneath its farthest left arch.

DRESDEN, Germany — With the conclusion of the Tour de Ski last Sunday, nearly 120 World Cup athletes gradually made their way to Dresden for the Period 2 of the International Ski Federation (FIS) Cross Country World Cup season.

On Saturday, those racers will tackle a brand-new 1.2-kilometer course (it was originally set to be 1.4 k, but shortened due lack of stored snow) in Dresden, which is hosting its first FIS Cross Country World Cup. The entire track is set along the city’s Elbe River, one of Central Europe’s major waterways. According to a course official, there is “no natural” snow on course; only manmade snow will be used for the weekend’s freestyle races (with individual sprints Saturday and team sprints on Sunday). This perhaps makes sense as the races are within walking distance of the city center’s major shopping plaza.

Conditions at the Dresden World Cup race venue on Friday.

Temperatures on Saturday afternoon were around 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit). On all sides of the surrounding course fence — and a diamond inside where the course splits for the athletes to turn back to the finish — green grass was a visible reminder that this venue is in Saxony’s second-largest city and capital (Saxony being an eastern German state).

Spectators may watch the races from atop the bridge that spans the Elbe, as competitors ski under the left-most arch (as shown in the photo at the top of this post) and between the final brick abutments.

The course is predominantly flat, with one climb about two-thirds of the way through followed by a brief flat and the course’s sole downhill, which then leads into a 100-meter finish.

The freestyle sprint weekend opens with the women’s qualifier at 9:50 a.m. CET.

Start lists: Women | Men

A groomer sets on out the Dresden 1.2-kilometer sprint course on Friday.

— Gabby Naranja

U.S. Ski Team Names Tour de Ski Squad

Jessie Diggins skates to a Tour de Ski stage win in Toblach, Italy. (Photo: U.S. Ski Team/Getty Images)

(Press release)

Four stage winners will highlight athletes named by the U.S. Ski Team to compete in the upcoming Tour de Ski. The Team heads into the seven-stop tour with optimism based on strong early season results with two different athletes on World Cup podiums. The Tour opens Dec. 30 in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. All events will be streamed live on OlympicChannel.com and broadcast daily on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA with the finale also on NBCSN.

The grueling seven-stage tour will cover three stops in three nations over a nine-day period before the Sunday, January 7 finale up the towering Alpe Cermis hill climb in Val di Fiemme, Italy. It opens with three races in Lenzerheide, Switzerland kicking off with a freestyle sprint, followed by classic distance racing and a freestyle pursuit. The Tour then swings to Oberstdorf, Germany for a classic sprint plus mass start skate distance. The classic sprint is the final Olympic selection event for athletes to qualify via a top-eight finish. The Tour wraps up in Val di Fiemme with classic distance racing and the hill climb finale.

Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) will be back seeking to better her fifth overall ranking year ago – matching the American mark held by Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, Vt.). Stephen will be starting her seventh Tour de Ski – most of any American woman. Kikkan Randall (Anchorage), who has two stage wins, will make her fifth start. Sophie Caldwell (Peru, Vt.) is looking forward to coming back to Oberstdorf, Germany where she won the classic sprint two years ago.

One dark horse to watch is Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.). Bjornsen is coming off her best start ever with a pair of podiums, starting her fifth Tour.

On the men’s side, Simi Hamilton (Aspen, Colo.) is looking forward to the return of the freestyle sprint in Lenzerheide, which he won in 2014. After a one year break, Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, Vt.) will make his eighth start. He debuted as the first American in the Tour de Ski in 2010. Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.), off to his best World Cup start ever, will make his fourth Tour appearance.

Head Coach Chris Grover is looking forward the Tour with one of the strongest and deepest teams ever. “It’s a huge boost to come in with six athletes who have been on Tour de Ski podiums, including four winners,” said Grover.

The team is especially stacked in sprint with five women from the top-13 of the World Cup sprint standings including Bjornsen, Diggins, Caldwell, Randall and Ida Sargent (Orleans, Vt.), who is returning for her third Tour after a one year hiatus.

“I’m really happy that I found good race performances in Period 1 which give me confidence that my shape is strong,” said Randall, who was on a sprint podium earlier this month. “Now it’s just a matter of staying healthy and getting in good consistent training and hard efforts until the Olympics.”

Randall plans to ski the three races in Lenzerheide, before taking a break to train in Davos, Switzerland to prepare for the Dresden, Germany city sprints a week after the Tour.

“The Tour de Ski has been my favorite series of racing in the entire winter,” said Bjornsen, who has her sights set on completing the Tour. “I love the challenge of it, and the perfect balance of racing hard, recovering, traveling, racing hard, recovering, traveling. It takes such a unique skill mentally and physically to take on this beast, and I have loved trying to get better and better at it each year.”

Bjornsen and her teammates are very cognizant that this year’s Tour de Ski falls just a month prior to the Olympics, which is the primary focus. In particular, she has her eyes on the Oberstdorf classic sprint – which teammate Caldwell won two years ago.

“I see the first half of the Tour as a great opportunity to do some racing on two sprint courses I love (Lenzerheide and Oberstdorf) and to also get two distance races in,” said Sophie Caldwell, who won the classic sprint in Oberstdorf two years ago. “It’s an exciting change to the schedule because usually we are racing once or twice every weekend and this is a week of more intensive racing with a nice break on either end. I hope to be rested, healthy, and skiing fast through the first four stages and then look forward to cheering on my teammates who plan on finishing the tour!”

“I love tour style racing,” said Brennan, who is focused on skiing the entire Tour. “It is so fun to challenge the mind and body like that so I am looking forward to the experience. No tour is the same so it’s hard to predict what your body will feel any given day, but that is part of the fun, just working with what you have and knowing that everyone is going to be fighting fatigue at some point. Racing so many days often gives my body a big boost in fitness so I hope to have a good rest after the Tour and then use the fitness boost to carry me forward.”

“The Tour is a blast because it’s go-go-go the whole time,” said Sargent. She will ski through the classic sprint in Oberstdorf before taking off to prepare for Dresden. “I also think the new wax truck is going to be a game changer for our team when it comes to an event like the Tour.  Having the stable environment that does not require a lot of packing and unpacking will make a huge difference for the wax techs.”

“The Tour de Ski is my favorite event of the year,” said Stephen. “I feel a giddy excitement creeping in as it gets closer. Climbing Alpe Cermis on the ninth day is a pretty incredible feeling for me. In the past, the Tour de Ski has been the turning point of my season, with each race tuning me up more and more and I always feel like it gets me into the shape I am looking for heading into the Olympics.”

The only newcomer to the Tour de Ski this season will be Paddy Caldwell (Lyme, N.H.). “Paddy is in great shape and has been skiing with a lot of poise for a rookie in his first season on the World Cup,” added Grover.

Many of the top team athletes are presently training in Seefeld, Austria, site of the 2019 World Championships. Other are scattered across France, Italy and Switzerland with family and friends.

Live streaming of every stage is available on OlympicChannel.com or the Olympic Channel mobile app. Same day broadcast coverage will be featured on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA TV. Live scoring data is available at FIS-Ski.com, including GPS tracking at some distance events.

 

2018 U.S. SKI TEAM TOUR DE SKI ROSTER

MEN
Erik Bjornsen, Winthrop, Wash.
– Fourth Tour de Ski start
– Strong early World Cup season

Paddy Caldwell, Lyme, N.H.
– First time in Tour de Ski

Simi Hamilton, Aspen, Colo.
– Sixth Tour de Ski start
– Won 2014 Lenzerheide freestyle sprint

Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, Vt.
– Eighth Tour de Ski start – most of any American
– Was first American to compete in Tour de Ski in 2010

WOMEN
Sadie Bjornsen, Winthrop, Wash.
– Fifth Tour de Ski start
– Finished 14th in 2016 in only Tour finish
– Two classic sprint podiums in early season World Cups
– Presently eighth in World Cup overall standings

Rosie Brennan, Park City, Utah
– Third Tour de Ski start
– Strong early season distance results

Sophie Caldwell, Peru, Vermont
– Fifth Tour de Ski start
– Won Oberstdorf classic sprint in 2016

Jessie Diggins, Afton, Minn.
– Sixth Tour de Ski start
– Fifth in 2017 matching best U.S. finish ever; was 10th in 2016
– Two podiums in 2017 Tour including a win
– Won Toblach, Italy 5k freestyle in 2016 and 2017
– Four full Tour finishes
– Standing sixth in FIS World Cup overall

Kikkan Randall, Anchorage, AK
– Fifth Tour de Ski start (skipped 2014 Tour to prepare for Olympics and 2016 while pregnant)
– Won two stages in 2013 including Oberhof prologue and Val Mustair freestyle sprint
– Finished 10th in 2012
– Three full Tour finishes

Ida Sargent, Orleans, Vt.
– Third Tour de Ski start

Liz Stephen, E. Montpelier, Vt.
– Seventh Tour de Ski start – most of any American woman.
– Has finished all six Tours she has entered – also most of any American athlete
– Holds top U.S. Tour de Ski finish of fifth (2015) as well as a seventh (2014); was 14th in 2017
– Second in Alpe Cermis hill climb in 2013, 2014, 2016 and 2017
– 5th in Val di Fiemme 10k classic mass start in 2016

2018 TOUR DE SKI SCHEDULE (all times EST)
All events to be streamed on OlympicChannel.com with broadcast coverage on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA TV or NBCSN for many events.

LENZERHEIDE, SWITZERLAND
Saturday, December 30
7:00 a.m. – Men’s and women’s freestyle sprint (Olympic Channel TV)

Sunday, December 31
4:30 a.m. – Men’s 15k classic (Streaming only)
9:00 a.m. – Women’s 10k classic (9:30 a.m. Olympic Channel TV)

Monday, January 1
5:00 a.m. – Women’s 10k freestyle pursuit (Olympic Channel TV)
7:00 a.m. – Men’s 15k freestyle pursuit (Streaming only)

OBERSTDORF, GERMANY
Wednesday, January 3
8:50 a.m. – Men’s and women’s classic sprint (12:00 p.m. Olympic Channel TV)
NOTE: Final Olympic selection event to qualify through a top-eight finish

Thursday, January 4
4:00 a.m. – Women’s 10k classic mass start (Olympic Channel TV)
5:00 a.m. – Men’s 15k classic mass start (Streaming only)

VAL DI FIEMME
Saturday, January 6
8:15 a.m. – Women’s 10k classic mass start (11:00 a.m. Olympic Channel TV)
9:45 a.m. – Men’s 15k classic mass start (Streaming only)

Sunday, January 7
5:30 a.m. – Women’s 9k freestyle pursuit – hill climb (7:30 a.m. NBCSN, 11:00 a.m. Olympic Channel TV)
8:30 a.m. – Men’s 9k freestyle pursuit – hill climb (Streaming only)

USA TOUR DE SKI HISTORY
USA Tour de Ski Stage Winners
Jessie Diggins – 2017 Toblach 5k
Jessie Diggins – 2016 Toblach 5k
Sophie Caldwell – 2016 Oberstdorf classic sprint
Simi Hamilton – 2014 Lenzerheide freestyle sprint
Kikkan Randall – 2013 Val Mustair freestyle sprint
Kikkan Randall – 2013 Oberhof prologue

USA Tour de Ski Stage Podiums
Jessie Diggins – 1st 2017 Toblach 5k
Sadie Bjornsen – 3rd 2017 Toblach 5k
Jessie Diggins – 2nd 2017 Oberstdorf skiathlon
Jessie Diggins – 1st 2016 Toblach 5k
Sophie Caldwell – 1st 2016 Oberstdorf classic sprint
Simi Hamilton – 1st 2014 Lenzerheide freestyle sprint
Kikkan Randall – 1st 2013 Val Mustair freestyle sprint
Kikkan Randall – 1st 2013 Oberhof prologue
Kikkan Randall – 2nd 2012 Toblach freestyle sprint

USA Tour de Ski Other Top Three (time of day or scorable race segment)
Liz Stephen – 2nd 2017 Alpe Cermis 9k
Liz Stephen – 2nd 2016 Alpe Cermis 9k
Liz Stephen – 2nd 2014 Alpe Cermis 9k
Noah Hoffman – 1st 2014 Toblach to Cortina to Toblach freestyle leg
Liz Stephen – 2nd 2013 Alpe Cermis 9k

2019, 2020 World Cup Finals Tentatively Set for Québec City

Canada’s Alex Harvey (4) celebrates a win with his hometown crowd this past March at 2017 World Cup Finals in Quebec City. (Photo: Andre Lyra)

After a two-year hiatus, World Cup Finals are expected to return to Québec City in March 2019 and 2020, according to Gestev, a Québec-based event management company.

A Gestev press release stated that the International Ski Federation (FIS) Technical Committee and FIS Cross-Country Committee meetings are still underway in Zurich, Switzerland, but as of Friday, it had been confirmed that FIS Cross-Country World Cup Finals will be hosted by Canada for back-to-back years in 2019 and 2020.

“It’s a huge step forward for Québec City to cement its place on the calendar for two years in a row,” FIS Race Director Pierre Mignerey said in the release. “We should stress, though, that the entire race calendars for both years are subject to FIS Council approval this November.”

The 2019 dates are tentatively set for March 22-24.

“The format of the 2020 event is yet to be confirmed, but the 2019 competition will be the same as what we saw in March this year,” Gestev President Patrice Drouin said from his seat at the FIS meetings.

According to the release, Québec City’s 2017 World Cup Finals this past March attracted more than 60,000 people to the historic Plains of Abraham in March 2017. The event was voted the top stop on the World Cup circuit last season in an FIS survey.

Local favorite Alex Harvey, who finished third in the overall World Cup standings last year, is expected to “retire from World Cup competition on home soil” after the 2019 World Cup Finals.

“Right now, my plans are to stay on the World Cup circuit until the end of the 2018-2019 season,” he said, according to the press release. “It would truly be an honour for me to wrap up my career here in Quebec City. In fact, I could never dream of a better scenario. I’ll never forget what I achieved here back in March, and I have fond memories of the 2012 Sprint Québec and 2016 Ski Tour Canada competitions. It’s such a huge source of pride for me and the rest of the Canadian team to ski in front of a home crowd. It really is an incredible opportunity for us to race in a World Cup right in our back yard!”

Live Coverage of Nordic World Champs on NBC

(Press release)

LAHTI, Finland (Feb. 15, 2017) – NBC Sports Group is offering nordic ski fans in America the most robust opportunity ever to view their sport with wall-to-wall live coverage of the International Ski Federation’s 2017 Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland. Every event will be streamed live with commentary on NBCsports.com and for the first time, more than 24 hours of same day televised coverage will be broadcast on NBCSN or Universal HD. In total, NBC Sports Group will present more than 60 hours of Nordic World Ski Championships coverage.

The expanded coverage is a result of a U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) initiative to expand domestic coverage of nordic skiing – cross country, nordic combined and ski jumping. The USSA acquired the domestic rights for the 2015 and 2017 Alpine and Nordic World Championships, subsequently partnering with NBC to carry the programming coverage. The expanded reach through television partners NBCSN and Universal HD guarantees that the events and the U.S. athletes will receive more exposure to American audiences than ever before.

NBC commentator Bill Doleman will provide the daily play-by-play, with World Champion and Olympic medalist Johnny Spillane handling expert analysis. Spillane has provided strong coverage the last few years on both the Tour de Ski and Springertournee ski jumping series.

The World Championships opens Wednesday, Feb. 22 with NBC kicking off its coverage with the first event on Thursday, Feb. 23. On Thursday, NBCsports.com will provide live streaming of the head-to-head cross country classic sprint races beginning at 10:30 a.m. EST. Same day broadcast coverage on NBCSN will begin at 3:00 p.m. EST.

Each day of the Championships, NBCsports.com will provide live streaming with full same-day event coverage of each medal competition on either NBCSN or Universal HD.

“NBC Sports Group has significantly expanded its offering from the past to bring not only live streaming but daily television coverage,” said USSA Chief Marketing Officer Michael Jaquet. “We have a strong team going to Lahti and this is a remarkable opportunity to expose our athletes to the American public a year before the Olympics in PyeongChang.”

The USSA acquired the rights to the World Championships in a first-of-its-kind partnership between the rights-holding European Broadcast Union and a national ski association. In 2015, not only did the USSA expand the live streaming and broadcast coverage, but its distribution of digital highlights brought the events to millions more than ever before.

“The USSA has managed to secure electronic media exposure which exceeded our expectations, bringing ski racing broadcasts in USA to a new level,” said EBU/Eurovision Head of Sports Winters/Winter Sports Ingolfur Hannesson. “Eurovision is extremely pleased with our constructive cooperation with the USSA during the period leading to the Championships.”

2017 FIS NORDIC WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS
Live Streaming and Broadcast Schedule (times EST)

Thursday, Feb. 23
10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Classic Sprint – LIVE STREAM
5:30 – 7:30 p.m. – Classic Sprint – TV: NBCSN

Friday, Feb. 24
3:30-4:30 a.m. – Nordic combined HS100m ski jumping – LIVE STREAM
6:30-7:30 a.m. – Nordic combined 10k – LIVE STREAM
10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Women’s HS100m ski jumping – LIVE STREAM
1:30-2:30 p.m. – Women’s HS100m ski Jumping – TV: NBCSN
2:30-4:00 p.m. – Daily broadcast coverage – TV: Universal HD

Saturday, Feb. 25
5:00-7:00 a.m. – Women’s skiathlon – LIVE STREAM
7:30-9:30 a.m. – Men’s skiathlon – LIVE STREAM
10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. – Men’s HS100m Ski jumping – LIVE STREAM
8:00-11:00 p.m. – Daily broadcast coverage – TV: Universal HD

Sunday, Feb. 26
5:00-6:00 a.m. – Nordic combined team HS100m ski jumping – LIVE STREAM
6:30-8:30 a.m. – Team freestyle sprint – LIVE STREAM
8:30-9:30 a.m. – Nordic combined 4x5k team event – LIVE STREAM
10:30 a.m.-12:40 p.m. – Mixed gender HS100m ski jumping team event – LIVE STREAM
9:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. – Daily broadcast coverage – TV: Universal HD

Tuesday, Feb. 28
6:45-8:45 a.m. – Women’s 10k classic – LIVE STREAM|
5:30-7:00 p.m. – Women’s 10k classic – TV: Universal HD

Wednesday, Mar. 1
5:00-6:00 a.m. – Nordic combined HS130m ski jumping – LIVE STREAM
6:45-8:45 a.m. – Men’s 15k classic – LIVE STREAM
9:15-10:15 a.m. – Nordic combined 10k – LIVE STREAM
7:00-10:00 p.m. – Daily broadcast coverage – TV: Universal HD

Thursday, Mar. 2
8:00-10:00 a.m. – Women’s 4x5k relay – LIVE STREAM
11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. – Men’s HS130m ski jumping – LIVE STREAM
1:00-3:00 p.m – Daily broadcast coverage – TV: NBCSN

Friday, Mar. 3
6:30-8:30 a.m. – Men’s 4x10k relay – LIVE STREAM
9:00-10:00 a.m. – Nordic combined HS130m ski jump – LIVE STREAM
11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. – Nordic combined 2×7.5k team sprint – LIVE STREAM
12:00-2:30 p.m. – Daily broadcast coverage – TV: NBCSN

Saturday, Mar. 4
7:30-9:30 a.m. – Women’s 30k freestyle – LIVE STREAM
10:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. – Men’s HS130m ski jumping team event – LIVE STREAM
7:30-10:30 p.m. – Daily broadcast coverage – TV: Universal HD

Sunday, Mar. 5
7:00-9:00 a.m. – Men’s 50k freestyle – LIVE STREAM
1:30-3:30 p.m. – Men’s 50k freestyle – TV: Universal HD

Canada Nominates Preliminary World Cup Finals Team

(Note: This post has been updated to include Len Valjas, Knute Johngaard, Jess Cockney, and Graeme Killick as team nominees. They were mistakenly omitted from Cross Country Canada’s original press release.) 

Earlier this week, Cross Country Canada (CCC) announced its preliminary selections for World Cup Finals, which will be held March 17-19 in Quebec City, Quebec.

According to the press release: “This preliminary selection is based on 7.5.a-e of the Amendment to the Selection Criteria for Competitions (23-Jan.-2017): http://www.cccski.com/National-Ski-Team/Selection-Criteria/Amendment–2—2016-17-Selection-Criteria-for-Comp.aspx#.WKNIE7YrJhE. The remainder of the selection process (7.5.f-g) will be completed after March 5 to allow consideration of all the international race results in February and early March.”

The preliminary selections (nine men and seven women) are outlined below. Canada’s Nation’s Cup quota for World Cup Finals is 15 women and 15 men.

2017 World Championship Team

  • Alex Harvey                           NST – CNEPH – Club Nordique Mont Ste Ann
  • Devon Kershaw                      NST – Onaping Falls
  • Len Valjas
  • Knute Johngaard
  • Jess Cockney
  • Graeme Killick
  • Emily Nishikawa                    NST – Whitehorse
  • Dahria Beatty                          NST – AWCA – Whitehorse
  • Cendrine Browne                    NST – CNEPH – Fondeurs
  • Katherine Stewart Jones          NST – TBay NTDC – Nakkertok
  • Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt           NST – AWCA – Fondeurs-Laurentides

FIS Continental Cup Leaders at end of Period 3

  • Maya MacIsaac-Jones             NST – AWCA – Rocky Mountain Racers
  • Russell Kennedy                     Canmore Nordic

World Junior Championships (top 12 result)

  • Gareth Williams                      NST Jr – Telemark

NorAm Ranking: Top ranked athletes based on best 4 races (this excludes athletes selected above):

  • Andy Shields (1st)                  Lappe
  • Sophie Carrier-Laforte (6th)   CNEPH – Skinouk

COC Points – Best 4 Cdn Results for WC Selection – Women
COC Points – Best 4 Cdn Results for WC Selection – Men

*PyeongChang World Cup results between 20 and 30 were not considered in this preliminary selection based on an analysis of the depth of field at this event. These results may be considered in the final selection process 7.5.f.

Canada Picks Team for PyeongChang World Cup, Feb. 3-5

Earlier this week, Cross Country Canada (CCC) announced its squad for the World Cup Feb. 3-5 in PyeongChang, South Korea. The long weekend, which serves as a pre-Olympic World Cup, includes three days of racing: a classic sprint, skiathlon and team sprint. According to a CCC, the following athletes were selected based on results at the U.S. nationals trials races held earlier this month at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah (selection synopsis):

Andrea Dupont                       Rocky Mountain Racers
Annika Hicks                          AWCA – Canmore Nordic
Sadie White                            Thunder Bay NTDC –  Big Thunder
Len Valjas                               NST – Team Hardwood
Jess Cockney                           NST – Foothills Nordic
Bob Thompson                        Thunder Bay NTDC – Team Hardwood
Julien Locke                            AWCA – NST – Blackjack
Simon Lapointe                       CNEPH – Skinouk
Brian McKeever                      Para-Nordic National Ski Team

Trip leader: Charles Castonguay

U.S. Amends Selection Criteria, Expands Quota for World Cup Finals

With the 2017 World Cup Finals being moved to Canada, both Canada and the U.S. get to enter more athletes in the last races of the 2016/2017 World Cup season. The U.S. Ski Team (USST) benefits from what USST Head Coach Chris Grover explained in an email as a “1/2 Nation’s Group” quota, granting a total of 23 starts to the U.S.

On Friday, the USST posted an amended selection criteria for World Cup Finals, which will take place in Québec City from March 17-19. (More on USSA selection criteria)

“Because these races were originally scheduled to be in Russia, we did not have a selection criteria for a Nation’s Group in place,” Grover explained. “Because we have USA athletes currently racing all over the planet, and participating in various race series, this criteria is intended to provide multiple paths to qualifying for Quebec City, including World Cup, the Lahti World Champs, the SuperTour, and the WJC/U23 World Championships.”

While the race formats for the three-day mini tour have yet to be decided and will “most likely” be decided Saturday night at the World Cup in Ulricehamn, Sweden, Grover wrote that the USA’s total quotas are as follows:

Women:

  • 6 National Quota USA
  • 1 COC Overall Leader
  • 5 Nation’s Group
    = 12 Women Total

Men:

  • 5 National Quota USA
  • 1 COC Overall Leader
  • 5 Nation’s Group
    = 11 Men Total

According to page 2 of the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association’s 2016/2017 Cross Country World Cup Team selection criteria, “Individuals who meet the following criteria will be selected to the Word Cup Cross Country Team for the World Cup Finals (March 17-19, 2017).

  • Athletes ranking in the top-50 in the Distance World Cup standings or in the top-50 in the Sprint World Cup standings as of February 20, 2017 shall be selected to the team.
  • The leaders of the Overall USSA SuperTour classification (man and woman) on February 19, 2017.
  • Athletes finishing in the top-25 in an individual event at the 2017 Lahti World Championships shall be named to the Team.
  • Athletes finishing in the top-12 in an individual event at the 2017 U23 World Championships shall be named to the Team.
  • Athletes finishing in the top-10 in an individual event at the 2017 World Junior Championships shall be named to the Team.
  • Should there be any remaining positions after the Objective and Discretionary selection has been applied, those positions may be filled by considering the athletes ranking highest on the 2016-2017 SuperTour Overall points lists for men and women on February 19, 2017.”

More information will be posted when it becomes available.

Québec City to Host 2017 World Cup Finals

Quebec City's own Alex Harvey greeting the crowd at the Ski Tour Canada last year in Quebec City, Quebec. (Photo: Gestev)

Quebec City’s own Alex Harvey (12) greeting the crowd at the Ski Tour Canada last year in Quebec City, Quebec. (Photo: Gestev)

On Sunday, the International Ski Federation (FIS) announced that 2017 Cross-Country World Cup Finals have been officially moved to Québec City, Quebec. The season-ending event was originally scheduled for Tyumen, Russia, but when Tyumen relinquished its hosting responsibilities last month, FIS approached Québec City, according to a press release from the Québec organizers, Gestev.

The three-day World Cup Finals will take place Friday through Sunday, March 17-19, and include a sprint day and two days of distance racing on the Plains of Abraham.

“The exact formats and starting times will be communicated later after further discussion with all the key stakeholders,” a FIS press release stated.

“We’re excited to announce this great news for Canadian athletes and the people of Quebec City, and it’s all taking place thanks to teamwork and dialogue between numerous stakeholders,” said Gestev President Patrice Drouin said, according to a press release. “An event like this reiterates our support for cross-country skiing and these remarkable athletes as well as strengthening existing ties between the FIS, the City of Quebec, the National Battlefields Commission and many more public and private event partners.”

More details will be posted as they become available.

Kasper Opposed to Blanket Sanction: ‘That’s Wrong Both Humanly and Legally’ (Updated)

According to the International Ski Federation (FIS) in an email to FasterSkier on Thursday, FIS President Gian-Franco Kasper “has always maintained that he is opposed to a blanket sanction against all Russian athletes — this has nothing to do specifically with Cross Country or the six provisionally suspended athletes, but rather with the situation around the McLaren report as a whole.”

FasterSkier previously reported that Kasper spoke out against the decision of FIS’s Doping Panel to provisionally suspend six Russian cross-country skiers, which was originally reported by the Russian News Agency, TASS. In its email to FasterSkier, FIS wrote that this was not the case.

“We should not suspend those who are innocent,” Kasper previously told the German public broadcasting radio station, Deutschlandfunk, according to TASS. “We should punish only whose who are guilty, we cannot do that indiscriminately just because they have Russian passports. That’s wrong both humanly and legally.

“I understand that many athletes are concerned in this situation,” Kasper continued. “However, just two hours after the IOC gave us an opportunity to make a decision, we suspended all six Russian cross country skiers placed on the list of WADA’s Independent Commission head, Richard McLaren. Now let’s see what our investigation will show.”

He emphasized that FIS is not considering banning Russian skiers from the 2018 Olympics.

A Week Later: The Outlook for Johaug and Latest Speculation

Therese Johaug celebrates her World Championship in the 30km freestyle.

Norway’s Therese Johaug celebrating her victory in the 30 k freestyle at 2011 World Championships in Oslo, Norway.

By Aleks Tangen

On Wednesday, Anti-Doping Norway handed its cross-country skiing superstar Therese Johaug a two-month provisional suspension after she tested positive for the anabolic steroid clostebol. Since the Norwegian Ski Federation’s press release and subsequent press conference last Thursday, Oct. 13, much has made it into the news and here is status of her case at this point:

Norwegian national broadcaster NRK published an article on Wednesday explaining what the suspension will mean to Johaug. She is not allowed to compete until Dec. 18 and will therefore miss a total of four World Cup weekends, where based the previous season’s price money, she could have potentially earned more than 700,000 Norwegian kroners, (roughly $86,000 U.S. dollars with the current exchange rate), according to both NRK and Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet.

In addition, Johaug will not be allowed to use any of the Norwegian Olympic Committee’s facilities or train with the Norwegian national team. However, Dagbladet reported that she’ll be able to train with teammates like Marit Bjørgen and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg in their free time.

NRK’s expert Fredrik Aukland, a former coach of Johaug, told NRK that training on her own could be dramatic for the 28-year-old Johaug. Her lawyer, Christian B. Hjort, says that she has accepted the decision and train as best as possible during the suspension.

But that might not be the whole story, according to sports attorney Gunnar-Martin Kjenner, who believes Johaug may have to wait until Easter in early April before she can receive her sentence. He told NRK that the 2016/2017 season may be over for Johaug before it has even started. Kjenner is the author of the book Sport and Law, a leading refference for legal matters in Norwegian sports law and regulation, and he represented Norwegian race walker Erik Tysse, who, in 2010, received a two-year ban after testing positive for Cera, commonly reffered to as EPO. Kjenner said he believes a sentence will be delivered between January and April 2017. Kjenner explains that these types of cases tend to take several months to carry out investigations.

Another NRK article specifies that the suspension means that Anti-Doping Norway assumes that Johaug’s final sentence will be at least two months long, which is based on Anti-Doping Norway’s own regulations. Anti-doping Norway has declined to comment on the length of the investigation.

Johaug and Anti-Doping Norway in Disagreement

During the press conference last Thursday, Oct. 13, Johaug said, “I’m going to show everyone how innocent I am in this case.” In a press release this Wednesday, Oct. 19, Anti-Doping Norway stated, “that the prosecution committee is of the opinion that the athlete cannot be without guilt.” The leader of the prosecution committee elaborated on this to NRK, saying, “Johaug didn’t thoroughly investigate the content of the lip cream, which she is required to do and therefore a suspension is warranted.”

Both NRK and Norwegian tabloid VG  have reported that Johaug did receive the tube and the packaging it came in where there is a sign that says, “Doping”. In another article, VG reports that the packaging contained a leaflet with a warning in Italian. That warning says, “The use of this drug without therapeutic need constitutes doping and may result in a positive drug test.” The article did not specify whether or not Johaug speaks Italian.

Lawyer Randi Gustad, a former professional handball player and sports commentator, tweeted on Friday, Oct. 14, that she “doesn’t understand why everyone is so concerned with the packaging when the extenuating circumstance with regards to a punishment is the advice from the doctor.” 

Johaug’s attorney told Norwegian TV2  that they disagree with the prosecution committee’s basis for the suspension since all aspects of the case have to be revealed. But they do however accept the decision.

Johaug said in a statement released by the Norwegian Ski Federation that she takes the decision “with a heavy heart,” but “accepts it” and is now focused on working toward a full acquittal.

When asked by VG  on Thursday, Oct. 20, if Johaug will talk to press in the near future, her manager Joern Ernst says “We’re taking this day by day, we’ll see. All of this is really about one thing; Therese. There’s no strategy or tactic, it’s all about her.”

Robin Mackenzie-Robinson, an expert in Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rulings, told VG that he guessed Johaug would receive minimum one-year ban based on applicable laws in the Norwegian Confederation of Sports and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code.

An interesting question has been raised in light of this case. Bjørgen, Johaug’s teammate and Olympic, World Championship and World Cup winner, asked the question, “Is it all worth it?” in an interview with TV2 last Friday. She went on to say, “Maybe I should stop and do something else.” She received support from Østberg and Olaf Tufte, a Norwegian rower, who won gold in the 2004 Athens Olympics, 2008 Beijing Olympics, and silver in the 2000 Sydney Games, and bronze this summer in Rio.

“Is it worth doing professional sports when so much can happen from so little and the risks of having your career ruined is so unimaginably great?” Tufte told TV2.

When asked if he is evaluating his own future, he answered, “Like Marit said, ‘Is it worth it?’

He gave an example, saying that he, a 40-year-old man, cannot consume cough syrup because it contains Efedrin, which is an illegal substance according to doping regulations, but that his 6-year-old son is allowed to do so.

In spite of all this, Johaug appears to have her nation’s popular opinion on her side. On Friday, VG published the result of a questionnaire conducted by Infact.no, which concluded that only 14.4 percent of the Norwegian people think she’s fully responsible for what happened. When asked if their trust in Johaug has been weakened, almost 80 percent answered, “Not changed or strengthened.” It is worth noting that since these findings were published, evidence of Johaug’s negligence have surfaced. But this might not have mattered much to her fans. On Wednesday, NRK reported that the sales from her clothing line skyrocketed since news of her positive drug test were revealed. Active Brands Nordic Director Oystein Braata, the owner of the Johaug brand, said in the same article, “the previous weekend was the best one we’ve ever had”.

Kari-Pekka Kyrö’s Lifetime Ban Overturned

Lifetime ban no more? The former head coach of the Finnish cross-country team Kari-Pekka Kyrö, who was at the epicenter of his team’s doping scandal at the 2001 Lahti World Championships, may be a free agent after the Finnish Ski Federation recently overturned his lifetime ban, Ski-Lines reported on Sunday.

But first, that decision must be approved by Finland’s Anti-Doping Agency and the International Ski Federation (FIS). According to FIS Secretary General Sarah Lewis, in such cases, FIS trusts the national federations’ decisions.

Under Kyrö, six Finnish skiers — Janne Immonen, Jari Isometsä, Harri Kirvesniemi, Mika Myllylä, Milla Jauho, and Virpi Kuitunen — tested positive for banned substances, allegedly used to disguise their use of erythropoietin (EPO). As part of his punishment, Kyrö had to pay a fine for importing illegal drugs into his country.

“All these years, it was very hard,” Kyrö, 52, said. “This [coaching] is the only profession in which I have a degree and I know. In social and professional terms, it was a very severe punishment.”

FIS Survey Seeks Fan Feedback

(Press release)

FIS Cross-Country would like to learn from its fans and followers, athletes, teams and the media what they like about the FIS Cross-Country World Cup in its current format and what should be changed in future.

In order to collect as much feedback as possible a survey has been prepared in multiple languages.

Click below to submit your feedback:

English

French

German

Finnish

STC Canmore Photo Galleries

Canada's Alex Harvey (r) racing to fifth in the men's 15 k freestyle at the Ski Tour Canada in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Jon Nelson/jon-nelson.com)

Canada’s Alex Harvey (r) racing to fifth in the men’s 15 k freestyle at the Ski Tour Canada in Canmore, Alberta. (Photo: Jon Nelson/jon-nelson.com)

Earlier this month, photographer Jon Nelson attended the Ski Tour Canada races in Canmore, Alberta, and has posted six galleries worth of photos recapping the action.

See the complete collection here: http://www.jon-nelson.com/category/cross-country-skiing

Ski Tour Canada Eastern Stage Photos Available

FasterSkier contributing photographer John Lazenby has posted the following galleries from the first three stops and four stages of the 2016 Ski Tour Canada (in Gatineau, Montreal and Quebec City). Special thanks to John. See all of his images at Lazenbyphoto.com.

STC East: Highlights (general interest)

STC East: Athletes, Coaches, Volunteers

 

 

Johaug and Sundby Win Out in Final Stage of STC; Diggins and Harvey 5th Overall

The all-Norwegian women's podium at the final stage of the Ski Tour Canada, the 10 k classic pursuit, with winner Therese Johaug (c), Heidi Weng (l) in second and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (r) in third.

The all-Norwegian women’s podium at the final stage of the Ski Tour Canada, the 10 k classic pursuit, with winner Therese Johaug (c), Heidi Weng (l) in second and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (r) in third.

Saturday was a good day to be a favorite — and an overall World Cup leader as who have been beating out the masses all season won the final race of 2015/2016 and last stage of the Ski Tour Canada (STC), the classic pursuits in Canmore, Alberta.

Norway’s Therese Johaug raced from second to first in the women’s 10-kilometer classic pursuit, overcoming a 30-second starting deficit and beating teammate Heidi Weng by 1:07.8 minutes in 34:12.4. Weng shook her head in disappointment at the finish after being unable to hang with Johaug, both the Overall and Distance World Cup winner, after Johaug caught her around 4 k and dropped Weng shortly thereafter.

“I cannot believe that I win this Tour because it’s three sprint races …,” Johaug said in a post-race interview with FIS. “Everybody knows that I’m good in [the final climb of the Tour de Ski], but here it is normal track and not a lot of hills. For me, it was a goal to win this Tour because I never thought I could win here. .. It’s so good to finish the season with a victory here.”

Ingvild Flugstad Østberg made it an all-Norwegian STC podium in third, 2:13.3 back, and Krista Parmakoski of Finland raced from sixth for fourth (+2:56.2) with the fastest time of day in 33:41.8.

American Jessie Diggins started fifth and held her position, after being passed by Parmakoski (who started 7 seconds behind her) then overtaking Norway’s Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, the fourth starter, while clinging to Parmakoski. Diggins finished fifth (+3:08.5), ahead of Jacobsen in sixth (+4:12), and Diggins posted the third-fastest time of day (after Johaug’s second fastest time).

Jessie Diggins (U.S. Ski Team) started fifth and finished fifth overall in the Ski Tour Canada in the final stage, the 10 k classic pursuit, on Saturday in Canmore, Alberta.

Jessie Diggins (U.S. Ski Team) started fifth and finished fifth overall in the Ski Tour Canada in the final stage, the 10 k classic pursuit, on Saturday in Canmore, Alberta.

“I don’t see myself as leading the team; I see myself as being the team cheerleader,” Diggins said after. “That’s my role and I’m really proud to be in that role. I’m really proud of our whole team this season.”

Two other Finnish skiers landed in the top 10, with Kerttu Niskanen in seventh (+5:20.5) and Anne Kyllönen in eighth (+5:34.8). Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk placed ninth (+6:55.7) and Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla — a sprint specialist who did not complete the Tour de Ski earlier in the season — took 10th (+7:07.8).

American Sadie Bjornsen started 11th and held her position for 11th overall (+7:12.4), about a second ahead of Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla in 12th. A third U.S. Ski Team (USST) member, Rosie Brennan placed 24th (+12:28.5) while Chelsea Holmes (Alaska Pacific University) ended her first tour in 31st (+15:12.5). Caitlin Gregg (USST/Team Gregg) placed 33rd, Ida Sargent (Craftsbury Green Racing Project/USST) was 34th, and Katharine Ogden (Stratton Mountain School/USST) 36th.

Emily Nishikawa, a leading member of Canada’s Senior Development Team, was the top Canadian in 37th and Cendrine Browne (Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre/CNST) placed 40th.

American Kaitlynn Miller (CGRP) was 41st, Annika Taylor (Sugar Bowl Academy/Great Britain) was 42nd, Annie Hart (SMST2) 43rd, Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (CNST) 44th, Jessica Yeaton (APU/Australia) 46th, Annika Hicks (Canmore Nordic) 47th, Jennie Bender (Bridger Ski Foundation), and Maya MacIsaac-Jones (Rocky Mountain Racers) 49th.

Results: Women’s 10 k classic pursuit | Time of day

Overall World Cup

  1. Johaug (NOR) 2681 points
  2. Østberg (NOR) 2302
  3. Weng (NOR) 2172

(*Of note: Diggins 8th overall)

Distance World Cup

  1. Johaug (NOR) 1533
  2. Weng (NOR) 1145
  3. Østberg (NOR) 976

(*Diggins 9th overall)

Norway's Martin Johnsrud Sundby celebrates winning the 2016 Ski Tour Canada by nearly a minute after starting with a 39-second deficit in third at the beginning of Saturday's 15 k classic pursuit in Canmore, Alberta.

Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby celebrates winning the 2016 Ski Tour Canada by nearly a minute after starting with a 39-second deficit in third at the beginning of Saturday’s 15 k classic pursuit in Canmore, Alberta.

In the men’s 15 k classic pursuit, Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby wasted no time tackling a 39-second deficit and racing from third to first, leading Russia’s Sergey Ustiugov and Norway’s Petter Northug (who started second, 32 seconds after Ustiugov) early on the second of four laps at the Canmore Nordic Centre.

At 5.9 k, Sundby had built a 13.2-second lead on Ustiugov, while Northug trailed about a second farther back in third. However, the end of the lap, halfway through the race, Ustiugov and Northug had reined Sundby back in — almost. There at 7.5 k, Ustiugov was 6.7 seconds back and Northug 16.6 seconds behind. About two kilometers later, Sundby had increased his lead once again, 21 seconds ahead of Ustiugov and 48 seconds ahead of Northug.

Alex Harvey (Canadian World Cup Team) closing out the 2016 Ski Tour Canada in fifth overall while Norway's third-place finisher Petter Northug receives some attention on the ground after collapsing in exhaustion at the finish.

Alex Harvey (Canadian World Cup Team) closing out the 2016 Ski Tour Canada in fifth overall while Norway’s third-place finisher Petter Northug receives some attention on the ground after collapsing in exhaustion at the finish.

The leader of both the overall and Distance World Cup, Sundby went on to win the race in 47:24.1, while Ustiugov took second 57.7 seconds later and Northug crossed the line, absolutely spent, nearly a minute later in third (+1:52.5).

“I had my doubts today, man, but you know, final race of the season, I just had to try,” Sundby said in a post-race interview with FIS. “I had to put it all out there today and just go for it. There was no point to go for third today.”

It marked his third-consecutive Crystal Globe (overall World Cup victory).

“I’m sick this is not healthy,” Sundby joked. “But I’m so happy and what a way to finish out the season for me. … Let’s go party now.”

France’s Maurice Manificat rose from seventh to fourth (+2:18.4) with the fastest time of day in 45:54.6, while Canada’s Alex Harvey placed fifth (+2:53.9) after starting fourth and skiing solo for the first half of the race.

Finland’s Matti Heikkinen finished the Tour in sixth, 12.9 seconds after Harvey and 3:06.8 behind Sundby, after starting ninth. Heikkinen had the second fastest time of day, 10.6 seconds behind Manificat.

“I thought there was no way I would get caught, but I got caught,” Harvey said after starting fourth, 1:19 ahead of Norway’s Finn Hågen Krogh, who began the race in fifth. Manificat started another 19 seconds later, following Norway’s Emil Iversen in sixth.

“I have a lot of bad days in my career. It’s just one of them,” Harvey continued. “There’s nothing to worry about. You can’t be on top everyday.”

Norway took seventh through ninth with Iversen, Hans Christer Holund and Krogh, respectively, and Sweden’s Marcus Hellner finished 10th (+6:01.3).

Three Canadians finished in the top 20 of their home tour, with Ivan Babikov in 14th (+7:30.3) and Devon Kershaw in 16th (+8:17.1).

Graeme Killick (Canadian Senior Development Team) was the fourth Canadian in the top 30 in 27th overall (+11.44.3).

Noah Hoffman (Ski & Snowboard Club Vail/U.S. Ski Team) led the Americans in 34th (+13:20.5). Erik Bjornsen (APU/USST) was 42nd, Canada’s Kevin Sandau (AWCA) was 43rd, Scott Patterson (APU) 46th, Michael Somppi (NDC Thunder Bay) 49th, Russell Kennedy (Canmore Nordic) 50th, and Tad Elliott (SSCV) 51st.

Results: Men’s 15 k classic pursuit | Time of day

Overall World Cup

  1. Sundby (NOR) 2634 points
  2. Northug (NOR) 1602
  3. Krogh (NOR) 1584

(*Harvey 7th overall)

Distance World Cup

  1. Sundby (NOR) 1444
  2. Manificat (FRA) 763
  3. Dyrhaug (NOR) 729

Heikkinen Nabs First Win in Five Years; Canada’s Harvey Fourth and Babikov 10th

On Friday, Finland’s Matti Heikkinen, 32, won his first World Cup race since 2011, chasing down the time of Russia’s Evgeniy Belov and beating it at the line in the men’s 15-kilometer freestyle individual start by 13.6 seconds in 35:16.3 in the seventh stage of the Ski Tour Canada in Canmore, Alberta.

Belov had initially commanded the race, holding off Canada’s Alex Harvey by 8.1 seconds at the finish. But the two wouldn’t end up going 1-2. Instead, Heikkinen bumped Belov to second, and Sweden’s Marcus Hellner slotted into third, 13.9 seconds behind Heikkinen and just 0.3 seconds behind Belov.

Harvey missed the podium by 7.8 seconds and ended up 21.7 seconds out of first.

Behind him, France’s Robin Duvillard took fifth (+28.8), Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby settled for sixth (+37.5), Norway’s Finn Hågen Krogh placed seventh (+37.6) and a third Norwegian, Petter Northug, took eighth (+47.4).

Canada’s Ivan Babikov notched his second-straight top 10 in 10th (+1:00.2), behind Norway’s fifth man Hans Christer Holund in ninth (+57.9).

Overall Tour leader Sergey Ustiugov of Russia placed 12th, and is now 32.3 seconds ahead of Northug in the standings with one stage to go.

Sundby is 39.6 seconds back in third heading into Saturday’s final 15 k classic pursuit, and Harvey remains in fourth (+2:10.3). Krogh is fifth (+3:29), Norway’s Emil Iversen is sixth (+3:37.1), and France’s Maurice Manificat is seventh (+3:47.9).

Heikkinen improved to ninth (+4:25.7), 10 seconds behind Holund in eighth, and Hellner is up to 10th (+5:23.3).

Babikov moved into 15th (+7:43.5).

Canada had three in the top 20 in the 15 k with Devon Kershaw in 20th, 1:30 behind the winner. He is 17th overall, 31 seconds behind France’s Jean Marc Gaillard in 16th. Graeme Killick was the fourth Canadian in the points in 29th (+1:48.4) for 27th overall.

Noah Hoffman led the U.S. in 23rd (+1:34.1), putting him in 37th overall. Also on Friday, Erik Bjornsen placed 34th (+2:08.1) for 43rd overall.  Tad Elliott placed 41st, Canadian Kevin Sandau was 43rd, Russell Kennedy (CAN) was 45th, Scott Patterson (USA) 47th, Lenny Valjas (CAN) 49th, and Michael Somppi (CAN) 50th.

Check back at FasterSkier.com for a complete report.

Results | Tour standings (through Stage 7)

Østberg Tops Podium in STC 10 k Freestyle; Diggins 5th

Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg took the lead by the 6.9-kilometer checkpoint and never looked back to win the penultimate stage of Ski Tour Canada, the women’s 10 k freestyle individual start in Canmore, Alberta.  The Norwegian covered the challenging Canmore course in 23.20.1, besting her teammate and overall Tour leader Heidi Weng by 23.0 seconds.  Finland’s Krista Parmakoski reached the podium in third (+24.5) while Norway’s Kari Øyre Slind was a tenth of a second off the podium in fourth. American Jessie Diggins rocketed to fifth (+32.6) ahead of Norway’s Therese Johaug, who sits in second in the Tour, after Johaug placed sixth (+40.1).

With one stage remaining, Weng leads Johaug by 30 seconds heading into Saturday’s 10 k classic pursuit. Østberg is up to third, 1:24.4 back, ahead of a fourth Norwegian, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen in fourth overall (+1:57.4). Diggins ranks fifth, 3:20.2 behind Weng and just 6.6 seconds ahead of Parmakoski in sixth.

Also for the U.S., Sadie Bjornsen placed 17th (+1:25.0) and Caitlin Gregg was 19th (+1:26.9) on Friday, for 11th and 34th overall in the Tour, respectively. Chelsea Holmes was 22nd for her first World Cup top 30 (putting her 32nd overall), and Rosie Brennan was 31st, 0.8 seconds out of 30th (for 25th overall). Just over a week after her World Cup debut, Katharine Ogden placed 34th on Friday, ahead of Emily Nishikawa, who led the Canadian women in 35th (+2:11.3).

Check back later at FasterSkier.com for a complete report.

Results | Tour standings (through Stage 7)