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U.S. Takes First in Every Race at New Zealand Nationals

Left to right: Americans Ben Saxton, Andrew Newell and Simi Hamilton along with Korea's Hwang Jun Ho on the start line for the FIS ANC men's sprint classic final on Friday at the Snow Farm ski resort in New Zealand. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

(Front row, left to right): Americans and SMST2 skiers Ben Saxton, Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton along with South Korea’s Hwang Jun-Ho on the start line for the FIS ANC men’s sprint classic final on Friday, Sept. 9, at the Snow Farm ski resort in New Zealand. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

Three days of elite cross-country ski racing took place this past weekend at the Snow Farm ski resort near Wananka, New Zealand, during New Zealand National Cross-Country Ski Championships, with the U.S. Ski Team (USST) taking first in every race and taking up most of the remaining spots on the podium.

Friday, Sept. 9, saw 22 athletes from Australia, Korea and the U.S. compete in the race series’ first competition, a classic sprint.

Dominating the men’s classic sprint was USST veteran Andy Newell, who qualified first with a time of 3:37.69 and continued to dominate through the rounds for the win. Finishing in second behind Newell was South Korea’s Hwang Jun-Ho, and taking the final podium spot in third was Ben Saxton, Newell’s teammate on the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) T2 Team.

On the women’s side, all three top spots went to the U.S., with Ida Sargent (USST) edging teammate Jessie Diggins for first and Sophie Caldwell rounding out the podium in third. Caldwell won the qualifier in 3:07.55.

“We love coming down here and getting to race at Snow Farm,” USST Head Coach Chris Grover said, according to a press release. “The timing worked out really well this year because normally we’d be running our own time trials so when a race gets organised and we get to participate in it that’s great.

“It was really nice to have the Korean team here so we had some solid competition,” he added. “It was beautiful weather, beautiful tracks and everyone went out there and had a hard effort so we’re really satisfied.”

International Ski Federation (FIS) points were awarded to the top contenders.

Results: Women’s Qualifier | Men’s Qualifier | Women’s Final | Men’s Final

***

On Saturday, Sept. 10, athletes returned to the Snow Farm for the 10 and 15 k classic mass starts.

Snow Farm founder and trustee Mary Lee greets winner American Jessie Diggins (center) after she won the women's 10 k classic mass start ahead of teammates Ida Sargent (l) and Sophie Caldwell (r). (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

Snow Farm founder and trustee Mary Lee (r) greets Saturday’s 10 k classic mass start winner Jessie Diggins (second from l) after she held off teammates Ida Sargent (l) in second and Sophie Caldwell (r) in third. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

In the women’s 10 k, Diggins crossed the line first in 30:58.4, beating Sargent by 7.4 seconds, while Caldwell took third for the second-straight day, 13.8 seconds after Diggins.

“Normally striding on a really steep hill isn’t a particular strength of mine so it was nice to embrace the climb and say, ‘OK this is where I’m going to try to make a move’ and try to make it stick,’ ” Diggins told race organizers, according to a press release. “It was fun to just try something a little out of my normal range!”

Newell took his second win of the weekend, topping the men’s 15 k in 38:12.2. Saxton followed 11.4 seconds later for second place, just ahead of Noah Hoffman (USST) in third (+13.7).

“With the mass start, everyone got to ski together for most of the race,” Grover told USSA. “It was a great opportunity for athletes to try to make breaks and for others to reel them in. It was also an opportunity for each athlete to measure their relative technique strengths and weaknesses against the bigger group through different technique features — for example, who is skiing the downhills more aggressively, who is stronger in the double pole, who is stronger in the striding.”  

Results: Women | Men

***

Simi Hamilton racing to first in the men's 10 k freestyle at New Zealand nationals on Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Snow Farm in Wanaka, New Zealand. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

Simi Hamilton racing to first in the men’s 10 k freestyle at New Zealand nationals on Sunday, Sept. 11, at the Snow Farm in Wanaka, New Zealand. (Photo: Snow Farm NZ)

The final day of competition for the three-day race series at the Snow Farm included the 5/10 k freestyle interval starts.

In the men’s 10 k, Hamilton took first, completing the course in 26:08. Rounding out the rest of the podium were two South Korean skiers, Yong-Jin Cho, who finished 17 seconds off Hamilton’s time in second, and Hwang Jun-Ho, 38 seconds back in third.

“This time of year it’s important to remind yourself how to prepare for a race mentally and how to attack during it,” Hamilton told race organizers. “So it was great to be out there and think about pacing and hurting really bad. It’s good to revisit that at this time of year so we can be ready for the [Northern Hemisphere] winter.”

The women’s 5 k went to Liz Stephen (USST) who beat her competition by nearly 50 seconds in 13:28. Lee Chae-won of South Korea finished 49 seconds back in second place, and Australian Aimee Watson placed third (+1:18). 

Stephen told organizers that getting back on snow was one of the most positive aspects of their visit.

“We can get as fit as we want in the summer on roller skis, but it doesn’t transfer exactly and the technique work here for me has been really important,” she said.

Results: Men | Women

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Aug. 22 Roundup: Toppidrettsveka Recap; Denmark’s Vasaloppet Qualifier

— While Norway’s nordic superstar Therese Johaug was out sick, her Norwegian teammate Heidi Weng walked away with two victories on the first day of the Toppidrettsveka, a rollerski competition held in Aure and Trondheim, Norway. Weng won the women’s 24-kilometer classic mass start by 3 minutes and 51 seconds over runner-up and fellow Norwegian, Emilie Kristoffersen, and Silje Øyre Slind in third. Weng also won the second race of the day, a classic sprint, out-lunging the prologue winner, Kathrine Harsem of Norway and Polina Kovaleva of Russia in third. Weng’s third and final victory came in the 5 k classic. See complete Toppidrettsveka results here.

— On the men’s side, it was Norway’s Gaute Kvåle who won the men’s 24 k classic mass start on the first day of the Toppidrettsveka. He won by 4.5 seconds over France’s Jean-Marc Gaillard, while Andrey Melnichenko of Russia finished in third, 6.7 seconds back. Kvåle told Langrenn that he took it too easy at the beginning of the race on the steepest part of the course. He found himself around 25th place, but worked his way to the front of the field. The second victory of the day went to Norwegian Pål Trøan Aune, while his Norwegian teammates Emil Iversen and Petter Northug placed second and third, respectively.

— Day 2 of racing saw the men’s freestyle sprint, which went to Norway’s Kasper Stadås. Northug finished in second, while his Norwegian teammate and younger brother Even Northug also finished on the podium in third. The women’s freestyle sprint winner was Barbro Kvåle, also from Norway. Slovenia’s Anamarija Lampic and Vesna Fabjan took second and third, respectively.

— On the final day of the Toppidrettsveka, Northug topped the men’s 15 k pursuit, finishing three seconds ahead of fellow Norwegian Mattis Stenshagen.  Northug told Adressa that he felt like he was in complete control, and his goal is to be “in shape and compete for medals at Lahti World Championships.” Norway’s Mikael Gunnulfsen took third.

— On Sept. 18, Denmark will host a 45 k roller ski competition in Holte, which will also serve as a seeding race for Swede’s Vasaloppet for the first time. Holte Ski Club Organizer Poul Erik Holm told Langd that the course will be completely closed to traffic and is slightly hilly “with nice asphalt.” 

— The Foothills Nordic Ski Club is looking to raise $65,000 dollars by Oct. 15 in hopes of funding a full snowmaking setup. Foothills Nordic is based out of Calgary and it has estimated that the snowmaking equipment would support over 210,000 Calgary cross-country skiers. Donations can be made via GoFundMe.com or by letter.

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Blink Festival Concludes; Nordgren Reaches Biathlon Shootout Final

U.S. Biathlon’s Leif Nordgren competes in the final of the “shooting duels” competition during the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen, where he placed 11th. Photo: NRK broadcast

US Biathlon’s Leif Nordgren competes in the final of the “shooting duels” competition during the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen, where he placed 11th on Friday, June 29.

(Note: This article has been updated to include comments from American Leif Nordgren.)

Friday’s mass starts

For the third day of the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen on Friday, the small road show of elite Norwegian and international cross-country skiers and biathletes moved to the coastal town of Sandnes in the southwest of Norway with a population of 75,000 to compete in a series of rollerski mass start races.

On a one-kilometer loop through the city that included two short climbs over ramps and bridges, the women’s 10 k freestyle mass start race was won by Norway’s Kathrine Harsem in a time of 22:14.1 after creating a small gap to a group of 10 athletes on the final lap. Just 2.7 seconds behind, her teammate Barbro Kvåle beat Germany’s Sandra Ringwald, who was able to secure the third place on the podium (+2.8) in a close sprint.

In rainy conditions, Norway’s Martine Ek Hagen had a pretty nasty fall on the wet asphalt over a small bridge and received attention from medical personnel, but later could be seen walking on her own.

Norway’s Petter Northug Jr. (far right) celebrates as he crosses the line first in the men’s mass start on Friday during the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen in Sandnes, Norway. Photo: NRK broadcast

Norway’s Petter Northug Jr. (far right) celebrates as he crosses the line first in the men’s mass start on Friday during the 2016 Blink Skifestivalen in Sandnes, Norway.

In the men’s 15 k freestyle mass start, local favorite Petter Northug Jr. was victorious in a close finishing sprint in a time of 31:10.3, after already winning the long-distance 60 k “Blink Classics” race earlier in the week. Behind him, Italy’s Francesco de Fabiani placed second (+0.8), and Northug’s teammate Pål Golberg came in third (+0.9).

Northug remained near the top of the field and tried to break away with 5 laps to go, but could not create a significant gap with no other athlete willing or able to help him in the lead.

A field of about 30 athletes stayed close together until the final lap, despite a number of broken poles. On the last pass over a bridge there was a tangle between a few athletes including Switzerland’s former overall World Cup champion Dario Cologna and Finland’s Matti Heikkinen, the winner of the Lysebotn Opp uphill race on Thursday. The rest of the field approached the finish in a mass sprint, with Northug defending his position at the front to the line.

Still, Northug was not completely satisfied with his performance. “I feel like I can be better,” he told Norwegian broadcaster NRK, according to a translation. “I am angered by my own technique, and I know I can go much faster.”

Also on Friday, the spectators attending the Blink festival saw a number of biathlon competitions, both for various junior age groups and the “elite” senior fields.

In a fun pre-race “shooting duels” competition with target practice still in sneakers, Sweden’s Mona Brorsson took the win for the women, while Norway’s Markus Haugum placed first for the men.

American Leif Nordgren reached the men’s final, where he placed 11th after cleaning his targets 16 seconds slower than the winner. His US Biathlon teammate Sean Doherty made it to the quarterfinals.

In the men’s biathlon mass start that followed, both Nordgren and Doherty missed the final, with Nordgren placing 28th (+1:23.6, with one miss) and Doherty 30th  (+1:29.0, with three misses) in the qualifier.

In a mix up, the Blink organizers and NRK labeled Nordgren as starting for Sweden in on-screen graphics and results lists during the events on Friday.

“I feel that I let my new country down today, I will have to try harder tomorrow!!” Nordgren joked on Twitter after the race.

“For both the shooting duel and the supersprint competitions on Friday the organizers made a mistake and labeled me as a Swedish athlete,” Nordgren explained in an email to FasterSkier. “No harm in it and I had a good laugh with the Swedes about it!  Because my name is Swedish anyway there was talk of free agency and signing fees!”

The final with 12 athletes was won by Norway’s Tarjei Bø in a time of 18:02.6 (with two misses), who beat out France’s Simon Desthieux by 1.4 seconds (one miss) and Norway’s Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen in third (+11.2, four misses).

In the women’s biathlon mass start, with a time of 18:17.0 and three missed shots, France’s Anais Chevalier bested her world-famous teammate Marie Dorin-Habert (+3.6, four misses) and Italy’s Dorothea Wierer (+7.6, two misses), who placed second and third, respectively.

The locals missed a few too many targets, especially fan-favorite and star of the last world championships Tiril Eckhoff with nine (11th place, +1:26.8).

“It’s good to win here,” Chevalier told broadcaster NRK in an interview after the race. “It’s a nice race. It was hard, but it’s sunny so that’s good. I am glad to win today. I felt good on skis, pretty much good in shooting, so it’s OK.”

Saturday’s sprints

On the last day of Blink, the athletes stayed in Sandnes to compete in a series of sprints, with some well-known athletes who had already started in multiple events during the week skipping that final challenge.

Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla, the reigning Sprint World Cup champion, made up for missing the podium in Friday’s mass start by taking the top spot in the women’s sprint final with a time of 3:51.3, narrowly beating out Ringwald, of Germany, in the finish by 0.3 seconds. Just behind them, another German Denise Herrmann secured third place (+1.5) in an even closer three-way sprint against Norway’s Tiril Udnes Weng (also +1.5) and Slovenia’s Katja Visnar (+1.6). Herrmann announced in April that she was making the switch from cross-country to biathlon, but demonstrated that she still possesses strong sprinting skills.

France’s Richard Jouve was the lone non-Norwegians to reach the men’s sprint final, then managed to make the most of it by beating out his five opponents in a time of 3:27.2. Just as surprising, Kasper Stadaas beat out his more well-known teammates to secure the second place 0.1 seconds behind, with Eirik Brandsdal coming in third place (+0.8), edging Golberg in fourth (+1.0).

In the final biathlon race of the weekend, the sprint final, France went 1-2 with Dorin-Habert taking the win in 7:44.2 (after coming in second a day before). She beat her teammate Anais Bescond by 2 seconds, and Norway’s Marthe Olsbu placed third (+3.6).

Asked if she loves competing in Norway in her winner’s interview, Dorin-Habert nodded. “It was very exciting. There was a lot of people. I think it’s a game.”

Norway’s Vetle Sjåstad Christiansen won the biathlon men’s sprint final in a time of 12:08.3 after placing third on Friday, ahead of his teammate Tore Leren (+2.9) and Sweden’s Frederik Lindström (+3.1).

The Blink festival was a nice comeback for Christiansen, who could not compete with the 2015/2016 Norwegian World Cup team due to a lingering infection. A fourth place in the pursuit at the 2016 European Championships in Tyumen, Russia, stood as his best result.

Doherty placed 12th in his quarterfinal (+2:28.6) and did not advance, while Nordgren narrowly missed the cut placing sixth in his quarterfinal (+42.4) behind the eventual runner-up Leren (who was fifth in that heat).

“It’s been a tough week in the rain at Blink. I think both Sean and I are quite disappointed in the results that we’ve had here,” Nordgren wrote. “The plan all along was just to use these races as training, but even with that as the purpose it’s pretty disheartening to perform how we did.  It’s only July though so there is still so much training to be done this year.

“For myself, the racing scenarios here are totally different from the type of training that I’ve done up to this point,” he continued. “I’ve done a lot of long slow distance training so far, its always been the plan for me to switch to a more high intensity type training starting with these races.  The atmosphere here in Blink is crazy, Norwegians love their biathlon and nordic racing!  Even heavy rain every day of racing didn’t stop them from coming out in droves to cheer.  Part of the benefit of these races is also the quality of competition.  Every quality Norwegian as well as members of the national teams from Italy, Germany, France, Sweden and others makes for stiff competition.”

— Harald Zimmer 

Results

Friday:

Women cross-country mass start

Men cross-country mass start

Women biathlon shootout

Men biathlon shootout

Women biathlon mass start

Men biathlon mass start

Saturday:

Women cross-country sprint

Men cross-country sprint

Women biathlon sprint

Men biathlon sprint

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Johaug, Heikkinen Win Blink ‘Lysebotn Opp’; Kershaw 44th, Doherty 70th

2016 Blink Festival in Norway. Norway's Therese Johaug on the 7.5 k climb. Johaug was chased by young fans and won the day. (Photo: Screenshot NRK live feed)

Young fans run along Norway’s Therese Johaug (1) at the 2016 Blink Festival on Thursday in Norway. Johaug won the 7.5 k climb, known as the “Lysebotn opp”.

Mining the internet for international rollerskiing news? Look no further — it’s that time of year: the Blink Ski Festival in Lysebotn and Sandnes, Norway, is underway. What makes this event a blip on the nordic-sport radar are the scores of top-notch Norwegian talent and World Cup biathletes and cross-country skiers racing. Two days into the four-day festival, from July 27-30, some big names are showing good form.

Day 1 featured a 62-kilometer classic rollerski for senior men and women.

Norway’s Petter Northug Jr. placed first in 2:28.13. It was a tight finish for Northug — the top 14 skiers were bunched within nine seconds of one another. Andreas Nygaard (+1.2) and Petter Eliassen (+1.8), also from Norway, placed second and third, respectively.

In the women’s classic rollerski race, also 62 k, only four women contested the elite women’s race. Sweden’s Britta Johansson Norgren won in a time of 2:56.21. Astrid Øyre Slinde, of Norway, was second (+3:45.2), and Japanese skiers Masako Ishida and Yuki Kobayashi placed third (+19:17.5) and fourth (+25:15), respectively.

Day 2 of the festival, featured an event with a bit more pizazz and World Cup depth: a mass start, 7.5 k uphill skate rollerski. For the women, Norwegian dynamo Therese Johaug set the standard, winning in 33:03. Her teammate Heidi Weng (the hill climb’s 2015 champion) placed second, finishing 1:55 back. Germany’s Nicole Fessel was third (+3:41). The race included 66 competitors. No North American women started.

The men raced the same 7.5 k hill-climb course. Finnish cross-country skier Matti Heikkinen defended his 2015 title in 28:02 — 9.5 seconds slower than his winning time last year. Norwegian biathlete Tarjei Bø skied to second, 53 seconds behind Heikkinen. Norway’s Simen Andreas Sveen rounded out the podium in third (+1:02). Russia’s Alexander Legkov was fourth (+1:14), followed in fifth by Swiss star Dario Cologna (+1:21).

Two North Americans contested the uphill race. Canada’s Devon Kershaw placed 44th (+3:55) and US Biathlon’s Sean Doherty placed 70th (+5:14). Day 1 winner, Northug finished 77th (+5:52) of 90 men.

Results:

Day 1 (Blink classic): Men | Women

Day 2 (Lysebotn opp): Men | Women

2016 Blink Festival in Norway. Matti Heikkinen on the 7.5 k climb and on his way to the win. (Photo: Screenshot NRK live feed)

Finland’s Matti Heikkinen racing to the win in Thursday’s 7.5 k climb at the 2016 Blink Festival in Norway.

— Harald  Zimmer contributed reporting

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Former U.S. Cross-Country Coach, Sven Wiik Dies at 95

Sven Wiik was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1981. (Photo: U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame)

Sven Wiik was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1981. (Photo: U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame)

A coach of the 1960 U.S. Olympic cross-country team in Squaw Valley, Calif., and 1958 World Championships team, Sven Wiik died of natural causes on Tuesday at Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs, Colo., Steamboat Today reported. He was 95.

Among Wiik’s claims to fame — he was a member of the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame as well as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame — he and coach Marty Hall designed the course for the American Birkebeiner, the largest ski marathon in North America.

Wiik was born in Solleftea, Sweden, on Feb. 27, 1921, and competed at the 1948 London Olympics as a gymnast (a demonstration sport at the time). In 1949, he immigrated to the U.S., initially to Chicago, and was offered a coaching position in Lake Placid, N.Y.

According to Steamboat Today, Gerry Groswold (who would later become the president of Winter Park Ski Area) urged the 28-year-old Wiik to contact Western State College in Gunnison, Colo.

He did and spent the next 19 years as Western State’s ski coach and an assistant professor of health and physical education. Wiik and his wife Birthe (Bitte) moved from Gunnison to Steamboat following the 1960 Winter Olympics. They built the Scandinavian Lodge, and their daughter Birgitta Lindgren and granddaughter Kajsa Lindgren run the touring center today.

In addition to coaching the U.S. championship teams in 1958 and 1960, Wiik also served on the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association (USSA) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) committees and received the 1974 Julius Blegen Award — USSA’s highest honor. He was a chief steward for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.

“Our country was blessed to have him bring his passion for skiing to America and to give so much back to the sport he loved,” U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Tiger Shaw wrote in an email to Steamboat Today. “I was proud to ski on some of the trails he developed for the Slumberland American Birkebeiner this past season.”

According to the article, at the age of 87, Wiik returned from the 2008 Masters World Cup cross-country ski championships in Idaho “barely hiding his disappointment” with two silver medals rather than gold in the men’s 85-99 age group. “Never mind that he had been competing in the championships for 28 years and had a chest full of medals, many of them gold.”

Read more

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June 26 Roundup: Russian Paralympic Skier Polukhin DQed for Meldonium; Bjørgen Misses Camp

— Russian visually impaired biathlete Nikolay Polukhin was to found to have committed an Anti-Doping Violation this past February, but will receive no period of ineligibility. According to a press release from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), Polukhin was found to have trace amounts of meldonium in a urine sample he provided after winning the IPC World Cup men’s visually impaired 15-kilometer biathlon event on Feb. 26, 2016, in Finsterau, Germany. The 33 year old’s result was disqualified, making Ukraine’s Anatolii Kovalevskyi the new winner, Russian Iurii Utkin the silver medalist and Russia’s Stanislav Chokhlaev the bronze medalist. Though meldonium is a substance included on the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) 2016 Prohibited List and is not permitted at any time — in or out of competition — the IPC Anti-Doping Hearing Body found “no fault or negligence” on the part of Polukhin and decided there would be no period of ineligibility.

— Norwegian superstar Marit Bjørgen will sit out a national-team training camp (she missed the Olso Ski Show, which took place this year on June 10 due to a stress injury) and will once again not join her teammates as they head to Svarstad, Norway, this week. “The best thing for me now is to stay home and train alternatively when I can not participate in all training activities we carry on gathering,” Bjørgen said to adressa.no, according to a translation. American Jessie Diggins will, however, be making a guest appearance as she continues to train with the Norwegian women’s national team at their camp.

Sjur Ole Svarstad is Norway’s newest coaching addition as women’s national team assistant for the upcoming 2016/2017 ski season. Svarstad, 34, has spent five seasons coaching national-team recruits and now looks forward to working with full-time national team members. “It has been five unforgettable years in rookie team. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with highly motivated cross-country youth. The off-season they have shown in training and in competitions is a setting I have learned a lot and that I take with me. As part of the coaching staff at the women’s national team, I will meet new challenges, and will have new athletes to challenge. It is with great humility that I will now be part of such a strong performance group. I’m looking forward to taking on this task,” Svarstad told skiforbundet.no, according to a translation.

Turnagain Arm as seen from partway up Bird Ridge, outside Anchorage, Alaska, in April. (Photo: Gavin Kentch)

Turnagain Arm as seen from partway up Bird Ridge, outside Anchorage, Alaska, in April. Bird Ridge in Chugach State Park was the site of the Robert Spurr Memorial Hill Climb on June 19. (Photo: Gavin Kentch)

— A bevy of elite skiers from Alaska Pacific University (APU) showcased their uphill running at the Robert Spurr Memorial (Bird Ridge) Hill Climb on Sunday, June 19, at Chugach State Park, outside Anchorage, Alaska. The grueling hill climb ascends from sea level, on the shores of Turnagain Arm, to 3,500 feet above sea level in less than three miles. As originally reported by the Alaska Dispatch News, APU skiers David NorrisScott Patterson and Lex Treinen took the top three spots in this year’s race.  Norris broke the course record, and took precisely one minute off his time from last year. Patterson, who finished less than a second behind Norris, improved by a remarkable 2:16 from last year’s race. Jessica Yeaton, who trains with APU but is a member of the Australian National Team, was second among the women, 1:40 faster than last year. APU skier Becca Rorabaugh was fourth.

— Like watching nordic freestyle videos? Check out the latest from Team Valoche with Part II of their series One of Those Nordic Days,” created by French biathlete Baptiste Jouty and his friend Alexis Boeuf.

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It’s A Boy! Randall and Ellis Welcome Baby Breck

"Overwhelmed with love and happiness to welcome Breck Stuart Randall Ellis into our family last night," Randall tweeted along with the above image of her and Jeff Ellis' son, Breck Stuart Randall Ellis. (Photo: Kikkan Randall Twitter)

“Overwhelmed with love and happiness to welcome Breck Stuart Randall Ellis into our family last night,” Randall tweeted on Friday, April 15. (Photo: Kikkan Randall/Twitter)

Kikkan Randall has broken down a lot of barriers for the U.S. Nordic Ski Team women’s team. Most involved podiums. On Thursday, April 14, she became a first-time parent — another first among her teammates. 

Randall and her husband, Jeff Ellis, celebrated the birth of their baby boy, Breck Stuart Randall Ellis.

“Jeff and I are overwhelmed with love and happiness as we welcomed Breck Stuart Randall Ellis into the world last night,” Randall posted along with a photo of the newborn on Instagram. “8lbs 11oz and 21 [inches]. He’s already a happy, healthy and strong boy!”

When the four-time Olympian announced her pregnancy last October, she also indicated her plan to compete in the 2016/2017 ski season, as well as the 2018 Olympics.

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A Week After Junior Worlds, Kern Reaches Alpen Cup Podium

Julia Kern racing to third in the junior women's 15 k freestyle mass start last Sunday at the Alpen Cup in Arber, Germany. (Photo: Justin Beckwith)

Julia Kern racing to third in the junior women’s 15 k freestyle mass start last Sunday at the Alpen Cup in Arber, Germany. (Photo: Justin Beckwith)

There is still racing happening in Europe, and Julia Kern reached the podium last weekend at the Alpen Cup in Germany a very big way.

For starters, she was the third junior woman in the 15-kilometer freestyle mass start — the longest race she had ever done — last Sunday. As U.S. Ski Team Development Coach and trip leader Bryan Fish pointed out, she would have been 15th among the senior women that day in Arber, Germany.

“In the past, long distances have been my weakness and even the thought of a 15km would be daunting, however to my surprise this year I have found most of my best races have been in distance races,” Kern, 18, wrote in an email on Sunday. “I think I had a particularly good race today because I absolutely love mass starts and I was fired up to stick with the leaders for as long as possible.”

Kern is coming off Junior World Championships in Rasnov, Romania, where she posted two individual top 20’s in the freestyle sprint and 5 k classic. A week after her last race in Rasnov, the women’s relay, the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) and U.S. Ski Team (USST) D-team member competed in Arber.

“Coming off of World Juniors I was actually pretty tired. The combination of a lot of running, a compressed race week, and slow snow made more tired than I had expected,” she wrote. “I wasn’t sure what to expect from these races because I wasn’t sure how many people would be there and how I would feel after a few tough last few days in Romania.”

Julia Kern racing to third in the junior women's 15 k freestyle mass start last Sunday at the Alpen Cup in Arber, Germany. (Photo: Bryan Fish)

Julia Kern racing to third in the junior women’s 15 k freestyle mass start last Sunday at the Alpen Cup in Arber, Germany. (Photo: Bryan Fish)

In her first race of the Alpen Cup weekend, the 5 k classic, Kern placed fourth, 12.3 seconds off the podium and 42 seconds behind the winner.

“The field was pretty small, only 16 girls in the U20 race,” she wrote of the 5 k. “Many people were recovering from World Juniors and others didn’t get a start spot. Although the field was small, the girls there were strong skiers. I wouldn’t say I had an outstanding race, but I was still generally satisfied with my race.”

The next day, she described having “one of the fastest skis out there.”

“I think the biggest difference was my energy and mindset,” she added. “I often times have higher energy the second day of racing compared to others. Mentally, I didn’t feel quite in the race yesterday, but today in the mass start I was fully focused and out to win. I learned a lot about racing a 15km, as well as mass start tactics since we have so few lately with the lack of snow.”

The second U.S. woman in the junior races, Leah Lange placed 10th on both days. According to Fish, the U.S. brought 20 athletes to Europe — a mixture of U20 and senior skiers — for the last two OPA Cups of the season. Next weekend, they’ll compete at OPA Cup Finals in Toblach, Italy.

Other U.S. results from last weekend include: Becca Rorabaugh (APU) in 13th in the senior women’s 10 k classic last Saturday, followed by Erika Flowers (SMST2) in 17th, Liz Guiney (Craftsbury Green Racing Project) in 21st, and Heather Mooney in 27th.

Akeo Maifeld-Caucci (Bridger Ski Foundation) leads a German while racing to 26th in the senior men's 30 k freestyle mass start on Sunday. (Photo: Bryan Fish)

Akeo Maifeld-Carucci (Bridger Ski Foundation) leads a German while racing to 26th in the senior men’s 30 k freestyle mass start on Sunday. (Photo: Bryan Fish)

In the senior men’s 15 k classic on Saturday, Ben Saxton (SMST2/USST) placed 25th, Mile Havilick (Sun Valley SEF) in 27th, Logan Hanneman (APU) in 34th, Akeo Maifeld-Carucci (BSF) in 41st, Tyler Kornfield (APU) in 48th, and Lex Treinen (APU) in 56th.

In the junior men’s 15 k classic, Thomas O’Harra (APU) placed 20th, Zak Ketterson (NMU) was 21st, and Leo Hipp (NMU) 31st.

On Day 2, Maifeld-Carucci led the U.S. senior men in the 30 k freestyle mass start in 26th, Treinen was 30th, Havlick 33rd, Kornfield 43rd, Saxton 45th, and Hanneman 48th.

In the junior men’s 20 k freestyle mass start, Ketterson placed 17th, O’Harra was 29th and Hipp 34th.

Next stop: Italy. Fish explained they arrived in Toblach on Tuesday night.

“I am really looking forward to these races because the field will be big and very competitive!” Kern wrote of OPA Cup Finals. “The races [last] weekend has further built my confidence that I am getting faster every race and that I can be just as the fast as the girls here in Europe. I am hoping to carry my momentum from this weekend into OPA finals and I am hoping to put in my best races of the season.”

Results: 

Women: Senior 10 k classic | Junior 5 k classic | Senior 15 k freestyle mass start | Junior 15 k freestyle mass start

Men: Senior 15 k classic | Junior 15 k classic | Senior 30 k freestyle mass start | 20 k freestyle mass start

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Appeals Committee Reinstates Four Norwegian Relay Teams from National Championships

After the national championship relay in Tromsø, 15 men’s teams were slapped with three-minute penalties for skating in the classic portion of the race. The race jury published video of the technique infractions and said that they were aiming to be strict in enforcing the rules on classic technique.

Four teams appealed the decision, and the Appeals Committee recently agreed with them, saying that since there was no classic track on the section of the course in question, the skiers were allowed to push off of their skis instead of double-poling. Thus the time penalties were removed for those four teams.

The decision is available (in Norwegian) here.

According to John Aalberg, who was the Technical Delegate for the competitions and had been part of the six-member group who decided to penalize the 15 teams, the decision not to set tracks had been because on a steep uphill, the tracks would have been washed out immediately during warmup as skiers went up the hill using herringbone technique.

The solution that he and other technical experts have come to? Set tracks, even if they get washed out.

“The basic reason is that the current rules (according to the attorneys reviewing the appeals) say that ‘turning technique’ (basically skating with one leg) is allowed where there is no track set – this means also in uphills,” Aalberg wrote in an email to FasterSkier. “Our jury did not have this understanding of the rules and defined the ‘skating’ we observed in the uphill as wrong classical technique (in an uphill). The solution (until the rules are adjusted) is to set a track also in herringbone hills (and make sure it is marked as such).”

The skating by some skiers seemed more blatant than others, and it does not seem that the appeals committee took this into consideration. You can view the video here and check for yourself: the teams which successfully appealed were Heming (bib 12), Kjelsås (bib 5), Rindal (bib 22), and Varden Meråker 2 (bib 32).

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Rottefella Files Suit Against Amer Sport, Claims Illegal Copyright of NNN System

The binding wars continue.

As noted in a FasterSkier article on on Dec. 31, Amer Sports, the holding company for Atomic and Salomon, plans to release NNN-compatible boots and bindings using what they are calling the Prolink system.

Ski-lines.com linked to an article on Jan. 6, originally posted on e24.no, explaining that Rottefella is filing suit against Amer Sport. Rottefella is the original patent holder of the NNN system and the more modern NIS system.

In Ski-Lines.com’s translation of the article, which was originally written in Norwegian, they claim Rottefella believes the Prolink system, “is illegally copying Rottefella, who owns the NNN binding system, which includes everything from the tread of boots to the mounting plate on the skis.”

E24 reports that Rottefella’s lawyer, Halvor Haug Mans, says Amer Sports is violating intellectual property rights and a Marketing Act, “against copied products.” According to E24, Rottefella, in its complaint, has given Amer Sports Norway, “until Friday at 14.30 if they will respond to the letter. The short deadline due according Rottefella that Amer has already completed the launch without any prior notice, and that it is now urgent to intervene in the situation that has arisen.”

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Dec. 11 Roundup: Johaug in Hot Water Over Pole Straps; Relays Need More Women

– When almost twice as many men’s relay teams as women’s teams competed on Sunday, Dec. 6, at the Cross Country World Cup in Lillehammer, Norway, the International Ski Federation (FIS) feels something needs to change. That change may come in the form of mixed relays, which would not only allow more women to participate in the relay races, but more nations as well.

– In a competition for kilometers, FIS has launched a challenge to see which country can ski the most during the first 10 days of January. Officially called the “FIS Tour de Ski Challenge 2016 Powered by Polar,” cross-country skiers of all levels are invited to track their own and others’ kilometers on skis via http://fistourdeski2016.polar.com while using a Polar Flow account and compatible GPS product.

– According to Skisport.ru, Russian athlete and 2015 winner of the Eastern Europe Continental Cup, Andrew Parfenov was not allowed to enter in the World-Cup opening races in Kuusamo, Finland, due to a recent contract he signed with Finnish brand, Yoko. Parfenov was not allowed entry because Yoko is not an approved sponsor of the Russian Ski Federation and this sponsorship conflicted with an agreement made with Fischer.

– In an interview with Skisport.ru, Russian native Ivan Babikov discussed many trending topics including the financing of the Canadian national team, WADA‘s recent report on Russia, and his celebrity status in Canada. Babikov referenced Cross Country Canada’s loss of sponsorship from oil company, Statoil, and its effect on his team’s budget. On the topic of WADA’s recent doping report on Russia, he said, “I believe that in Sochi, the best man won. All of us there were always tested — Russian, and Canadian and Brazilian.” While skiing is popular in Canada, he also said his celebrity status was nil compared to the country’s favorite sport: hockey. A Canadian since his family moved to Toronto when he was young, he has no plans on returning to Russia.

– Some Norwegian ski experts believe the 2015/2016 overall World Cup crown is Therese Johaug’s to lose and a clean sweep in the distance races is within her grasp. “She is totally superior in distance, simply. She will be through the winter, because she is so far ahead. It allows her to win the race even if she is 90 percent,” said Torgeir Bjørn, NRK’s ​​expert commentator and retired Norwegian nordic skier.

– More on Norway’s female star: Sweski.com reports reports drama over Johaug using Swix straps on her Bjørn Dæhlie poles. It seems the smaller-sized Swix straps fit Johaug better than the stock straps on her new poles. After Johaug taped over the Swix logo at the opening races in Kuusamo, Finland, Swix went to FIS and forced her to remove the tape for future races. Until Bjørn Dæhlie makes straps that fit her hands comfortably, she will continue with the Swix straps, which Swix CEO Ulf Bjerknes finds amusing.

– Johaug is also the new face of the Huawei‘s “Make it Possible Campaign,” according to Ski-Nordique. A Chinese company that specializes in smartphones and tablets, Huawei’s ad featuring Johaug can be found here.

Martin Johnsrud Sundby is in contention to rank amongst legendary skiers Bjørn Dæhlie and Gunde Svan for a nordic “hat-trick”, according to Ski-Nordique. If he is able to win another World Cup title this winter he will complete this feat. The title would be Sundby’s third-consecutive crystal globe.

– Norway’s Emil Iversen skied to seventh place in the Lillehammer World Cup skiathlon last weekend — yet he was the seventh Norwegian. His conundrum: how does he proceed with Norway’s wealth of skiers? Limited to six skiers in the distance events, Iversen will watch most of the season’s World Cups on TV. Ragnhild Haga, who is the sixth-best Norwegian woman on World Cup, feels a similar pressure, according to NRK.

– Norwegian biathlete Kristin Hjelstuen started a food blog where individuals can gain insight and find recipes regarding eating habits of elite athletes.

– The Ski Classics marathon series plans to award 389,000 Euros (roughly $427,000 U.S. dollars) in total prize money in 2016, with 200,000 Euros ($219,000) going to “the best general rankings” (top male and female), and 21,000 Euros ($23,000) to be distributed at each of the 10 stops on the circuit

-With the 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games kicking off Feb. 12th in Lillehammer, Norway, televised broadcasting of the event will be available through the Norwegian broadcasting network, NRK. Sporting competitions include staples like cross-country skiing, biathlon and nordic combined, as well as cross-country motocross and ski-cross. More than 1,000 athletes ages 15-18 are currently registered from over 70 different nations.

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Noah Hoffman Launches Fantasy League, Trading Closes Nov. 26

Race fans looking for the added incentive of physical prizes have a virtual chance to dominate this winter’s cross-country World Cup season, with the recent relaunch of U.S. Ski Team member Noah Hoffman’s Fantasy Cross Country League.

A project Hoffman debuted last year, “Noah Hoffman Fantasy Cross Country” is aimed at gaining a greater following and support for nordic skiing at the international level. The purpose of the league is to collect the most World Cup points by selecting the best team of athletes for each weekend and tour throughout the season. To join, click this link, create an account and pick your team. The first series of trading closes Nov. 26, 8 p.m. Eastern.

Rules:

– One account per person; no aliases allowed. Each league participant gets a total of 16 skiers for their league team: eight women, eight men. Trades may be made until 8 p.m. Eastern time the night before the opening race of each weekend or tour. See the website calendar for more details on trading.

– Points are awarded for the top-30 finishers from each weekend or tour. At the conclusion of the World Cup season, a grand prize of a pair of Madshus Nanosonic Skate Skis, Madshus 100 UHM Poles, and a Caldwell Sport Fleet Evaluation (plus Stone Grinding, Heatbox, and Race Hardening for one pair of skis) will be awarded to the individual with the best team over the course of the season.

– Prizes will also be awarded every weekend or tour to the individual with the best performing team. See the website prizes for more information.

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FS Live in Geneva: Follow WADA’s Announcements on Russia via Twitter

FasterSkier's Chelsea Little (not shown) awaits a press conference with WADA officials on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland.

FasterSkier’s Chelsea Little (not shown) awaits a press conference with WADA officials regarding their investigation on Russia on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland.

GENEVA — Members from all across the sporting world are watching this Swiss city of just under 200,000 closely today, as a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) panel is set to announce its first findings from an investigation into doping in Russia.

The investigation was spurred by documentaries produced by German journalist Hajo Seppelt. In the first, he talked to former Russian track and field athletes and found that not only was doping widespread within their federation, but that it was covered up.

A second investigation found that positive doping tests by not only by Russians, but also possibly by Kenyans and others were suppressed and that many medalists at World Championships and Olympics had highly abnormal blood profiles which suggested doping.

More recently, the outgoing head of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), Lamine Diack, has been accused of taking bribe money from Russians in order to allow doping athletes to continue competing, including at the 2012 Olympics.

The WADA Independent Commission will not yet report on those allegations, although they are expected to investigate them in the coming months.

Instead, the Commitssion, led by Canadian lawyer and former WADA head Dick Pound, will report on the investigation into Russian track and field.

In reporting on whether their was systematic or state-sponsored doping by Russian athletes, some have speculated that the panel will also touch on whether similar problems exist for other Russian sports, including cross-country skiing and biathlon.

In January 2014, two Russian biathletes, Ekaterina Iourieva and Irina Starykh, had positive tests for recombinant erythropoietin, a blood-doping drug. Another Russian, former Junior World Champion Alexander Loginov, was snagged with a positive test when the International Biathlon Union re-tested old samples using a new and improved method.

In the run-up to the 2014 Olympics – after the two women had tested positive – Starykh’s coach Vladimir Korolkevich was promoted to the head of the Russian women’s team.

To follow FasterSkier’s coverage of the press conference, follow Editor-at-Large Chelsea Little on Twitter at @ChelskiLittle, and check back to our main page in a few hours for a full writeup.

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Nov. 7 Roundup: Beito is a Go; Saarinen Preggo; USBA Names Team

– Late this week, organizers of the International Ski Federation (FIS) season-opening races in Beitostølen, Norway, announced that the races would be run as scheduled Nov. 13-15, despite recently warm temperatures. The races will be run as scheduled — with 10/15-kilometer classic races on Nov. 13, 10/15 k freestyle races on Nov. 14, and a classic sprint on Nov. 15 — but the race course was shortened from 5 kilometers to 3.75 k.

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Clare Egan and Sean Doherty were recently named to the US Biathlon team for World Cups 1, 2 and 3, with the International Biathlon Union (IBU) season starting Nov. 29 in Östersund, Sweden. The US Biathlon (USBA) team recently wrapped up a two-week training camp in Utah and made the final selections for its early World Cup team.

“I am excited and grateful for the opportunity to compete as part of Team USA on the World Cup again this winter,” Egan, the fourth member of the women’s team, said in a press release. “My coaches and I worked really hard this summer so I am ready to get on snow and see the work pay off.”
The U.S. roster for IBU World Cups 1-3 includes four women and four men, with Annelies Cook, Hannah Dreissigacker, Susan Dunklee, and Egan, along with Lowell Bailey, Tim Burke, Leif Nordgren, and Doherty.
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– Adding to the growing list of expecting cross country skiers, 36-year-old Finnish national star Aino-Kaisa Saarinen announced her pregnancy on Twitter this week. Saarinen is due next spring and hopes to compete in the early part of this season.
“If all goes well, I can compete until Christmas,” she told Langrenn. She is married to 6-foot-7 Finnish basketball player Tom Gustafsson.
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– Ever want to race 220 k at once? On April 10, 2016, you can chase your dreams with the the reinstatement of the Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet, the world’s longest cross-country race. Registration and race info may be found here: www.redbullnordenskioldsloppet.se
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NRK, a Norwegian public broadcasting corporation, secured the rights to televise ski events, including cross country skiing, ski jumping, alpine, nordic combined, freestyle, and telemark skiing, for five more years.
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-Itching to ski on snow? Thanks to snowfarming, you may be closer than you think. Trails in Austria, Switzerland, Italy, or Germany boast a minimum of one kilometer plus.

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Oct. 7 Roundup: Fourcade Aims to Make French XC Team; Kowalczyk in Mercedes Ad

Martin Fourcade, the Frenchman who has won the last three biathlon World Cup overall titles, will again try his hand at skiing. At the FFS (Fédération française de ski) media summit in Paris this week, the new father said that “it’s the right time for me to invest in this project so dear to my heart.” He is targeting FIS races in Beitostolen, Norway, to try to qualify for the French World Cup ski team.

He has successfully done so before; in 2012 he placed sixth in the opener in Beitostolen, but placed a lackluster 48th in his first World Cup appearance in Gällivare, Sweden, a disappointment that left him wanting to try again: “I’m not satisfied of the result and I think it’s not my real level,” he told FasterSkier at the time.

Justyna Kowalczyk frolics through a forest on a training run, then shows off perfectly matching nail polish and a little red dress in a new Mercedes ad in Poland.

– Meanwhile in the Czech Republic, biathlon star Gabriela Soukalova released her first song and music video… and it’s part of a campaign promoting preventative health for men. Her boyfriend, badminton player Petr Koukal, successfully recovered from testicular cancer in 2010 and is now launching a men’s health initiative. You can watch the music video for Soukalova’s song, which features beatboxing and a guest verse by the rapper Petr “Nasty” Cerhahere. Sorry, it’s in Czech.

– The Ski Classics marathon series, which includes the Marcialonga, the Vasaloppet, and the Birkebeiner, among others, has a new title sponsor. Visma, an IT company based in Oslo, Norway, picked up the tab after Swix left as the title sponsor in May. “Ski Classics is very pleased to start this new cooperation with Visma, a fast growing company present in many of the Ski Classics key markets in Europe,” said Ski Classics CEO David Nilsson in a press release. “Visma Ski Classics has been on a constant rise the last seasons and this new partnership with Visma is an evidence of that we are developing the tour in the right direction.” Visma previously sponsored the Norwegian biathlon team, but ended that sponsorship deal after the 2014 Olympics.

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Sept. 25 Roundup: Millions for Johaug; Wurm & Doping Teammate Were Best Friends

– After breaking her second hand of the summer a few weeks ago in Livigno, Italy, Norwegian star Therese Johaug is back to training with two poles, according to Langrenn.com. Meanwhile, it seems she has obligations: a Finnish newspaper reports that she earns a million Euros per year in sponsorship.

Die Tageszeitung, a Berlin-based newspaper, has published more commentary on the Harald Wurm doping scandal in Austria. On their website taz.de, the paper notes that Wurm was “best friends” with disgraced teammate Johannes Duerr, who was kicked out of the 2014 Olympics after testing positive for EPO. The paper also notes that the coach of both, and now the coach of the national team, is Gerald Heigl, who was also the coach of one of Austria’s most famous dopers: Christian Hoffman. Hoffman, an Olympic medalist, was eventually banned for six years for blood doping, but in 2012 there was brief talk of him making a comeback, reportedly with Heigl backing such a move.

– You thought you’d seen it all, but another first in cross-country skiing: Petter Northug is starting his own television channel. The name translates to “The Northug Circus” and is based on the concept of a video blog. “I think it’s incredibly exciting to be involved in creating something new in Norwa,” Anders Sæther of Globus media told Norway’s Adressa. “This takes Petter and the ‘blog’ genre a big step forward… Petter can reach audiences sitting 24 hours a day. The project will be financed with a combination of advertising and subscription revenues. Here he will delve into how he trains, including posting his training diary.”

– Elsewhere in Norway, 2007 sprint World Champion Astrid Jacobsen, who had a stellar 2015 season including a World Cup win, team gold and individual silver at World Championships in Falun, did a training session with the women’s biathlon team. Longtime ski coach Steinar Mundal is working with the women, including World Cup winners Tiril Eckhoff and Fanny (Welle-Strand) Horn Birkeland, and trying to get their ski speeds up by focusing on agility, longer training sessions, and more powerful technique. “For these girls it is important to raise the awareness of their abilities,” Jacobsen told broadcaster NRK after the training session. “There are many of them who are actually quite fast, but they have not known about it, and sometimes they choose not to use it as an advantage either. I think we can look forward to winter.”

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Stephen, Hoffman Third in Toppidrettsveka ‘Fonna Upp’

U.S. Ski Team members Liz Stephen and Noah Hoffman both raced to third in the Fonna Upp uphill run, the first race of four at the Toppidrettsveka festival on Thursday in Aure, Norway.

Men and women started together in the hill climb, and Norway’s Didrik Tønseth was first to the top in 28:53.5. Sweden’s Martin Johansson placed second, 13 seconds back, and Hoffman was 1:02.5 back in third (video by U.S. coach Jason Cork).

Norway’s Therese Johaug was the fastest woman and 10th overall (another video), winning in 31:18.8, more than 1 1/2 minutes faster than teammate Heidi Weng in second. Stephen reached the summit as the third woman, 2:42.3 behind Johaug.

Also for the U.S., Caitlin Gregg placed ninth, 5:40 back from Johaug, and Simi Hamilton was 13th in the men’s race, 2:40 behind Tønseth. Canada’s Devon Kershaw placed 16th (+2:59.9), as did U.S. sprinter Kikkan Randall. Her teammates Sophie Caldwell and Jessie Diggins placed 20th and 23rd, respectively, and Andy Newell (U.S.) was 40th.

Racing continued Thursday afternoon with a classic rollerski sprint — complete with a prologue and heats.

Caldwell qualified 21st and went on to make the final, where she finished fifth overall.

Norway swept the top three in the women’s final, which Weng won, Kathrine Harsem placed second, and Barbro Kvaale was third.  Germany’s Sandra Ringwald was fourth, Caldwell fifth and Italy’s Greta Laurent sixth.

In the all-Norwegian men’s final, national-team member Petter Northug redeemed himself from finishing 81st of 86 in the hill climb, besting teammate Eirik Brandsdal for the win. Simen Lanes of Team Jobzone was third, his teammate Timo Andre Bakken was fourth, Ola Vigen Hattestad came back from last in the hill climb to place fifth, and Simen Østensen of Team United Bakeries was sixth.

Results: Hill climb | Sprint

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Aug. 12 Roundup: Kowalczyk Wins Ushuaia Loppet; Teichmann New Oberhof Coach

  • Last weekend, Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk won the fifth annual Ushuaia Loppet, a 42-kilometer freestyle marathon in the Valley of Tierra Mayor, northeast of Ushuaia, Argentina. The Olympic and world champion finished in 1:51:56, over 10 minutes ahead of the next woman and just one second behind the race winner, Carlos Lannes of Argentina. This year marked the first time the Ushuaia Loppet was a Worldloppet race, a title which helped triple the number of racers attending the marathon. There were 126 competitors from 19 different countries, and they enjoyed the best conditions in the area in 15 years.

 

  • According to xcski.de, Axel Teichmann is the new head coach at the training base in Oberhof, Germany. Teichmann is replacing former coach Cuno Schreyl, who had some issues with Oberhof athletes Tim Tscharnke and Thomas Bing that led to the athletes training independently. Teichmann is the new coach for Tscharnke and Bing, as well as up-and-coming Germans Marius Cebulla and Victoria Carl, among others. While the two-time world champion is a little skeptical because he is a novice at coaching, he believes he knows what must go into training to succeed on the World Cup. Teichmann also hopes to have open and effective communication with his athletes. As for goals, Teichmann wants Tscharnke and Bing consistently in the top 15 on the World Cup and believes Carl can contend for a medal at U23 championships.

 

  • Emil Jönsson has an entirely new training philosophy this summer, one mainly focused on staying healthy. According to SWESKi, the Swedish sprinter is exercising less than in years past and is instead doing a lot of yoga. In fact, he estimates that about half of his training is now mobility based. The Olympic champion missed last year’s World Championships in Falun, Sweden, because of a leg injury, something he does not want to happen again. Since adapting this new training regimen Jönsson feels able to go at his maximum speed without worrying about injury. This is important in sprinting because Jönsson will no longer fear the consequences of going too fast. For Jönsson, hopefully this will lead to a successful year in 2015/2016.

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July 31 Blink Roundup: Northug Wins XC Mass Start; Nordgren 3rd in Biathlon Shooting Comp (Updated)

Friday's male winners at the 2015 Blink festival in Sandnes, Norway: France's Martin Fourcade (l) and Norway's Petter Northug (r) won the biathlon and cross-country mass starts, respectively. (Photo: http://www.blinkfestivalen.no/home/blinkfestivalens-første-suksessdag-over-del-2)

Friday’s male winners at the 2015 Blink festival in Sandnes, Norway: France’s Martin Fourcade (l) and Norway’s Petter Northug (r) won the biathlon and cross-country mass starts, respectively. (Photo: blinkfestivalen.no)

(Note: This post has been updated to include comments from U.S. biathlete Leif Nordgren.)

After placing 72nd in Thursday’s hill climb on the first day of the Blink rollerski festival, Petter Northug found himself in familiar territory on Friday, winning the 15-kilometer mass start in Sandnes, Norway. He did so after sitting back in his usual fashion and letting others lead until the race came down to a final sprint, where he edged fellow Norwegian Sindre Sætre Hammerlund by 0.7 seconds in 28:41.7. Finland’s Martti Jylhä placed third, 1 second behind Northug.

The men’s cross-country races started off Friday with a prologue, which Norway’s Håvard Solås Taugbøl won in 3:21.37, 0.27 seconds ahead of Renaud Jay of France. Jylhä qualified third (+1.27).

Norway’s Barbro Kvåle won the women’s 10 k mass start by 0.2 seconds over Lotta Udnes Weng in 19:44, and Norway swept the top five with Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen in third (+0.5), Ragnhild Haga in fourth (+0.9) and Ingvild Flugstad Østberg in fifth (+0.9).

In the biathlon races, Finland’s Kaisa Mäkäräinen qualified first in the women’s prologue, 2.6 seconds ahead of Canadian Rosanna Crawford with a top time of 12:26.5. Marine Bolliet of France qualified third (+4.3).

Another French biathlete, Justine Braisaz ended up winning the biathlon mass start in 14:08.5 with a single miss in the four-stage race. She beat Norway’s Fanny Welle-Strand Horn, who missed two, by 5.4 seconds, and Russia’s reigning world champion Ekaterina Yurlova placed third (+8.5) with two penalties. Crawford had four penalties and placed fifth (+15.3). Mäkäräinen was sixth, Boillet seventh, and American Susan Dunklee finished 11th with eight misses.

Norway’s Lars Helge Birkeland won the men’s biathlon qualifier in 10:48.1, a full 7 seconds ahead of Norway’s Tarjei Bø in second. Frenchman Baptiste Jouty moved on in third (+9.9) with clean shooting.

In the men’s biathlon mass start that followed, France’s Martin Fourcade missed one en route to the win in 18:03.7. Bø missed five and finished 1.8 seconds back in second, and Birkeland was third (+3) with five penalties as well. Canada’s Nathan Smith qualified and placed seventh with three penalties.

Nordgren Podiums in ‘Shooting Duel’

Friday’s biathlon events started with head-to-head standing shooting competitions, with racers starting about 5-10 meters back from the shooting points, racing to the mat, shooting until they hit all five targets, leaving their rifle on the mat, and racing back to the line. American Leif Nordgren placed third in the men’s final, 4.9 seconds behind Norwegian winner Kristoffer Skjelvik. Simon Desthieux of France was second, just 0.6 seconds ahead of Nordgren. Also in the 12-man final, Canada’s Brendan Green placed eighth (+7.2).

“I’ve never been in that big of a shooting competition before,” Nordgren wrote in an email. “There was quite a bit of pressure with so many good athletes there, as well as all the fans, but it was still a lot of fun!

“As far as performance, I think it was a little bit random how some people shot,” he added. “Basically everything was moving so fast that if you got lucky and happened to hit all 5 you’d move through no problem, but if something went wrong it also depended on how the other shooters had fared.”

Italy’s Dorothea Wierer won the women’s shooting duel by 0.7 seconds over Norway’s Marte Olsbu. Bolliet finished third (+5.5), Crawford was seventh (+8.9) and Dunklee was ninth (+14.8).

Crawford described the competition as similar to a cross-country sprint race, with quarterfinals, semifinals and a final.

“Then there’s a mega final with the winner of each gender! So the nerves get more and more intense as you go,” she wrote in an email. “I took the approach of shooting smooth would be fast. I knew for sure the first two rounds there would be people missing lots, so going a bit slower and hitting would be worth while. But the nerves I felt in this competition was like nothing I have experienced! My heart was pounding and my legs were shaking it was pretty intense! We practiced this competition on the last day of our training camp, so I was able to come up with a few cue and how I would approach the shooting duel.”

“To be competitive you have to take a little risk and just go for it, and shoot faster than you normally would in a race,” Dunklee explained in an email. “Pushing the pace like this either pays off well, or you have a total melt down and miss a bunch.

“This format is creates a unique psychological challenge,” she added. “Head-to-head, fans and loudspeakers, the pressure of the clock, TV cameras in your face; even though there was no physical exertion involved, most athletes said they had shaky legs while shooting.”

While Dunklee was disappointed with her other races on Friday, she explained she worked on her speed this summer and was confident she could shoot quickly in standing.

“I missed my first couple shoots in the final which took me out of contention, but I feel really proud of winning my semi final,” she wrote. “A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed it possible to make so much progress in my shooting speed in one year to shoot as fast or faster than many of the top ladies on the World Cup.”

“It’s been great to be here at Blink,” Nordgren wrote. “It’s really nice to see where the other top athletes are at in the summer. We never get to see that while in the US during the summer. But it’s nice to mix up our training camp here and get some fun racing in too.”

Results

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July 29 Roundup: Blink Festival Begins Thursday; Northug Says He’s Out of Shape

 

  • The 2015 Blink Ski Festival begins Thursday with the Lysebotn Up, a 7.5 kilometer uphill rollerski race in Lysebotn, Norway. According to ski-nordique, the event has become the big summer event for cross-country skiers and biathletes, likely because many of the world’s best skiers attend the festival. Some examples are Petter Northug, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Finn Haagen Krogh, Calle Halfvarsson, and Alexander Legkov on the men’s side and Astrid Jacobsen, Heidi Weng, Kerttu Niskanen, Maiken Caspersen Falla, and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen on the women’s side. The Blink Festival serves as an interesting test of mid-summer fitness for many of the World Cup regulars. After the uphill race tomorrow, the festival moves to Sandnes, Norway, where it continues with 10 and 15 k mass starts before wrapping up with a sprint competition on Saturday.

 

  • Petter Northug briefly spoke with the press after a charity soccer match in Oslo, Norway. Coming off an altitude camp, during which he trained at low intensity, Northug still feels his fitness is not where it needs to be. When asked how his fitness compares to the same time last year, the Norweigan star simply replied, “it is bad.” Aside from his fitness, Northug also needs to sort out a deal with the Norwegian Ski Federation. Without a signed national contract, he will be unable to represent Norway during the upcoming season’s World Cups.

 

  • The FIS Rollerski World Cup continued last weekend in Madona, Latvia, with a three-day series consisting of a freestyle sprint on Friday, a classic prologue on Saturday, and a freestyle pursuit on Sunday. Sweden’s Linn Somskaer dominated the weekend of races, winning all three races on the women’s side. With such a dominant weekend, Somskaer took the overall Rollerski World Cup lead. On the men’s side, Italian Emanuele Becchis once again showed his sprinting prowess, winning his second sprint of this summer’s Rollerski World Cup. Robin Norum of Sweden won Saturday’s classic prologue, but was unable to hold on in the freestyle pursuit, in which Sergei Dolidovich of Belarus claimed the win. After the weekend’s events, Norum now stands atop the men’s overall Rollerski World Cup standing and Sweden is on top in the team standings. The FIS Rollerski World Cup continues Aug. 21 in Bad Peterstal, Germany.

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