Tag Archive | "feature"

Brooks Blog – Birken Backpacks and Cooking Dinner for Norway’s (potential) Next Prime Minister


March 29, 2015 (Norway) – Another week has passed in my “marathon of marathons.”  The Norwegian Birkie, called “Birken” is the 9th long distance ski race I’ve competed in this winter.  As an ambassador and huge fan of the American Birkie I was extremely curious to see what the Norwegian Birken was like and how it compared.  It’s safe to say that they are two completely different races for a host of reasons and both are completely awesome.

(l-r) Kerttu Niskanen, Brooks, Laila Kveli pre- Birken modeling our perfectly weighed 3.5k backpacks [P] courtesy of Holly Brooks

Fun to be on a team with girls from 3 different countries!  Kerttu Niskanen, Me & Laila Kveli pre- Birken modeling our perfectly weighed 3.5k backpacks!

A huge thank you to the Stange family for hosting me in Lillehammer for the week.  (And thanks to Ben Popp, ED of the American Birkie for connecting us!)  Erik is a former high-level ski racer and we have lots of mutual friends. I had a blast with him and his family.

The Stange Family (l-r) Erik, Emily, Henrik & Greta [P] courtesy of Holly BrooksThey fed me, gave me rides, loaned trail maps, and were awesome company. They had great Internet, a queen sized bed (!) laundry, and a wax bench so I was in heaven.

Read more here.

Interview with Rosie Brennan – SuperTour 2015 Overall Women’s Winner


March 28, 2015 (Sun Valley, ID) – When the dust settled following the SuperTour Finals and 2015 US Long Distance National Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho Rosie Brennan (APU) took home the SuperTour Overall women’s title and the Grand Champion award capping a superb season. Brennan also earned three titles at the US XC Ski Championships in January and delivered solid results on the World Cup as well – final standings here. We caught up with the rising American star for a brief chat as the season ended.

Rosie Brennan [P] Linus Trygg

Great way to celebrate so many positive steps for you this year.
RB: Thanks! I am ecstatic to have held onto the SuperTour overall. I knew I had to race well at Supertour Finals to keep my lead. I got sick the day of the first race so suddenly I had to rethink everything. I tried to warm up for the race thinking I could tough it out, but racing with a fever just isn’t smart.

How did things unfold for the 30K ?
RB: I tried again the next day and I did race, but it felt absolutely horrible. I sat out the Team Relay and tried again in the 30K. I knew I had to have a very good race to get it so I just kept trying to convince myself I wasn’t sick. It was a brutal day to race with ridiculously slow snow and very high temperatures. But I toughed it out with everything I had and did well enough to snag the overall. It was a truly great way to end the season.

Rosie Brennan won the SuperTour title and Grand Champion award [P] Dave Wheelock

What’s on tap for you now that the season is over ?
RB: It’s been a rollercoaster of a year for me and I am happy with what I was able to accomplish. I’m looking forward to taking time to pull myself back together before moving back into training.


Interviews with Kris Freeman SuperTour Overall Men’s Winner and Caitlin Gregg Women’s 30km FR Winner


March 27, 2015 (Sun Valley, ID) – Following yesterday’s final 30/50km FR events of the 2015 US Long Distance National Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho we caught up with veteran Kris Freeman (Freebird), who took home the SuperTour Overall men’s title, and Caitlin Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus), who won her first women’s 30km FR national title for the their take on their victories and their seasons – final standings here.

Kris Freeman [P] Peter Graves

Kris Freeman SuperTour Overall Men’s Winner

You’ve had many victories this season – which one stands out the most?
KF: I dug the deepest to win the 30k classic at US Nationals.  I was literally staggering the last 200 meters.  I wasn’t feeling very good that day but I got everything I had out of my body so it stands out.

Are you happy with your season overall?
KF: I had three goals this season.  Win the SuperTour and get back on the world cup, qualify for World Championships, and place in the top 20 at the World Championships.  I accomplished the first two goals but I was sick for the entire world championships.  I was way off form in europe and international results are what I value most.  Still I won three Nor/Ams and five SuperTours this year which made or a fun season of racing.

What’s on tap for you now following the last race?
KF: I am going to go on vacation with my girlfriend.  I’ll start training in May and continue working with Eli Lilly as a diabetes spokesman and advocate this summer.

Caitlin Gregg takes home her first 30K FR title [P] Dave Wheelock

Caitlin Gregg Women’s 30km FR Winner

Would love to hear about your race today – the course – conditions.
CG: Great day to be a part of Team Gregg! Both Brian and I are psyched with our Double US Nationals Podium (Brian 3rd American). We are also very grateful for our awesome Madshus skis and the wax support from the University of New Mexico and Toko Wax! Our races wouldn’t have been as successful without all of these factors!

I actually woke up this morning and didn’t think I was going to race. I have been struggling with daily headaches after I got hit pretty hard during a feed in the Holmenkollen and have had to skip every race out here until today. I felt OK but not great this morning but wanted to get out and cheer for everyone (especially Brian). I hung out with the UNM women’s Team for a few hours before our noon start and their great attitudes lifted my spirit so I decided to try and see how I would feel during the warmup.

The course broke down quite a bit from the 9 AM Men’s start. I went out to help feed and cheer for Brian at the Men’s start time and conditions looked perfect for the skis I had waxed the night before. When I came back out to cheer the men on for the final few laps I noticed the the snow was beginning to change and change fast. I quickly tested another pair of skis and decided to race on them. After a quick wax touch up I headed to the start not sure if I had warmed up enough or whether the hot weather would make my headache return. During the first lap of the race I soon realized I had made the right decision on skis and to go ahead a race.

Is this your first 30K US title – how does it feel ?
CG: This is my first 30K title! I won the 20K last year but this was even better!

How does this victory compare to your other big performances this season ?
CG: The victory today was very special. I had my husband, aunt and uncle out on course for support and it feels great t cap off such a great season with a good result. I heard rumor of some skeptics about my result in Falun only being due to the weather but I hope this helps show that I also had to be in great shape and pick the right skis to capitalize on what the weather was doing.

What’s up for you now that the season is over?
CG: Now that the season is over Team Gregg keeps going. We actually go home and start work on Tuesday morning! We work at the Boys and Girls Club in North Minneapolis where we live. We organize a run club for the at-risk inner-city youth. We are psyched to kick off the spring season with a running race next weekend with the Timberwolves (our NBA Team!) and then go watch a game the following week! I love what we do as athletes and I am very proud of all we have accomplished…but my ultimate passion lies with helping giveback to those who can benefit from our energy and time the most. it’s been almost 6 months since I have seen the kids and I am beyond ecstatic to share my medal and the stories of our winter with them!

Caitlin Gregg Caps Storybook Season with Women’s 30km FR Triumph @ US National Championships Finale


Caitlin Gregg takes home her first 30K FR title [P] Dave WheelockMarch 26, 2015 (Sun Valley, ID) – Caitlin Gregg (Team Gregg/Madshus) capped her storybook season with a resounding victory by 2:40 for her first women’s 30km FR title, the final event of the 2015 US Long Distance National Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho. Gregg has been on fire since winning a bronze medal at the Nordic Worlds in Falun, Sweden, which she followed up claiming 3rd again at the 42km Engadin Skimarathon in Switzerland.

Women's start... [P] Dave Wheelock

Former winner, Liz Stephen, finished second as she also had a superb season claiming her first World Cup podium finishing second in the women’s 10km FR at Rybinsk,Russia while finishing a record 5th overall at the Tour de Ski.

Sadie Bjornsen took 3rd for her fourth podium [P] Dave Wheelock

Defending champ, Sadie Bjornsen, landed third on the podium for her fourth consecutive podium finish at the SuperTour finals and Championships. Rosie Brennan took fourth claiming the overall women’s SuperTour title and Grand Champion award for a stellar season as well.

Rosie Brennan won the SuperTour title and Grand Champion award [P] Dave Wheelock


1. Caitlin Gregg (USA) 1:42:46.9
2. Liz Stephen (USA) 2:40.8
3. Sadie Bjornsen (USA) 3:54.0
4. Rosie Brennan (USA) 4:01.8
5. Chelsea Holmes (USA) 4:05.7

Full results HERE.

Canada’s Ivan Babikov Wins 50K FR @ US National Championships – Hoffman Retains Title


M 50K Podium (l) Oedegaard, Babikov, Hoffman [P]March 26, 2015 (Sun Valley, ID) – Canada’s Ivan Babikov took home the biggest victory of his season with a strong performance to win the men’s 50km FR by just under a minute at the 2o15 US National Long Distance Championships in Sun, Valley, ID, as another season wraps up.

Rune Oedegaard [P] Dave Wheelock

The real battle was for the silver as Rune Oedegaard (Nor) edged out Noah Hoffman, the defending champ, at the line – Hoffman retains the title as the top American. Erik Bjornsen (USA) was fifth and rising Canadian star, Graeme Killick, was fifth.

Hoffman (l) and Elliott [P] Dave Wheelock

“US Nationals 50km podium! Great way to finish a season…awesome to be back racing in US!” tweeted Babikov. Kris Freeman (Freebird) in 18th took home the 2015 SuperTour Overall title and the Grand Champion award as well.

Ivan Babikov with Hoffman and Elliott behind [P] Dave Wheelock

1. Ivan Babikov (Can) 1:57:06.2
2. Rune Oedegaard (Nor) 01:57:58.1
3. Noah Hoffman (USA) 01:57:58.6
4. Erik Bjornsen (USA) 01:57:59.0
5. Graeme Killick (Can) 01:58:00.7
6. Aku Nikander (Fin) 01:58:20.5
7. Mads Stroem (Nor) 01:59:00.3
8. Brian Gregg (USA) 01:59:00.5
9. Fabian Stocek (Cze) 01:59:19.6
10. Rogan Savage Brown (USA) 01:59:36.4

Full results HERE.

Interview with Chris Lindsay High Performance Director at Biathlon Canada


Biathlon Canada for 2015 [P] Nordic FocusMarch 22, 2015 (Canmore, AB) – SkiTrax caught up with Chris Lindsay High Performance Director at Biathlon Canada yesterday for his take on Nathan Smith’s World Cup gold and incredible season. In fact the team has had a great season overall with personal bests for Smith, Brendan Green, Rosanna Crawford, Megan Heinicke and Scott Gow. Jean-Philippe Le Guellec is the only other Canadian male to reach the World Cup podium and Smith eclipsed Le Guellec becoming the first Canadian male to win a silver medal at the Biathlon worlds. Two-time Olympic champion, Myriam Bedard, is the only other Canadian to medal at both the Biathlon World Championships and the World Cup. According to Lindsay, “We have a team that is pushing all our athletes to ever increasing success. Nathan is the first one to have made the big break but we will see success from even more athletes in the following seasons. That’s by design.”

Interview with Chris Lindsay



Canada’s Brittany Hudak Wins Biathlon Silver Medal at IPC World Cup Finals in Norway


March 22, 2015 (Surnadal, Norway) – Canada’s Brittany Hudak capped off a memorable weekend, by hopping onto the podium for the third time this week after winning the silver medal in the women’s biathlon race at the IPC World Cup Finals in Surnadal, Norway.

Canada's Brittany Hudak [P] Photo Scott Grant/Canadian Paralympic Committee

One day after claiming the women’s Overall IPC World Cup cross-country ski title in just her first full season on the national team with a fourth-place finish on Saturday’s five-kilometre standing classic ski race, Hudak put the rifle on her back and hit the start line for the final time this year in the women’s 12.5-kilometre pursuit race.

The Prince Alberta, Sask., youngster missed just one shot in her first of four rounds of shooting to post a second place time of 41:36.6. Oleksandra Kononova, of the Ukraine, swept gold over the weekend with a time of 39:46.2 (0+0+1+1). Hudak beat the Ukraine’s Liudmyla Liashenko for the second time this week and in her career. Liashenko clocked in at 43:16..6 for the bronze after missing five shots (1+2+2+0).

It has been a stellar run for the 21-year-old Hudak since being discovered by Canada’s legendary Paralympian, Colette Bourgonje, nearly two years ago while working at Canadian Tire store.

Taken under Bourgonje’s wing, Hudak qualified to represent Canada at the 2014 Paralympics. She was then brought into the national development team program this season where she has taken a major step forward as one of the top contenders on the premiere international para-nordic circuit.

Hudak won two gold, two silver and one bronze medal in cross-country skiing events this year. She also added a bronze earlier this week to go with Sunday’s silver while competing in biathlon.

“The learning curve has been so huge for me,” said Hudak. “Now having the opportunity to attend national training camps, particularly the New Zealand camp this summer, I have noticed a huge improvement in my technique. It has been such an advantage for me to be in the same environment with the high-performance athletes, seeing how the train and learning from them.”

Mark Arendz, of Hartsville, P.E.I., was fifth in the men’s 15-kilometre standing pursuit Sunday with a time of 45:40.8. Urkaine’s Ihor Reptyukh set the time to beat at 42:17.6 (1+0+1+1).

Chris Klebl, who won a gold in the men’s sit-ski distance races earlier this week at the World Cup Finals, was fifth on Saturday. The result secured the Paralympic champion third overall in the men’s cross-country sit-ski division.

Full results and more information are available at Paralympic.org.

Canada’s Nathan Strikes Historic Career-first Gold in IBU World Cup Men’s 12.5K Pursuit @Khanty-Mansiysk


March 21, 2015 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia) – Canada’s Nathan Smith hit a homerun on Saturday winning the Men’s 12.5K Pursuit race in one of the heartlands of the sport at the IBU World Cup finals in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. The Calgarian is now a member of the Biathlon World Cup Champions club.

Final podium [P] Nordic Focus

“It is amazing. The last few weeks have been such a great way to end the season,” said Smith, 29. “It feels less surreal than last time. Winning the silver at World’s was overwhelming. But this is my first win. This is huge for me.” – post-race interview with Smith here.

Two weeks ago at the 2015 Biathlon World Championships in Kontiolahti, Finland Smith took home silver in the Men’s 10km Sprint becoming the first Canadian male to win a medal at the Biathlon worlds.

Benedikt Doll of Germany earned his second career podium finishing behind Green, with two penalties at 24 seconds back while Russia’s Anton Shipulin took third place with four penalties at 35.7 seconds behind. Just behind Shipulin was Martin Fourcade (FRA) in fourth at 40.3 seconds back, also with four penalties. Fourcade’s result sealed the World Cup overall title for the fourth year in a row and the pursuit title as well.

Starting in fifth based on Thursday’s sprint results, Smith skied comfortably at the front with Shipulin and Fourcade cleaning all targets in his first two prone rounds of shooting while taking advantage of misses by his rivals.

Nathan Smith (CAN) at the finish of his first IBU World Cup victory in the Men’s 12.5km Pursuit at the final round in Khanty-Mansiysk [P] Nordic Focus

Skiing with the leaders for two laps, Smith shot clean for the third straight time on the range in his first standing where he took a 15s lead. On the final standing he missed one target but Shipulin and Fourcade missed two as Smith’s lead ballooned to 37s and he never looked back.

“I was really fatigued after the World Championships but with a few days off I recovered well. I was a little nervous heading into today because of my good start position,” added Smith. “I just had a feeling today. I felt like it was going to be a good day.”

The USA’s Leif Nordgren finished 17th with three penalties followed by Lowell Bailey in 22nd with one missed target and Canada’s Brendan Green who climbed seven spots into 23rd also with one penalty. The USA’s Tim Burke finished 53rd with six penalties.

Leif Nordgren (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

Starting in 21st position Nordgren missed three targets in prone before settling down and cleaning all 10 targets in standing. “I am happy with where I ended up today, 17th isn’t bad, but I had an opportunity for a little more so that’s somewhat of a bummer,” said Nordgren.

“I couldn’t quite get the targets down in prone today. Three misses in prone is a little unusual. It wasn’t exactly super windy during our race so to me, three is too many. I came around in standing, though — really happy to salvage the race with 10 hits in standing.”

It has been a dream ending to a historic season for Smith who has been a model of progression over the last two years, steadily working his way up the elite international biathlon standings. He made his Olympic debut in 2014 where he chalked up three top-15 finishes, and first turned heads on the IBU Cup development circuit where he celebrated three victories and a bronze medal. He has regularly been in the top-10 and also celebrated a number of top-five finishes this year.

Jean-Philippe Le Guellec is the only other Canadian male to reach the World Cup podium. Le Guellec kicked off the 2012-13 season winning a World Cup sprint in Oestersund, Sweden. Two-time Olympic champion, Myriam Bedard, is the only other Canadian to medal at both the Biathlon World Championships and on the World Cup.

Team Canada [P] Nordic Focus

Smith along with Canadian teammates Brendan Green and Rosanna Crawford have all busted into the top-five this year. For most of the year the team had a game-within-the-game, taking bets as to who would strike through to their first podium. Megan Heinicke, of Prince George, B.C., has also rattled of a number of personal bests during the post-Olympic year.

“Nathan’s success today was the logical product of his incredible determination, focus, and decade of hard work. It is also the product of a system established by our national team coaches and support staff that has emphasized consistent and incremental gains,” said Chris Lindsay, high-performance director, Biathlon Canada.

“We have a team that is pushing all our athletes to ever increasing success. Nathan is the first one to have made the big break but we will see success from even more athletes in the following seasons. That’s by design,” he added.

Matthias Ahrens, Canadian Biathlon Head Coach, cheering Smith on [P]

“There is definitely a mental barrier you have to cross to get onto the podium,” continued Smith. “If you keep getting top-10s it is eventually going to happen, but until you realize that goal, you don’t believe it will.

“I think drawing on those “close call” experiences helps you get there. Earlier this year in Oestersund I was in this position for a podium and missed my last three standing. I thought about Oestersund all day today. I was more mentally prepared to deal with the situation this time.

“We have four athletes that are very close to the podium. Our funding partners look at World Championships for funding,” added Smith. “This reaffirms it is not a fluke. Our program has depth. The biathletes from around the world are really excited for Canada and that is kind of cool!”

The final World Cup race of the season takes place Sunday with the mass start events.

Full results here.

With files from Biathlon Canada and US Biathlon

Smith and wax tech Tom Zidek celebrate at the finish [P]Smith with moustache [P]

Sadie and Erik Bjornsen Top Fields @ 2015 Supertour Finals 10/15km CL


Sadie Bjornsen [P] Dave WheelockMarch 21, 2015 (Sun Valley, ID) – APU ruled as Sadie and Erik Bjornsen took no prisoners today on their way to victory in the women’s 10km and men’s 15km CL individual competitions on the Galena Trails at the 2015 Supertour Finals hosted by the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation. Both put the hammer down and got the job done with about a minute to spare.

Women's podium (l-r) Mayerhofer, Holmes, Bjornsen, Stephen [P] Dave Wheelock

Chelsea Holmes (APU) took second and Liz Stephen (Burke Mountain) third in the women’s race while Alexander Treinen (APU) took the silver in the men’s race followed by Mads Stroem (Colorado) in third.

“It was great to get back to the US and do my first race on US soil this year today in Sun Valley. I especially enjoyed putting on my APU blue uniform and joining up with my teammates and coaches that I spend all summer, spring and fall training with! That is the best part of coming back to the US and doing the last few races of the year,” commented Sadie B.

Erik Bjornsen battles with Mads Stroem [P] Dave Wheelock

“These races are especially challenging because we are racing at 7,600 feet, at Galena Lodge in Sun Valley, which means not a whole lot of oxygen. But what better way to end the season than with a BIG challenge!

“I also enjoyed sharing the top step with my brother. It is extra fun to win the same day as your sibling. We both love classic, so we tend to have our “good days” on the same day.

Men's podium (l-r) Lustgarten, Treinen, Bjornsen, Stroem, Havlick [P] Dave Wheelock

“I am looking forward to three more fun races to go. The skate sprint tomorrow, team event on tuesday, and the 30k skate on Thursday,” she concluded.

Full results here.

Interview with Canada’s Nathan Smith on Career-first IBU World Cup GOLD @ Khanty-Mansiysk


Nathan Smith (CAN) wins IBU World Cup GOLD in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia [P] Nordic FocusMarch 21, 2015 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia) – SkiTrax caught up with Canada’s Nathan Smith who claimed a decisive career-first IBU World Cup victory today in the Men’s 12.5km Pursuit at the final round in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. His stellar win came barely two weeks after he became the first Canadian male to win a medal at the Biathlon World Championships taking home the silver in the Men’s 10km Sprint at Kontiolahti, Finland – read more here.

Interview with Nathan Smith



USA’s Masters and Soule Win Overall Cross-country IPC World Cup Titles


March 21, 2015   (Surnadal, Norway) – Oksana Masters and Andy Soule claimed the overall IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup cross-country titles on a three-medal day for Team USA at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals in Norway. Masters (Louisville, Kentucky) and Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cnossen (Topeka, Kansas) won gold in the middle distance cross-country race, while Soule grabbed bronze.

Andy Soule and Oksana Masters (USA) [P] James Netz

Masters not only won gold, but also capped her season with an overall world cup cross-country title. During the 2014-15 season, Masters won nine cross-country world cup medals, with seven golds and two silvers. Masters also won two cross-country medals at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships in Cable, Wisconsin with two silvers and one bronze.

“I felt really good today,” Masters said. “It was a hard race but my skis were fast, and I felt good. This is a great way to end the cross-country season. Everything has been pretty perfect here.”

Soule managed his first podium in Norway as he took third in the men’s sitting class. Soule had the best season of his career as he won the most world championship medals of any U.S. skiier with five medals. In cross country competition, Soule racked up five world cup medals, with four golds and one bronze, and three cross-country medals at the world championships.

Dan Cnossen [P] Lediard Foto AS

“It is a great feeling and a great finish to the season,” Soule said. “This took a lot of hard work by myself, my teammates, my coaches and wax techs. This is just a great end to the season.”

Today’s win was was a repeat of Cnossen’s victory in the middle distance cross-country race four weeks ago in Asahikawa, Japan.

“I was getting updates from the coaches during the race that it was a really tight race between Alexei Bychenok and myself,” Cnossen said. “I was really happy for Andy [Soule] who came in third and got the world cup overall win today, that is even better. Our team had a great performance today.”

World cup competition concludes on Sunday with the biathlon individual events. Full results and more information are available at Paralympic.org.

USA’s Dreissigacker Career-best 14th as Makarainen Takes IBU Women’s 7.5km Sprint @ Khanty-Mansiysk


March 20, 2015 (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia) – In the final women’s 7.5km sprint of the season, the USA’s Hannah Dreissigacker turned in a career-best 14th with one penalty at 1:26.4 behind winner Kaisa Makarainen (FIN) at the IBU World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia.

 Hanah Dreissigacker (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier finished second, also with one penalty at 14.2 seconds back while Darya Domracheva of Belarus was third, with two penalties, at 15.5 seconds behind. Makarainen gained more than 12 seconds in the final loop of Friday’s race to win in 19:49.1, with a single penalty.

Dreissigacker’s teammate Susan Dunklee finished 26th with four penalties followed by Canadian Rosanna Crawford in 28th with three missed targets.

Susan Dunklee (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

Together with Susan Dunklee’s (Barton, Vt.) 26th-place finish (21:38.5/+4), both U.S. athletes qualify for Saturday’s pursuit competition.

“I was not expecting a new best result with one miss, but I guess the whole field struggled a bit with the shooting, so it was better than I thought,” said Dreissigacker. “I had a frustrating world championships, not shooting well the whole time, so I’m just really happy to now be able to end the season on a better note. And, I’m psyched for the pursuit tomorrow!”

Rosanna Crawford (CAN) [P] Nordic Focus

The wind did seem to affect Dunklee on the range today as she missed one target in prone and three in standing, but made up for the lost time in the penalty laps by posting the fifth-fastest course time in the field.

Final podium [P] Nordic Focus

“Today’s sprint was our last opportunity to score team Nation Cup points and we had a close battle going for the top 15,” said Dunklee. “We fought for every place. I am so proud of Hannah putting together her career-best result today and we sealed 15th. I probably sound like a broken record after last week — my ski shape feels phenomenal right now and would put me in a very high position if I were to shoot well. Unfortunately, the standing got the best of me this time.”

Dreissigacker and Dunklee secured a top-15 ranking for the U.S. in the Nation Cup standings, ensuring four starters at next season’s IBU World Championships.

Full results here.

Emily Nishikawa and Ivan Babikov Claim 10/15km CL Titles on Day 4 @ Haywood Ski Nationals


March 18, 2015 (Thunder Bay, ON) – Just when Thunder Bay was thinking that spring had arrived Mother Nature sent cold weather and high winds to Lappe for a deceiving cold -6 degree C. day. Fortunately there was brilliant sunshine, so if you could stay out of the gusts the weather was tolerable for the classic, interval start races.

Emily Nishikawa [P] CCC

The racing continued to be very competitive but the arrival of Emily Nishikawa and Ivan Babikov after racing the World Cups in Oslo last weekend, added an increased performance level to the competition.

In the women’s race it was a battle between National Team skiers Emily Nishkawa of Whitehorse and Nakkertok’s Perianne Jones, who has recently showed increased success in distance competitions.

Nishkawa built up a large lead 25 second lead on the first lap over Jones, but on the 2nd 5k either the jetlag and skiing 30k on Sunday caught up with Nishkawa, or Jones went into another gear as there was only a 2 second gap at the finish.

Cendrine Browne came through in 3rd for Fondeurs Laurentide.

(l-r) Annika Hicks, Emily Nishikawa, Perianne Jones, Cendrine Browne [P] CCC

For the men it was a similar story as Ivan Babikov of Foothills Nordic returned to competition at the Nationals. Ivan built up a 7 second lead over fellow World Cup skier Graeme Killick over the first 7.5k and increased the lead to 25 seconds at the finish.

Ivan Babikov [P] CCC

In 3rd place it was nice to see Frédéric Touchette of Université Laval returning to the podium. Frédéric had been a rival of Alex Harvey as a junior and has struggled with several medical issues in recent years that have limited his performance levels.

Jenn Jackson [P] CCC

In the Junior Women’s race, Jenn Jackson of Team Hardwood claimed gold, less than 3 seconds off bronze in the Open Women’s competition. Second went to Rocky Mountain Racers’ Maya MacIssac-Jones and third was Annah Hanthorn of Whitehorse.

Annah Hanthorn lunges at the line [P] CCC

In the Junior Men’s competition it was Joey Foster of Team Hardwood destroying the field, with a 1 minute 41 second lead over Alexis Dumas of Skibec. Third was Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier of Fondeurs Laurentide.

Marie Corriveau of Mont Ste. Anne dominated the Junior Girls race with a 1 minute and 25 second lead over Hannah Mehain of Sovereign Lake with Eliza-Jane Kitchen of Hollyburn 3rd 1 second later.

For Junior Boys Antoine Blais of Skibec was 1st followed by Ty Godfrey of Canmore and Ryan Jackson of Team Hardwood.

The Juvenile Girls podium were all from B.C. with Kimberley’s Molly Miller 1st, Alana Brittin of Revelstoke 2nd and Anna Goodwin of Hollyburn 3rd.

In the Juvenile Boys race Antoine Laforte of Skibec was 1st, followed by Team Hardwood’s Finn Dodgson and Canmore’s Sam Hendry.

There were 14 Canadian Universities and Colleges represented as part of the CCUNC category. Frédéric Touchette, who was 3rd in the Open Men’s race took top honours for U Laval and Kendra Murray of Carleton was the women’s champ.

On a day when several of the top Canadian Para-Nordic athletes were winning World Cup gold in Norway a good contingent of Para-Nordic skiers were at Lappe to determine the winners of the Canadian Championships.

In the standing class Gabriel Denis of Iroquois Falls was the winner in the men’s race while Chelsea Nordiq’s Caroline Bisson claimed the women’s title.

In the sitski competition, Ethan Hess of Vancouver’s Nordic Racers was the men’s champ and another B.C. competitor Emily Suchy of Revelstoke won the women’s gold.

CCUNC Results
Para-Nordic Results

IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals -Canada and USA Win Gold in Norway


March 18, 2015 (Surnadal, Norway) – Canadian and Russian athletes enjoyed the best of the action on the first day of the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup finals in Surnadal, Norway, each winning two cross-country freestyle long distance races apiece on March 17.

Brian McKeever and guide Erik Carleton [P] CCC
In the men’s visually impaired race over 20km, Paralympic and world champions Brian McKeever and guide Erik Carleton (48:38.5) continued their unbeaten streak this year topping the podium well ahead of Russia’s Stanislav Chokhlaev and guide Evgenii Fatkhullin (53:21.3) in second.  Third place went to Ukraine’s Anatolii Kovalevskyi, guided by Oleksandr Mukshyn (55:00.5).

A winner of 13 medals, including 10 gold, in four trips to the Paralympics, McKeever and his Calgary-based childhood friend, Carleton, have been nearly perfect since teaming up with each other for the World Championships four years ago. The dynamite duo also teamed up to win two golds at the 2014 Paralympics. McKeever won his third gold with Graham Nishikawa.

Chris Klebl [P] IPC Nordic Skiing

Chris , a gold medallist over 10km at Sochi 2014, secured Canada’s second win in the men’s sitting over 15km; a race that proved to be the day’s closest contest.

The 43-year-old (40:24.0) edged out Russian world champion Aleksandr Davidovich (40:25.3) by just 1.3 seconds in a thrilling finish.  Another Russian, Alexey Bychenok (41:21.8) finished third.

“I am definitely a fan of spring racing with the longer, warmer days,” said Klebl. “The racing this week is during the timeframe of the Paralympic Games so it is also good to see that our training plan has me skiing fast now. I have one race left to see how the overall standings for the year shake out and I’m looking forward to it.”

Dan Cnossen [P] John Farra

The U.S. men were led by Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cnossen (Topeka, Kansas) in fourth place and Andy Soule (Pearland, Texas) in seventh place in the 15-km sit-ski cross-country event. Cnossen finished fourth just seven seconds behind bronze medalist Bychenok with the top three finishers coming in within a minute of each other.

On good day for athletes from the Americas, the USA’s Oksana Masters, the overall world cup leader, maintained her recent run of good form in the women’s sitting over 12km.  Masters (36:44.90) was in convincing form and beat home favourite Mariann Marthinsen (37:37.7) into second and Russia’s Natalia Kocherova (39:14.6) into third.

Oksana Masters [P] John Farra

“My goal in today’s race was to focus on my pacing and technique,” Masters said. “This season, the 12-kilometer races have been a struggle with pacing and keeping technique once I get tired. Today was a team effort success. My skis were flying thanks to [ski technician] Dave [Mark] and my coaches were alongside the course reminding me about pacing and technique. It’s always a team effort and today was a great way to end the last long distance cross-country race of the season.

The women’s standing over 15km was won by Ukraine’s world champion in this event Oleksandra Kononova (44:04.7). Second was Canada’s Brittany Hurdak (44:35.8), whilst Kononova’s teammate Liudmyla Liashenko (44:49.8) was third.

Canada's Brittany Hudak [P] Photo Scott Grant/Canadian Paralympic Committee

“It is a mixture of shock and happiness today,” said Hudak, 21, from Prince Albert, Sask. “It was great to beat the Ukraine girl who was third for the first time so I was thrilled with that. I had been feeling tired heading into the race so I was focused on my technique and skiing as efficiently as possible. Once I started the race, it became clear that my skis were really fast so I pushed hard and enjoyed the experience.”

Russia’s two wins came through world champions Iuliia Budaleeva and Rushan Minnegulov. Budaleeva and guide Tatiana Maltseva (43:14.9) were victorious in the women’s visually impaired race over 15km and were joined on the podium by teammates Elena Remizova and guide Maksim Pirogov (44:27.5) in third.  Second was Ukraine’s Oksana Shyshkova and guide Lada Nesterenko (43:57.1).

Minnegulov (49:28.0) claimed the win in the men’s standing over 20km beating Ukraine’s Ihor Reptyukh (50.41.5) and Norway’s Hakon Olsrud (52:07.8) into second and third respectively.

Competition continues through to 22 March with middle distance classic cross-country, as well as short, pursuit and long distance biathlon.

Results here.

FIS XC Inside the Fence – The Magic of Holmenkollen Video


March 17, 2015 – Cross-country skiing originated in Fennoscandian countries in prehistoric times. It was still widely practiced in the 19th century as a way of moving from place to place in winter. As a sport, cross-country skiing is one of the most difficult endurance sports, as its motions use every major muscle group. Modern cross-country ski competition is experiencing a revolution that is resulting in greater compatibility with audiences which began with the addition of the Sprint event to the World Cup and Olympic competitions in 2002. For further information click here.



Interview with US Women’s Coach Matt Whitcomb


March 16, 2015  (Oslo, NOR) – SkiTrax caught up with US Women’s Coach, Matt Whitcomb, following the women’s 30km FR at the famous Holmenkollen in Oslo marking the strongest distance results in history by the U.S. women’s team. Liz Stephen matched her best-ever 9th, while Jessie Diggins finished 14th and Caitlin Gregg was 19th – all personal bests. Whitcomb talks about the final World Cup race of the season, team’s evolution, the impact of Kikkan Randall, and what lies ahead…

Matt Whitcomb Interview

Stephen’s Stellar 9th Leads 3 Americans into Top-20 as Norway’s Bjoergen Wins Historic 30km FR at Holmenkollen


March 15, 2015 (Oslo, Norway) – With three Americans in the top 20 the US camp was all smiles but the day belonged to Norway as Marit Bjoergen led a Norge podium sweep, capping an incredible season with her 5th Holmenkollen 30km victory.

Norwegian sweep [P] Nordic Focus

Bjoergen became the first female to win consecutive Holmenkollen titles as her teammate Therese Johaug took second and Astrid Jacobsen claimed third passing Charlotte Kalla (SWE) near the finish for the bronze.

Bjoergen captured all three crystal globes – overall, distance and sprint – becoming the first athlete to win all three globes twice. Finland’s Virpi Kuitunen (2006/07) and Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk (2009/10) have also won all three globes in one season but not more than once.

“I knew that I had a strong finish and relied on that. But after 30 km you never know. It’s great to end the season with a victory,” commented Bjoergen.

Bjoergen takes historic triple globes [P] Nordic Focus

The USA’s Liz Stephen matched her best-ever 9th in the 30km, set at Holmenkollen in 2013, while Jessie Diggins finished 14th and Caitlin Gregg was 19th – all peronal bests. Sadie Bjornsen placed 44th, Canada’s lone entry Emily Nishikawa was 50th, the USA’s Caitlin Patterson was 53rd and Rosie Brennan was 55th. The day marked the strongest distance result in history by the U.S. women’s team.

“I went in to today with the goal of a top five. I wanted to focus on something finite so I picked Heidi (Weng) as a target to stick to. I took some chances and almost blew up at points. A good indicator for me is when my stomach is knotted and I wanted to throw up which came earlier than usual,” said Stephen.

“I knew that I needed to take the risk because I wanted to be in the top five. It was fun to look over at 6.5km and have Marit skiing next to me. So while a top-five didn’t happen today, it was a close race and I know what I have to do. In that way, it was a really successful day.

(l-r) Gregg, Diggins, Stephen after historic 30K FR [P] NordicFocus

“The top of the race is closer now. It gives me hope for next year and years in the future. I’m really happy with the day, I’m really happy with the season.  I met a lot of goals this year. I had a podium goal and I got that. I wanted to be in the top five at the Tour de Ski and I got that. I wanted a top ten overall and to be there is amazing. I’m really happy with the season.

“We’re losing some of our staff and I feel like I need to send a huge thanks to the staff and to people that make this possible. There are people on our staff who could go work for their home countries or for countries that have a bigger ski team, but they work for us and they’ve given us faith. I’m grateful for that,” she added.

We caught up with Gregg who is also having a storybook season. “Today’s race was great! My goal for the day was to finish in the top 10 so I was on target for most of the race. Unfortunately I was caught by a huge pack with about 6k to go and I could not hold them off so I finished 19th. I am bummed to come short of my goal but I felt like I skied very well.

Caitlin Gregg (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

“If I could change anything from today I would have started on a different pair of skis or changed skis even though the girls around me did not! I tried to use a strategy that I thought would work well but in the end I ended up trying to maintain contact by following what the other girls were doing and it meant I skied the whole race on a pretty stiff pair of skis that were my second best. That’s why this event is tricky though. The ski exchange throws another element into the race.

“I am glad I went for it and I was able to gather some extra World Cup points which will be important for the USA quota next year! Our skis were incredibly fast and the staff and techs did an amazing job today providing the best possible skis and support for all of us. Tomorrow morning I head to Sun Valley for Super Tour finals. I am very excited for the next series of races,” she concluded.

Jessie Diggins (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

The results echoed the goals of Head Coach Chris Grover who predicted steady improvement throughout the year.

“We were really proud of how the women skied. Liz was fighting for 5th place for most of the race but ran out of steam in the last kilometer. Jessie lost a pole basket early in the race and needed to change poles several times but kept fighting back and for sure had her best Holmekollen 30km. Caitlin proved once again that she is in great skating shape, as evidenced not only by her World Championship medal but by her recent Engadin podium and her result today. All six of the women were digging really deep out there.

“The service team made incredible skis once again that allowed the US women to compete with the best.  Like most of the top-20 finishers, none of our top three women took advantage of the ski exchange today. All three of them started and finished on the same pair of skis. It was a very satisfying way to end the season,” commented Grover.

Full results 30km FR here.
Overall distance standings here.
Overall World Cup standings here.

2015 Haywood Ski Nationals Day 2 – Somppi and Beatty Take 5/10km FR Titles


March 15, 2015 (Thunder Bay, ON) – It was another great day for racing at Lappe Nordic as Race Day 2 of the Haywood Ski Nationals began on Sunday. It was slightly cloudy and a bit below zero as the skiers began the short distance skate race.

An exhausted Michael Somppi at the finish [P] CCC

In yesterday’s Team Sprint competition the host club’s Michael Somppi and Andy Shields had a dominant victory in the Open Men’s competition. Today they did it again finishing 1st and 2nd in the 10km skate race.

After crossing the line with a remarkable 34 second lead over his club teammate Shields, it took a long time for Michael to regain his feet and recover from the race. Andy Shields had been 5th at the halfway mark, but put in a strong 2nd 5k performance to capture silver. Kevin Sandau of Foothills Nordic was 3rd.

Dahria Beatty [P]

The women’s 5k was won by Dahria Beatty from Whitehorse with a 4 second lead over Nakkertok’s Perianne Jones. 3rd was Andrea Dupont of Rocky Mountain Racers.

In the junior races Maya MacIssac- Jones of Rocky Mountain captured the National Champion title, with Nakkertok’s Katherine Stewart-Jones 2nd and Jennifer Jackson of Team Hardwood 3rd.

The junior men’s champ was Philippe Boucher of Skibec with a 9 second lead over his club teammate Alexis Dumas. Sam Greer of Highland Trailblazers was 3rd.

Para Results

Semerenko Claims Women’s Mass Start 12.5km Gold – USA’s Dunklee 20th, Canada’s Heinicke 24th


March 15, 2015 (Kontiolahti, Finland) – Valj Semerenko shot clean to take home the gold for the Ukraine in the Women’s 12.5km mass start on the final day of the 2015 IBU World Championships in Finland. Germany’s Franziska Preuss celebrated silver with one penalty at 6.2s back with Karin Oberhofer (Ita) claiming the bronze with two penalties at 12.6s behind.

Semerenko wins [P]

Early leader Darya Domracheva (Belarus) was fourth with two penalties at 14.7s back while Czech star, Gabriela Soukalova of Republic was fifth with one penalty at 26.2s.

The USA’s Susan Dunklee finished in 20th while Canada’s Megan Heinicke finished 24th. Both suffered a miss in the first prone session while many others cleaned as Domracheva took an early lead. Dunklee suffered another miss in Shooting 2 and remained in 21st with Heinicke 22nd as she hit all targets.

Susan Dunklee [P] Nordic Focus

Domracheva lost her lead with two missed targets in the first standing sessions as Semerenko cleaned and took over the lead. Heinicke cleaned as well moving up to 21st as Dunklee suffered two misses and dropped to 24th.

Semerenko cleaned again the final time on the range to seal her victory as Preuss with one missed target tried in vain to catch her. Meanwhile Domracheva recovered but it was too little too late as Oberhofer held her off for the bronze.

Dunklee reclaimed some some spots and sprinted ahead of Slovenia’s Andreja Mali for 20th at 2:01 back as Heinicke cleaned again bringing Canada home in 24th at 2:22 behind the winner.

Megan Heinicke at the finish [P] Nordic Focus

“I wish every course had a ‘wall’ like Kontiolahti,” said Dunklee of the infamous climb on the world championship course. “I love charging up it on the last loop. Another great day on skis but I couldn’t fully capitalize on it because of a mediocre performance in the shooting range. Now, I’m happy to be done with these world championships, but looking forward to one last week of World Cup racing.”

“Megan had a great race with exceptional shooting,” said Chris Lindsay Biathlon Canada’s high-performance director. “This is a great way for her to finish off the season with multiple top-16 results; and personal bests for the World Championships. Meagan is a true role model for the younger athletes on the team, and was able to really show her potential.”

Full results here.

Canada’s Harvey 13th as Norway’s Roethe Claims 50km FR Gold at the Holmenkollen


March 14, 2015 (Oslo, NOR) – Sjur Roethe claimed a superb victory and fulfilled every Norwegian skier’s dream at the famed Holmenkollen winning the 50km in a photo-finish over Swiss star Dario Cologna. Fellow Norge, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, was third as a group of six broke away in the final 2km.

Sjur Roethe (NOR) [P] Nordic Focus

Canada’s Alex Harvey, who changed skis at the 33.3km mark was near the front for most of the race until that point, but was not able to make the winning break ending up 13th.

“It was a good, hard race. The conditions were soft, but the pace was still fast the whole way,” said Harvey. “I was feeling really good, but just died a bit on that last half. It was an awesome year for me. The goal all year was to win one medal at World Championships. I won two there so I’m really happy with how things went.”

Harvey heads home to Canada after a stellar post-Olympic season where he reached the podium twice at the World Championships, once on the Tour de Ski and once on the World Cup.

Alex Harvey (CAN) [P] Nordic Focus

Teamate Ivan Babikov, 34, battled through the warm and soft snow conditions to finish 27th. The top American was Brian Gregg in 35th, a personal best, followed by Noah Hoffman in 44th. Erik Bjornsen did not finish.

“Today was a good race for me.  I raced Holmenkollen in 2010 and finished 39th so today’s 35th is a personal best at the 50k, albeit only my second ever World Cup 50km.  My best World Cup result is 32nd at the 15km Freestyle in Falun in 2010,” wrote Gregg by email.

“My focus for the second half of this season is the 50km at US Nationals on March 26th and helping Caitlin [Gregg] prepare for the 10km at the Falun World Championships.  She writes both of our training plans and coaches us and it is great to both be skiing fast. I caught up to her last year when I made the 2014 Olympic Team but now she has raced the bar for the 2017 World Championships.

Ivan Babikov (CAN) [P] Nordic Focus

“I was so happy to get the invite from the US Ski Team to start the 50 km earlier this week.  We had a really good pre-worlds training camp in Frisco, CO at the Frisco Nordic Center and I knew that my fitness is strong for the longer events.  The Hollmenkollen course is very good for me with a lot of climbing.  Now I shift roles to supporting Caitlin in tomorrow’s 30km, and then we fly to SuperTour Finals in Sun Valley, ID,” he concluded.

The Holmenkollen atmosphere was close to the incredible experience during the 2011 World Championships with thousands of people lining the course and camping overnight.

With the temperature around +10c and clear blue skies it was the perfect day of racing with a dramatic photo finish to decide the victory.  Just 0.5 seconds separated the top three athletes at the finish.

M 50km podium [P] Nordic Focus

For Roethe it was his first ever individual World Cup victory.  For Cologna it is the second time that he has been second at Holmenkollen and only the second time he has finished on the podium there in 9 starts.  For Sundby it was his 4th podium in a row at the Holmekollen setting a new record.

Cologna became the first ever male athlete to win the Distance Overall crystal globe three times – he won the distance World Cup in 2010/11 and in 2011/12 season. The only other athlete to win it more than once was Tobias Angerer (GER) in 2005/06 and 2006/07.Dario Cologna (SUI) - Audi and Distance globe winner [P] Nordic Focus

Sundby becomes the sixth athlete to win consecutive overall World Cup titles. Bjørn Dæhlie (NOR) and Gunde Svan (SWE) won three straight World Cup series titles, while Per Elofsson (SWE), Angerer and Cologna have consecutive wins.

“It is a dream for me.  This is a very emotional moment.  I can’t believe I have won this race.  It has been a very difficult season for me but I have been training for this race for the past few weeks and it’s incredible that this happened.  The crowds were so loud cheering me along with my teammates,” said Roethe.

Full 50km FR results here.
Final Distance overall standings here.
Final overall standings here.

With files from FIS XC.

Final overall Men's WCup podium [P] Nordic Focus

2015 Haywood Ski Nationals Day 1 – Team Sprint Results


March 14, 2015 (Thunder Bay, ON) – Lappe Nordic near Thunder Bay is the site of the 88th Canadian Ski Nationals, sponsored by Haywood. The ski centre has a long history in hosting important events and was developed by former National Team and Olympian member Reijo Puiras.

RMR (Maya MacIsaac-Jones, Andrea Dupont) topped the Open Women’s Team Sprint competition while Lappe Nordic 1 (Andy Shields, Michael Somppi) won the Open Men’s race.


Open Women

1. RMR 16:29
2. Nakkertok +2.55
3. Whitehorse +4.38

Open Men

1. Lappe Nordic 1 14:04
2. Foothills +2.537
3. Whitehorse +5.85

Full Results here.

University of Colorado Captures 2015 NCAA Championships Team Title UPDATED


March 14, 2015 (Lake Placid, NY) – University of Colorado has won the 62nd NCAA Skiing Championships with Denver taking second and the University of Utah claiming third as the championships wrapped up today in Lake Placid, NY with the final slalom events – full results and University of Colorado Report below.

CU Buffs Skiing in celebrate [P]

University of Colorado Report – Colorado Skiers Win 20th National Championships

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The University of Colorado ski team put individual accomplishments aside here Saturday, skiing with a strategy with limited risks to get all of its racers through the slalom, and the end result saw the Buffaloes bring home the title as the 62nd annual NCAA Skiing Championship.

It is the school’s 20th national championship in skiing – 11 men’s, one women’s (AIAW) and now eight since the sport went coed in 1983; all eight of those have come under the direction of head coach Richard Rokos, who completed his 25th season coaching the Buffaloes this winter.  Rokos’ teams have now won more national championships at Colorado than any other coach, as he snapped a tie with Bill Marolt (seven in skiing, all in a row from 1972-78), and current cross country coach Mark Wetmore, who has seen his men’s teams win five titles, including one last November, and the women two.

The Buffaloes led after the first and third days of competition this week – Utah had a small four-point edge at the midway point – and Colorado carried a seven-point lead over the Utes into the slalom races.  But in the end, CU pulled away and won with 505 points, besting defending champion Denver by 27 points, as the Pioneers made a run with five top five finishes and finished with 478 points.  Utah slipped into third with 471, while Vermont (443) and New Mexico (402) rounded out the top five.

Colorado pulled off the win with just two top 10 finishes Saturday – but more important, all six of its skiers handled the challenges of the slalom and five did finish in the top 15, earning the Buffs enough points to keep their predators at bay.

“It’s absolutely great.  It’s always a great feeling and this one was even more because it was very dramatic until the very end,” Rokos said.  “There was no room for error, we displayed a great deal of discipline, but they (the Buffs) made 12 mistake free runs.  That’s so unique in slalom, it’s almost unprecedented.

“The course was great, it worked out very well, it maintained the quality for the first and last race,” he added.  “There were equal conditions for all.  Coming in with only a seven-point cushion, that doesn’t really help you, especially in slalom and when you’re the one being hunted.   But it’s always great to come back east and display our level of competitiveness.”

“Finally,” Rokos joked of his passing Marolt’s title count.  “I’ve given all the rings we’ve won to my wife Helena and she still has two fingers left, it may be a little motivation to continue past year 25.  I know Bill can handle it, he knows it’s for school and that’s what counts.  It’s not me, it’s everybody.  This one goes to Bill and Bob (Beattie) and Jimmie Heuga and all the guys in the past who laid the foundation for Colorado Skiing.

“We were waiting for No. 20 for a while, even when we were approaching it, it was always out there on the horizon.  Now that we’ve reached that number, we can start the 21st Century.”

The slaloms were run concurrently, and all six CU racers made it down with decent times on their first runs.  It was obvious all the skiers were a little more cautious after 20 “did not finishes” (DNFs) were recorded in Thursday’s giant slalom, but just three in the first run and five total.  The Colorado men held the No. 11, 15 and 17 positions after the first run, while the women were in the No. 8, 10 and 17 spots.  The three schools chasing CU (Utah, UVM and DU), also had all their racers finish their first runs.

The men finished first, CU’s trio juniors all finishing outside the top 10, but the key was to finish; when they each completed their second run, all were somewhere in the top three, but skiers after them had faster first run times they rode to higher finishes.  Henrik Gunnarsson was 12th in 1:58.85, with Adam Zika right behind him in 13th (1:59.04; he actually briefly held the lead), and Kasper Hietanen rounding out the CU men in 19th (2:00.20).

“It feels great, it feels awesome,” Gunnarsson said.  “A lot of hard work went into it and we got what we wanted.  Today was fun, we had tactics, we wanted to ski solid and finish strong and that’s what we did.  All I could do was finish my runs, you can’t control anything else, but I did my part and it worked out.”

“It’s crazy, this is the second one, it’s unbelievable,” Zika said.  “I was hurt when we won it before (2013) and I was still struggling last year.  I came back stronger this year and we made it.  It was so stressful, we were all really stressed about it, but we knew we could do it, we’re solid skiers and we delivered the points.”

Vermont’s Dominique Garand won in 1:55.03, while Denver skiers captured the next three spots to help the Pioneers close a 98-point gap they faced heading into the day down to 45 points, while Utah remained just 10 behind.  So with the women’s second run remaining, nothing was close to being decided; a fall or disqualification would cause havoc.

But the Colorado women more than held off the charge from others to steal away the title, despite Denver claiming two of the top three spots, including Monica Huebner who won in a two-run time of 1:56.52.

Junior Thea Grosvold, who was in 10th after her first run, skied down Whiteface Mountain with the third-fastest time in her second run, propelling her to a sixth-place finish in 1:57.97.  Junior Jessica Honkonen skied two racers later, and she recorded the fifth-fastest time in the afternoon run to place seventh in 1:57.99.  Both earned second-team All-America honors for their efforts.

“I was a little nervous before my first run,” Grosvold said.  “We knew that we all had to finish, but we had to finish strong.  So we needed to balance things.  I definitely did better on the second run, I was little more relaxed, trusted my skis.  I thought if I could do what I can, I’d put together a good run and that’s what happened.

“I wouldn’t say we skied conservative, but it was definitely in the back of our heads that it was a part of the tactics for how we approached today.”

Senior Brooke Wales Granstrom concluded her Colorado career with a 15th place effort in 1:59.65.  As with the men, all three CU skiers at the end of their runs were either in the lead or the top two.

We’ve worked so hard all season for this, this was the goal all season,” Wales Granstrom said.  “Not only for the Nordics and alpiners that are here, but for everybody back home, I know they’ve been cheering us on and watching all week and we wanted to bring home the big one for them, for the whole team.  We’re so excited.  The Nordics worked so hard this week, we were just hoping to be able to have a solid performance in the men’s and women’s slalom, and we were able to do it.

“The nerves were high, and that doesn’t even begin to explain it,” she continued.  “Our athletic director, Rick George, always says we compete for championships, and that’s what we were doing today.  It requires a lot of mental strength to accept the nerves and know they’ll be there and still go out and perform.  It was high pressure.  I was super nervous in the start – I know the other girls were.  We worked hard and tried to ski like we can and we knew if we did that we’d be fine.”

She took note that this was the first NCAA Championship in several years that ended with the slalom.

“It felt different than two years ago, for one alpine finished, so that made it exciting,” she said.  “To come home with a trophy is great.  We came into the day with a very slim lead and our Nordics have been battling so hard all season for us and we wanted to keep the lead and gain on it and make sure we rewarded them as well for all their hard work this week.”

Wales Granstrom concluded her three-year CU career with 17 top five and 26 top 10 finishes.

“It’s been incredible, the highlights have been two of the three years I’ve been here we are national champions,” she said.  “There’s nothing better than a team victory, as much as I wish I would’ve done better in GS on Thursday, I’m so happy we were still able to come out with the win.  It’s been a great career and to finish it as a Buffalo is amazing.  I love the school, I love skiing for Colorado, I love my teammates.  I just love being a Buff.”

LINER NOTES: Colorado now has won 28 national titles in all sports overall, and Saturday’s win gave the Pac-12 Conference NCAA title No. 472 … This is the fourth time CU has won two national championships in the same athletic season, as the Buffaloes won the men’s cross country title last November (matching the same pair won in 2005-06); in 1990-91, CU won football and skiing, and in 2004-05, the Buffs claimed both the men’s and women’s cross country crowns … Rokos in completing his 25th season is the fifth-longest tenured coach in CU athletic history … The school that has led going into the final day’s events have now gone on to win the title in 18 of the last 21 years … Colorado has ruled the east this decade, winning all three NCAA crowns held in New England (previously winning in 2011 in Stowe and 2013 in Middlebury) … Nordic senior Rune Oedegaard concluded his CU career Friday as the all-time leader, alpine or Nordic, in top three (or podium) finishes with 36 in 44 career races … Colorado won just one point category – the most Nordic points with 306, but were balanced throughout, finishing second in points by its women (263) and men (242), and fourth in alpine points (199).

(Associate SID Curtis Snyder contributed to this report.)

NCAA Championships (Final, 8 events)— 1. Colorado 505;  2. Denver 478;  3. Utah 471;  4. Vermont 443;  5. New Mexico 402;  6. Dartmouth 275;  7. Montana State 259;  8. Middlebury 230;  9. Alaska-Anchorage 204;  10. Northern Michigan 193;  11. New Hampshire 156;  12. Colby 109;  13. Williams 75;  14. Alaska-Fairbanks 36;  15. St. Scholastica 27;  16. Michigan Tech 26;  17. Bates 20;  18. St. Michael’s 12;  19. St. Lawrence 11;  20. Plymouth State 8;  21. Harvard 6;  22. St. Olaf 3;  23. Bowdoin 1.


IN-THE-END: Listed below is how the 2015 championship broke down:

MEN’S TEAM SCORING: Vermont 259, Colorado 242, Denver 234, Dartmouth 223, Utah 189, New Mexico 172
WOMEN’S TEAM SCORING: Utah 282, Colorado 263, Denver 244, New Mexico 230, Vermont 184, Montana State 148
ALPINE POINT LEADERS: Denver 327, Vermont 257, Utah 200, Colorado 199, New Mexico 173
Men’s Leader: Denver 170 (2nd—Vermont 151).  Women’s Leader: Denver 157 (2nd—New Mexico 96).
NORDIC POINT LEADERS: Colorado 306, Utah 271, New Mexico 229, Northern Michigan 193, Vermont 186, Dartmouth 153, Denver 151
Men’s Leader: Colorado 153 (2nd—Northern Michigan 127).
Women’s Leader: Utah 178 (2nd—Colorado 153).

CRACKING THE TOP: NCAA West schools have won 19 of the last 21 championships, as the skiing elite fraternity remains hard to crack; only seven different schools have claimed the title since the sport went coed in 1983: Utah (9 titles), Colorado (8), Denver (8), Vermont (5), Dartmouth (1), New Mexico (1) and Wyoming (1).  But since the ’67 title meet, Colorado (23 first or second place finishes, including 17 wins), Utah (22; 10, 12), Vermont (21; 6, 15) and Denver (18; 12, 6) have dominated college skiing over these 49 seasons.  Only three other schools, Wyoming (two wins and four seconds), Dartmouth (two wins, two seconds) and New Mexico (one title and two seconds) have been able to crack the top two in this span (note: adds to 50 titles since CU and Dartmouth shared ’76 crown).

CU ALL-TIME: The Buffaloes have won 20 national championships in skiing: 11 men’s (1959-60-72-73-74-75-76-77-78-79-82), eight coed (1991-95-98-99-2006-11-13-15) and one women’s (1982, AIAW).  The 19 NCAA titles by Colorado trail Denver by three, as the Pioneers caught and passed CU by winning three straight to open the 21st century and extended their lead with three more from 2008-10 and one in 2014.  After DU and CU (41 combined), Utah has won 10, Vermont 6, Dartmouth 3, Wyoming 2 and New Mexico 1 (CU and Dartmouth tied for the ’76 crown).

INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONS: The Buffs did not have an individual champion for the first time since 2007; the eight individual champions came from seven different schools, the most since the sport went coed in 1983 (six schools had done it on several occasions).  Colorado still leads all-time with 88 individual NCAA titles, topping Denver (85), Utah (70), Vermont (63), Dartmouth (36), Wyoming (19), New Mexico (17) and Middlebury (11); individual winners in 2015 came from New Mexico (two), Dartmouth, Denver, Middlebury, Northern Michigan, Utah and Vermont.  The Buffs have had two or more individual champions 29 times (three or more 13 times), including four occasions when CU skiers topped the podium four times: 1960, John Dendahl (skimeister, Nordic, cross country) and Dave Butts (downhill); in 1963, Buddy Werner (alpine combined, downhill), Bill Marolt (downhill) and Jimmie Heuga (slalom); in 2006, Jana Rehemaa (classical, freestyle), Kit Richmond (freestyle) and Lucie Zikova (downhill); and in 2008, Maria Grevsgaard (freestyle, classical) and Lucie Zikova (giant slalom, slalom).   This is just the eight time the Buffs did not have an individual champion in coed skiing, but CU still has had at least one 26 of the last 34 years.

LEARFIELD DIRECTORS’ CUP: Colorado picked up 100 points in the Learfield Director’s Cup Standings, jumping from 12th place into fifth in the standings with 372 total points; skiing was the first NCAA winter championship completed (Denver also made a significant jump, from 110th into 37th, earning 90 points for its win), and New Mexico jumped from 57th to 23rd).  Stanford leads with 545 points, with UCLA second (497.5), North Carolina third (434.5) and Penn State fourth (383).  There are five Pac-12 schools in the top 11 overall.  The indoor track, and rifle championships will be included in the next official release of the standings on March 19.

HEAD COACH RICHARD ROKOS: Rokos wrapped up his 25th season as head coach of the Buffaloes (he is just the fifth person to coach a quarter century or longer in any sport at Colorado).  He has guided CU to national championships in 1991 (his first season), 1995, 1998, 1999, 2006, 2011, 2013 and 2015, to five second place finishes and five third place efforts.  Under Rokos, Colorado has won 65 of 153 ski meets, including 57 of 128 in the west (with 13 RMISA Championships/NCAA West Regionals titles).  In his tenure, CU has had 122 first-team All-Americans and 196 first- or second-team selections (Alpine and Nordic), all adding to 287 top 10 finishes in NCAA championship competition.

NORDIC COACH BRUCE CRANMER: Cranmer has done an equally excellent job with the Nordics.  He has coached CU skiers to 15 individual Nordic NCAA titles, and his Buffalo teams have been the Nordic point champions seven times at the NCAA meet (2004-06-08-10-11-13-14).

FUTURE SITES: Colorado will host the 2016 meet at Steamboat Springs (March 9-12), the seventh time the revered ski area will host (last in 2010); once again, it will feature the slalom on Friday night.  In 2017, New Hampshire will host in Franconia, N.H.

5/10km FR results here.
15/20km CL results here

1. University of Colorado 505 points
2. University of Denver 478
3. University of Utah 471

Team Score

SkiTrax FIS Fantasy Falun Worlds 2015 Contest Winners and Final Standings


March 12, 2015 (Toronto, ON) – We are excited to present the winners and final standings for the SkiTrax FIS Fantasy Falun 2015 Contest following the Men’s 50km CL Mass Start and apologize for the delay. Canada’s Alex Harvey logged a stellar fifth-place finish, while Petter Northug (NOR) grabbed his fourth gold (read our coverage here).

In the contest standings Team Northug held on with 365 points to claim the grand prize, a 3-night luxury XC Ski stay at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise w/breakfast & Spa (value $1,550). Team Ranga in second place with 355 points takes home a pair of Fischer’s new Speedmax Carbon Skate Boots (value $800), while team Plato Badgers in third with 345 points wins a cool pair of Yoko YXR Racing Skate skis (value $599) – full list of winners below.

View the final contest standings HERE.

This wraps up the FIS Fantasy Falun Worlds 2015 Contest, our final contest this season for contestants around the world – the only Nordic fantasy contests of their kind worldwide.

Congratulations to our winners and thanks to all contestants and all of our great sponsors, including Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Fischer, Yoko, USSA, Rudy Project, Exel, Cross Country Canada, Start Wax, High Peaks Cyclery and Buff.

SkiTrax FIS Fantasy Falun Worlds 2015 Contest Winners

Team Northug – Antoine Briand, Beaupre, QC
* 1st PrizeFairmont Chateau Lake Louise – XC Ski 3-night luxury stay w/breakfast & Spa (value $1,550)

Ranga – Aidan Miller – Canmore, AB
* 2nd Prize
Fischer Speedmax Carbon Skate Boots (value $800)

Plato Badgers – Alex Stenning – London, United Kingdom
* 3rd PrizeYoko YXR Racing Skate skis (value $599)

anty ski – Andri Milov – Põlvamaa, Estonia
* 4th PrizeUSSA Official Team Jacket – men’s/blue or women’s/pink (value $500)

FISFirst – Derek Little – Seattle, WA USA
* 5th Prize
Rudy Project Sunglasses For Sport Agon + For Life Spinhawk (value $450)

SkiLikeAGirl – Elena Topchiy – Vancouver, BC
* 6th PrizeExel Formula Ski Poles 2015-16 (value $220)

Knock me out, hit it – Eric Ward – Montgomery, AL USA
* 7th Prize
Cross Country Canada package Sweater/Gloves/Touque (value $210)

SSWSC Josh Smullin – Steamboat Springs, CO USA
* 8th Prize – Start
FHF highly-fluorinated 4-wax package (value $128)

TysQuAD – Tyler Gilbert – Minneapolis, MN USA
* 9th Prize
High Peaks Cyclery Gift Certificate (value $100)

Berzuchy – Stanislaw Kucharski – Gliwice, Poland
* 10th PrizeBuff Neck Warmer/Hat (value $90)

SkiTrax is North America’s leading Nordic skiing publication and the official magazine of the United States Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) and Cross Country Canada (CCC).

Falla Takes Drammen CL Sprint as Bjoergen Clinches Sprint Cup – USA’s Bjornsen 26th


March 11, 2015 (Drammen, NOR) – Maiken Caspersen Falla landed on the top step at the 1.3km CL Sprint in Drammen today as 15,000-strong Norwegian fans were treated to a podium sweep with Heidi Weng in second and superstar, Marit Bjoergen third. Bjoergen clinched the overall Sprint Cup matching fellow Norge, Bente Skari, as the only female athleted to win five Sprint Globes.

(l-r) Bjoergen, Falla, Oestberg at the finish [P] Nordic Focus

The USA’s Sadie Bjornsen qualified a strong 9th as the only North American to make the heats. She finished 6th in her quarterfinal heat and ended up 26th overall. Bjornsen was 24th in the final overall standings while her teammate and three-time Sprint Cup globe winner, Kikkan Randall, was the top North American in 17th.

Sadie Bjornsen (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

“I was not sure I could win the sprint crystal globe. It’s been nine years since I won it last time. I am 34 and I was not sure if I can win it again. I knew I would have the fight with Ingvild [Flugstad Oestberg],” commented Bjoergen. Oestberg was vying for the globe as well and was 4th in Drammen placing 2nd in the Sprint Cup standings.

Bjoergen takes the Sprint Cup globe [P] Nordic Focus

Qualifications here.
Final results here.
Final Overall Sprint World Cup here.


Drammen City Sprint World Cup Facts


March 11, 2015 (Drammen, NOR) – As the season winds down there is still a lot of action to come as the final races take place in Norway starting with Drammen, a city in Buskerud County in Norway – check out these FIS pre-competition facts for today’s  women’s and men’s CL sprint in this fabled port and river city.

Drammen City Sprint course [P] FIS


Bjørgen looking to be the first to win four sprint classical technique in Drammen

– The classical sprint in Drammen will be held for the 11th time as a World Cup event. Marit Bjørgen (NOR) could be the first athlete to win this event four times if she wins on Wednesday.
– Bjørgen is currently tied with Virpi Kuitunen (FIN) on three wins in Drammen. They are the only two female athletes to win more than once. Among the men only Jens Arne Svartedal (NOR) and Ola Vigen Hattestad (NOR) have more than one win (two each).
– Kuitunen has a total of five World Cup podiums in the classic sprint in Drammen. Bjørgen is currently on four podiums and could equal Kuitunen on Wednesday.
– It has been 11 years since Bjørgen won her first sprint in Drammen, ahead of Virpi Kuitunen and Elina Hietamäki (FIN) in 2004.
– At least one Norwegian has finished on the podium in all sprints in classical technique in Drammen since 2007, when Virpi Kuitunen won ahead of Petra Majdic (SLO) and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen (FIN).

Bjørgen and Kowalczyk have won 15 of the last 18 classic sprint in World Cup

– Marit Bjørgen (NOR) won the last sprint held in Classic style, in Östersund in February 2014. Bjørgen also won the WCh gold medal in the event in Falun.
– Marit Bjørgen (eight wins) and Justyna Kowalczyk (seven wins) have together won 15 of the last 18 World Cup events held in sprint classic, going back to the start of the 2011/2012-season.
– Ingvild Flugstad Østberg in Otepää 2015, Maiken Caspersen Falla (NOR) in Drammen 2014 and Mona-Liisa Malvalehto (FIN) in Liberec 2013, are the only other winners of a sprint classic race in the last 18 World Cup events.
– Bjørgen has a total of 16 World Cup wins in sprint classics, which is two more than Petra Majdic (SLO) on 14. Justyna Kowalczyk and Bente Skari are tied on third place with nine wins. Bjørgen has only won more races in sprint freestyle (24 career wins).
– Marit Bjørgen (16) and Justyna Kowalczyk (9) are the only two active female skiers with more than one World Cup win in sprint classical technique.

Falla could equal Bjørgen and Kuitunen with two consecutive Drammen-wins

– Maiken Caspersen Falla (NOR) won in Drammen last season, ahead of Marit Bjørgen and Stina Nilsson (SWE). If Falla wins again, she will tie Bjørgen (2010 and 2012) and Kuitunen’s (2007 and 2008) feat of winning two consecutive editions of the classic sprint in Drammen.
– The win in Drammen last season is Falla’s only World Cup win in sprint classical technique.

Nilsson back after illness to search for her first international senior win.

– Stina Nilsson (SWE) won the silver medal in sprint classic in WCh in Falun. Nilsson has qualified for the final in her last six sprint starts (classic and free) since missing the quarterfinal in Lillehammer in December 2014. Nilsson has six international sprint podiums, but she is still looking for her first win.
– If Nilsson wins she will be the 8th Swedish woman to win a sprint World Cup. None of the Swedish winners have won more than two World Cup sprint races.
– No Swedish female skier has won the classical sprint in Drammen. Lina Andersson came close when was second in 2005.
– The last Swedish woman to win a World Cup in sprint classical technique is Anna Olsson, who won in the World Cup final in March 2010.
– Nilsson was third in Drammen last season, her first ever World Cup podium.
– Bjørgen could win the overall sprint World Cup for the first time in nine years.
– The competition in Drammen is the final event of this season’s overall sprint World Cup.
– Marit Bjørgen (NOR) is leading the overall sprint standings with 550 points, ahead of Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (NOR) on 510 points, and Maiken Caspersen Falla (NOR) on 412 points.
– Norway is the first country to take all three podium places in the overall sprint World Cup for women since the competition started in the 1996/97 season. The best non-Norwegian overall so far is Stina Nilsson (SWE) with 300 points, but she cannot catch Falla in third in the final event.
– Marit Bjørgen could win the sprint World Cup for the fifth time overall, equalling Bente Skari (NOR) on a record five wins.
– Bjørgen has not won the overall sprint World Cup in nine years, since the 2005/06 season. Bjørgen won in four consecutive seasons from 2002/03 to 2005/06.
– Bjørgen has only finished on the podium in two of the last eight editions of the overall sprint World Cup. She was 2nd in 2009/10 and 3rd in 2011/12.
– Caspersen Falla or Flugstad Østberg could win the overall sprint World Cup for the first time. Falla was 2nd in 2011/12, while Østberg was 3rd in 2012/13 and 2013/14. All three seasons they finished as the best Norwegian overall.
– Norway have the most wins in the overall sprint World Cup with nine, ahead of Slovenia (Petra Majdic) and USA (Kikkan Randall) with three wins each.
– The overall sprint World Cup for women has not been won by a Norwegian since Bjørgen won in 2005/06.

Federico Pellegrino [P] Nordic Focus


Norwegian men dominates at home, having won nine of ten in Drammen

– The classical sprint in Drammen will be held for the 11th time as a World Cup event. In the men’s event, Norwegian skiers have won nine of the previous 10 events held here. The only athlete to spoil the Norwegian party was Emil Jönsson (SWE), who won in 2010.
– Norway have recorded 19 of the 30 possible podium finishes in Drammen. The only other country to have more than one podium here are Sweden with five.
– Norway have always had at least one athlete on the podium in the men’s race in Drammen. Norway have won all the top three positions on two occasions, 2005 and 2006.
– The nine Norwegian wins in Drammen have been won by seven different skiers. Jens Arne Svartedal and Ola Vigen Hattestad are the only ones who have won twice.
– Ola Vigen Hattestad could be the first male athlete to win three times in Drammen. Marit Bjørgen and Virpi Kuitunen have three wins ahead of this year.
– Hattestad could be the first man to win consecutive races in Drammen.

Pellegrino to finally break Scandinavian sprint dominance?

– The sprint classical technique in Drammen is the final event of the overall sprint World Cup this season. Finn Hågen Krogh (NOR) is leading the overall sprint World Cup with 399 points, ahead of Federico Pellegrino (ITA) with 366 points and Eirik Brandsdal (NOR) with 342 points.
– Pellegrino is looking to become the first athlete outside Norway and Sweden to win the overall sprint World Cup. In the 18 editions of this World Cup Norway have 11 wins, while Sweden have won it seven times.
– Three Italians have previously finished in 2nd place overall, Fulvio Valbusa in 1996/97, Cristian Zorzi in 2000/01 and Renato Pasini in 2008/09.
– Krogh, Pellegrino or Brandsdal will win the sprint World Cup for the first time. Brandsdal was second in 2013/14, behind Ola Vigen Hattestad. Brandsdal was also third in 2011/12.
– Brandsdal won in Drammen in 2012, his only podium here. Krogh and Pellegrino have never qualified for the final in Drammen.
– Brandsdal is the only athlete to win more than once in the last seven World Cup sprint races held in classical technique. Brandsdal, Hattestad and Teodor Peterson (SWE) are the only three athletes who have finished on the podium more than once in the last seven World Cup races held in classical technique. They have two podiums each.
– Pellegrino has only qualified for one final in sprint classical technique in the World Cup, in Davos in February 2013, when he finished third. Pellegrino also qualified for the final in the WCh in Falun, finishing fifth.
– Nine sprint races have been held so far in the World Cup this season. Norway have won six times (Brandsdal and Krogh two each, Tomas Northug and Pål Golberg one), and Italy’s Federico Pellegrino has won three times. In addition Petter Northug won the WCh in Falun.

USA’s Caitlin Gregg 3rd and Holly Brooks 5th at 42km Engadin Skimarathon


March 09, 2015 (Switzerland) – The USA’s Caitlin Gregg continues her hot streak as she landed 3rd on the women’s podium at at 42km Engadin Skimarathon on Sunday with fellow American and series leader, Holly Brooks, in 5th. Gregg made history with Jessie Diggins claiming a double-US podium at the 2015 FIS Nordic Worlds in Falun taking the bronze in the women’s 10km FR individual while Diggins took home the silver – read more here.

As usual, the sun showed up and shown brightly on the over 13..0000 participants of this year’s Engadin Skimarathon 42km FT but it stayed cold and instead of a nice tail wind, a slight wind from the North came around, not bothering the racers too much though. This year, it was an “international local” who could win the race: Ilia Chernousov (RUS) lives with his wife, the former biathlete Selina Gasparin, and their doughter in S-chanf, the village where the finish of the marathon is situated.

Women's podium at Engadine Skimarathon (l-r) Roponen 2nd, Faivre-Picon 1st, Gregg 3rd [P] Worldloppet

However, it was not an easy victory for him: The French Robin Duvillard, just recently crowned with a bronze medal in the relay, fought hard in the finish sprint and the Russion only beat him by a tenth of a second. Chernousov who had broken a pole early on in the race, managed to stay with the leading group depite this problem and got into the finish straight with Duvillard and Roman Furger (SUI). Just before the entry in the finish straight, there was a mass crash in which the first three weren’t involved, however, those who were, couldn’t play there role in the finish sprint anymore.

On the women’s side, it was also a close finish sprint which the French Anouk Faivre-Picon could win. With four starts in the Engadin, she now has two victories to her account. Riitta-Liisa Roponen (FIN) and Caitlin Gregg (USA), who just recently won an unexpected silver medal in the 10km FT at the Nordic World Ski Championships, tried hard to hinder the Fench to win another pair of horns, but Faivre-Picon showed her teeth and put her foot over the finish line first – and that with a broken pole plate! The accident occured about 15km before the finish “…but I simply didn’t have the time to change the pole in this tight group of three girls“, said the girl from Pontarlier after the race.

Novak (CZE) continues continues as leader of the overall FIS Marathon Cup on the men’s side, on the women’s side, the red bib goes back to Brooks (USA)

Despite his 29th place today, Petr Novak (CZE) continous to lead the overall FIS Marathon Cup, now with 406 points in front of Benoit Chauvet (FRA, 347 points) and Sergio Bonaldi (ITA, 229 points). Even though it looks kind of comfortable for Novak, the victory is not yet fully in his pocket. The last FIS Marathon Cup in April, the Ugra Skimarahon will be the decisive race. On the women’s side, the leader bib changes the owner once again: With her 5th place today, Holly Brooks (USA) reclaimed the red bib back from Tatjana Mannima (EST) who got 11th today. Brooks now leads with 455 points in front of Mannima (451 points) and Aurelie Dabudyk (FRA, 404 points). Everything is still possible for these three women. The last race will be the deciding one: The Ugra Skimarathon awaits the racers with a 50km FT race in April.

The complete result list from today’s race & the actual overall FIS Marathon Cup standings here.

Quotes from the podium finishers.


1st – Ilia Chernousov (RUS)
It is a special victory for me as Switzerland is now my second home. I have my wife and daughter here and we are living just 5 min away from the finish. It is such a good atmosphere here. I knew that it is one of the biggest races in the world and I wanted to participate once in one of these races. It was a first time experience for me. It was a hard competition as many World Cup athletes participated in it. The tracks in Engadin are always well prepared and it is great to ski here. I broke a pole at the start but nevertheless I managed to stayed in the first group as the speed was not so high. Only 5 km before the finish the speed started to rise and I fighted hard to keep a good position for the final stretch.

2nd – Robin Duvillard (FRA)
I always like to come here, it is my 4th time. The sun is shining, the sky is blue and I always hope to finally win it as well of course. I tried to make a gap 2 km before the finish because I wanted to be in front – I know the sharp turn after the last bridge. This was the right decision because behind me there was a crash. At the finish line I still hoped to be the winner but in te end Ilia was just a  tiny bit faster today.

3rd – Roman Furger (SUI)
Of course I wanted to win but the main goal was to stay in the top 6 and I am therefore very happy with the result. There was crach right behind me before turning to the finish, so I was lucky, too. 300m before the finishline there was one more crash in front to me and then I could not close the gap with leader anymore.


1st – Anouk Faivre-Picon (FRA)
It is my 4th time in Engadin. The first time, I won the race but the next time I was not so lucky because of health problems. It was important for me to win this time. I like this race, I like St. Moritz. Until St.Moritz all ladies skied together. Between St.Moritz and Pontresina I had a hard time, but finally got back to the group and kept my position. When the last 10km started, I knew that the decision would be made in a finish sprint. I am really happy that I could win this one!

2nd – Riitta-Liisa Roponen (FIN)
I had lot of bad luck today. 7 km after the start I broke a pole and it took al long time to get a new one. Finally, when I received it, it was too long for me and I lost a lot of energy. So I did not have enough power left to make a move and to break away. Then, I broke another pole about 200m before the finish and therefore a 2nd place feels now like victory for me.

3rd – Caitlin Gregg (USA)
It was a beautiful but very aggressive race with all the men around trying to overtake the ladies. I felt very good at the uphills because I like to ski at altitude. I have been training at 3000m so it is my strength. My skis were perfect. We hired a Swiss ski tech who had local knowledge and knew about the conditions and it was perfect. Now I am definately ready for the WC in Oslo and maybe will join Holly in the Ugra Skimarathon in Siberia in April.

PAL Great Labrador Loppet Mar. 28 – Ski and Win Ticket anywhere PAL Flies


March 09, 2015 (Labrador) – Ski the PAL Great Labrador Loppet on March 28 – one of the most prestigious events to take place in Labrador West – and be eligible two chances to win a ticket anywhere PAL flies.

Start time: Saturday 10 a.m.
Three events: 10, 28 & 50 km for all ages

Trails set for classic and skate technique
Feed station and refreshment stands along the trails

USA’s Randall 3rd and Diggins 4th in Women’s FR Sprint in Lahti – Newell 8th in Men’s Race


March 07, 2015 (Lahti, FIN) – The USA’s Kikkan Randall was back on the podium for the first time this season with a third place finish in the women’s FR Sprint with teammate Jessie Diggins in 4th. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen took her 40th World Cup sprint victory with teammate Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg in second. Randall and Diggins were the only North Americans to advance to the finals.

Final podium [P] Nordic Focus

The USA’s Andy Newell was the lone North American to advance to the heats making it to the semis to finish 8th on the day. His teammate Simi Hamilton was 33rd while the top Canuck was Len Valjas in 48th.

We caught with Randall post race for her take on her strong result in Lahti, “It felt really good to be back in the mix today.  My skating has been feeling stronger than my classic recently and it’s been a long wait since my last skate sprint at the Tour de Ski. Lahti has been a good venue for me the last few years so I was looking forward to racing here this week, especially after a personally disappointing World Championships.

Conditions were a lot like what we see on Eagle Glacier out there.  So I was thankful for that experience.  My skis were rockets today and that really came in handy on some tactical downhills. My qualification was a bit of a nail bitter but luckily I made it into the heats.  Then I felt stronger through the rounds.

Final Sprint [P] Nordic Focus

We tested out a new format today where the top 30 skiers got to pick which quarterfinal to ski in instead of getting assigned by finish number.  It was a new twist.

I had one of the last choices as bib 28, so I could only choose between heat 2 or 4.  I chose 2 with the two top qualifiers already in there because I felt being in a fast heat would give me the best chance to move on.  The strategy worked as I advanced to the semis as the first lucky loser.

Jessica Diggins (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

It was really fun to have Jessie in the final with me.  We got close to repeating our double podium from last year.  She skied great and we both had fast skis.

Making the podium today felt really good after such a frustrating season.  I’ve always believed I could get back to fighting for the medals but this year has been a lesson in patience.  I’m looking forward now to one more sprint in Drammen to close out this World Cup season.

W Qualifications here.
W Final results here.

M Qualifications here.
M Final results here.

Canada’s Nathan Smith Takes Historic SILVER in Men’s 10K Sprint @ IBU Worlds in Finland


March 07, 2015  (Kontiolahti, FIN) – Nathan Smith made history today as he skied to where no other Canadian man has ever gone before landing on the IBU Biathlon World Championship podium. Smith fired and skied his way to his first podium at the elite level, winning the silver medal on Saturday in the men’s 10km sprint race after clocking a time of 24:24.9 at the World Championships in Finland.

Canada's Nathan Smith crosses the line taking home historic silver [P]

“It is just surreal,” said the 29-year-old Calgarian. “I had a strong relay earlier in the week so I had good feelings about today, but never expected to do this at all.”

Clean prone shooting was at a premium on a blustery day in Finland. However among the early starters, Tarjei Boe, Smith, Evgeniy Garanichev and Martin Fourcade all managed to drop all five targets. Smith and Garanichev came to standing within seconds of each other. The Canadian had a single penalty and the Russian two.

Boe had a single standing penalty. Smith finished first taking the lead for a few minutes until Boe, who had been widening his lead ever since he left the penalty loop with fast skis, turned the corner to take top spot. In the meantime, Fourcade lost the battle with the wind gods and missed three shots in standing, taking away any chance for the podium.

The USA’s Tim Burke finished a solid 15th with two penalties at 59.6 behinde while teammate Lowell Bailey followed in 17th with 1 missed target at 1:01 back.

Smith at the start of his historic day [P]

“It was windy so I knew good shooting could be the difference today,” added Smith. “The snow conditions were much better than earlier in the week. To get on the podium is a combination of a fast time and a bit of luck. It felt hard skiing today, but I just kept fighting. I did ski well and it is just amazing.”

Smith shared the podium with two Norwegians. Johannes Thinges won the men’s sprint title with a time of 24:12.8 (0+1), while Tarjei Boe shot clean to post a bronze-medal time of 24:38.1.

Two-time Olympic champion, Myriam Bedard, is the only other Canadian to medal at the Biathlon World Championships. Bedard won the gold in a sprint race and silver in the individual in 1993. Jean-Philippe Le Guellec is the only other Canadian male to reach the World Cup podium. Le Guellec kicked off the 2012-13 season winning a World Cup sprint in Oestersund, Sweden.

Smith in the finish area [P]

It was only a matter of time until Smith followed in his 2014 Olympic teammate’s path to the podium. Smith has been a model of progression over the last two years, steadily working his way up the elite international biathlon standings. He made his Olympic debut in 2014 where he chalked up three top-15 finishes, and first turned heads on the IBU Cup development circuit where he celebrated three victories and a bronze medal.

“When I came into the sport Jean-Philippe was the star guy in our program that was the first to do everything at the juniors and World Cup. It is clear her showed us that Canadians can be with the best on the world stage. Brendan (Green), Rosanna (Crawford) and myself have been close this year and we’ve been keeping this in mind and following his path.”

Canada's Smith and Boe Bros standing by for the medal ceremony for the Men's Sprint 10K @IBU Worlds  [P]

The laid-back Canuck has regularly mixed it up with the greatest names in the sport this year, regularly finishing in the top-10. Smith celebrated a career-best fifth place finish in a pursuit race nearly one month ago to the day in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.

“May of these top guys are regularly on the podium, but I realized over the last little while they are not gods. They are super talented people, but I knew I can be there with them,” added Smith. “It is awesome to be on the podium. I definitely felt it was a matter of time, but I didn’t expect to do it at World Championships.”

A program that struggles to find financial support, and often flies under the radar, has definitively been raising some eyebrows in the Canadian sport community over the last 24 months.

Final Men's Sprint 10K podium @IBU Worlds [P]

Smith along with Canadian teammates Brendan Green and Rosanna Crawford have all busted into the top-five this year waiting for one of them to finally breakthrough for their first career medal. Brendan Green sprinted to his career-best fifth place finish six weeks ago. Crawford had a fifth, and fourth-place finish to start the season. Megan Heinicke, of Prince George, B.C., has also rattled of a number of personal bests during the post-Olympic year.

“These results are the natural progression in our plan,” said Chris Lindsay, high-performance director, Biathlon Canada. “These are 100 per cent Canadian made results from our coaches, to wax techs, to administrative leaders. We have depth. Our entire program believes we can be on the podium, and Nathan proved that today.”

Full results here.

Zina Kocher Nails Fourth at IBU Cup 8 in Canmore to Keep Canadian Flower Ceremony Streak Alive


March 06, 2015 (Canmore, AB) – After a long week of racing, speed merchant Zina Kocher of Red Deer woke up Friday morning feeling sluggish. Her energy was low, she hadn’t raced well in Wednesday’s Individual race and one of the toughest season’s of her career was drawing to a close.

Women Sprint podium (l-r) Horchler 2nd, Nikulina 1st, Bolliet 3rd, Kocher 4th, Chevalier 5th, Semenova 6th [P] Pam DoyleBut even on her slow days, Kocher is one of the fastest biathletes in the world. Instead of simply going through the motions, the resilient Kocher drew upon that adversity to lay down the fourth fastest time of the day in the Women’s Sprint at IBU Cup 8 in Canmore on March 6.

Confident after her silver medal performance in Sunday’s sprint race, Kocher, 32, wanted another taste of the podium after a 19th place finish in Wednesday’s individual race. Warm, swirling winds wreaked havoc in the range, but Kocher still shot 8/10 and finished in 20:49 to secure a spot in the flower ceremony. Canada has placed a female skier in the top-six in every race this week.

Zina Kocher (Can) [P] Pam Doyle“I’m happy with it. I wasn’t actually feeling too great this morning. I had to focus more on believing that I felt really good, being positive and getting back the clarity of shooting,” said Kocher. “I was frustrated with my performance in the individual. I just didn’t feel as focused and clear in the shooting as I did on Sunday.

Russia’s Anna Nikulina missed one target to win the race in 20:09, edging Germany’s Karolin Horchler, who shot clean (20:19.2). It was Horchler’s fourth time on the podium in Canmore. Marine Bolliet of France was third (20:34). Nikulina was also awarded with the IBU Cup Overall women’s sprint title at the end of the race, after finishing the year as the top woman on the circuit.

Claude Godbout (Can) [P] Pam DoyleKocher lucked out as the winds died down in her final trip to the range, allowing her to carefully concentrate on her process. Just like her silver medal performance on Sunday, Kocher broke her race down mentally into several intervals.

“I was lucky with the wind that it died down. With my last shot, it started to pick up again. I took too long and ended up missing. It’s frustrating because that would have landed me on the podium,” Kocher said. “It’s not a perfect race, but a lot more perfect than my season has been. It’s good to end it that way.”

After Saturday’s mixed relay, Kocher plans to finish her season at the Canadian Biathlon Championships in Hinton, Alberta.

Kocher was one of three Canadians to land in the top 20. Emma Lunder of Vernon, B.C. shot 7/10 and finished 16th (22:12), followed by Claude Godbout of Valcartier, Que, who was 19th (22:28). Other Canadian finishers included: Erin Yungblut (23rd), Leilani Tam Von Burg (30th) and Sarah Beaudry (33rd).

IBU Cup 8 concludes Saturday with the mixed relay. The race begins at 10 a.m. At the Canmore Nordic Centre.

Full results here.

Team USA Battles to Strong 8th in Mixed Relay at IBU World Championships as Czechs Win – Canada 12th


March 05, 2015 (Kontiolahti, FIN) – Team USA got off to a strong start at the IBU World Championships on Thursday with an eighth-place finish in the 2×6+2×7.5-kilometer mixed relay as the Czech Republic claimed the victory with France in second and Norway third. Biathlon Canada’s team was outside of the top ten finishing 12th.

The American squad consisted of Susan Dunklee, Hannah Dreissigacker, Lowell Bailey and Leif Nordgren. Deep, soft snow and temperatures above freezing made for deep ruts on the track as the 26 teams in the field assembled for the start.

Susan Dunklee (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

The conditions didn’t seem to affect Dunklee, however, as she quickly moved up from the seventh-place start position to second place at the 1.3km time check. With one miss in prone, Dunklee dropped to eighth place, but quickly regrouped to ski herself back into third behind Japan’s Fuyuko Suzuki and the Czech Republic’s Veronika Vitkova as they entered the standing stage.

Another miss in standing pushed Dunklee back to fifth place, but again she used her powerful skiing to trudge through the deep snow and elevate the team back into third place as she tagged off to Dreissigacker at the first exchange, just 10.7 seconds out of the lead.

The Canadian team made up of Audrey Vaillancourt, Rosanna Crawford, Nathan Smith, and Brendan Green were relatively clean on the range, but battled the course conditions. Vaillancourt gave the team a decent start, before tagging who battled back to move them up to 15th position.

Rosanna Crawford [P] Nordic Focus

Dreissigacker was passed by Darya Domracheva of Belarus and held on to fourth position as they entered the prone shooting, but she struggled to find her rhythm at the range, using five spares and needing one penalty loop before exiting the range in 13th place. Two more spares at the standing stage put the U.S. back to 15th place, 1:51 minutes off the pace, but Dreissigacker dug deep and passed Canada and Poland to regain 13th position as she tagged off to Bailey.

“I definitely didn’t have the race that I was hoping for today,” said Dreissigacker. “I’m really disappointed with my prone shooting, but I guess that is biathlon. I wish it didn’t happen in a race that affected my teammates as well.”

Bailey, who is rounding back into form after dealing with an illness last month, cleaned both prone and standing on his third leg of the relay to turn in the second-quickest range time and briefly move the Americans up to 10th place before exchanging with Nordgren in 11th place for the final leg. Canada’s Smith gained an extra three spots in his fast leg using only one spare round.

Lowell Bailey on his way to 3rd place in Kontiolahti, Finland [P] Nordic Focus

“It was a challenging day on the course this evening,” Bailey said. “The conditions are warm and slushy with huge ruts and heaps in the trail. I just tried to focus on staying relaxed and not floundering too much in the deep snow. I was aggressive in the shooting range and was happy with the shooting performance. It has been a long month of recovery and training, trying to bounce back from the sickness I had in early February. I’m confident with the three weeks of training preceding these races and I hope to feel better on the tracks as the series progresses.”

Nordgren got out fast on the final leg, passing teams from Slovakia and Ukraine to move up to ninth place before the first shooting stage. After using one spare in prone, Nordgren hung on to ninth place and found himself just nine seconds behind the host team Finland as the second loop began. He maintained that position into the standing stage where he shot clean with the third-fastest range time, vaulting him past Finland and into the eight spot. A strong finishing loop by Nordgren secured the top-10 placing for Team USA as he skied across the line in eighth place with a time of 1:22:13.8.

Nordgren [P]

Canada’s Green shot clean was able to hold on to 12th-place at the finish as the team used only four spare rounds on the day.

The Czech Republic team of Vitkova, Gabriela Soukalova, Michal Slesingr and Ondrej Moravec claimed the mixed relay gold medal in a time of 1:20:27.2, with eight spare rounds. France, also with eight spare rounds, claimed the silver medal, 20.2 seconds back, while Norway, with one penalty and three spares, finished third, 27.7 seconds behind the Czech Republic.

Dunklee feels the U.S. team rises to the challenge when faced with adverse weather conditions like they had today. “We slogged through slush today; conditions that can make the best in the world look clumsy skiing up a hill,” said Dunklee. “Luckily, as a team, I think we excel at challenging conditions. It wasn’t a perfect performance for us on the range, but there were lots of great elements. The result was remarkably consistent with where we have finished in other mixed relays over the past year.”

Full results here.

Team Czech Republic [P] Nordic Focus

Behind the Gold Seizing Opportunity – Diggins and Gregg


March 05, 2015 – It was an unlikely scenario. In a raging, wet Swedish snowstorm, three athletes shivered in the cold of the finish stadium in Falun. In the middle stood Sweden’s favorite daughter, Charlotte Kalla – finally achieving her world title. Flanking her were two Americans – beaming with pride and a bit bewildered at what was happening around them.

Caitlin Gregg and Jessie Diggins [P] USSA

They had just become World Championship medalists! Silver to Jessie Diggins. Bronze to Caitlin Gregg.

This was not what had been expected on this day at the mid-point of the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in heart of Dalarna. The women’s 10k was touted as a matchup pitting Norway’s Therese Johaug and Marit Bjoergen against Kalla, a 2010 Olympic champion. But as a passing blizzard dumped new snow on the steep pitch of Moerderbakken, the Norwegians weren’t able to play with the new cards they had been dealt.

While it would be easy to have said ‘I did my best’ and fault the weather, three medals were awarded Tuesday. And the Americans came to play, grabbing two.

“With the snow, I had an opportunity,” said Caitlin Gregg. “But so did the girl ahead of me and all those behind me. I skied my heart out.”

In the ’80s American cross country skiing had a single sport hero in Bill Koch with his 1976 Olympic silver and 1982 World Cup title. But as a nation, America tended to settle for a secondary place behind the Scandinavians. That began to change in the 2000s when a new wave of athletes like Kikkan Randall, Andy Newell and Kris Freeman showed the USA could compete. That has grown with the likes of Diggins, Liz Stephen, Simi Hamilton and Noah Hoffman who have all challenged for World Cup wins and podiums.

In the team meeting on the eve of the 10k, U.S. coaches looked four American girls in the eyes and asked them to think about a question: ‘why not me?’

And, why not?

No one thought about number three-starting Caitlin Gregg as a medal contender. But she did. This single day was her sole focus for months. Gregg wasn’t on the World Cup tour. She and husband Brian moved to Summit County, Colorado for a month to do high altitude training. Every minute of her life in the last month had been designed to lead up to the 25 minutes, 55 seconds she was on course.

Don’t let the face glitter fool you. Jessie Diggins, the smiling, fun-loving dance choreographer of the Team’s famous Uptown Funk video is one of the fiercest competitors. Put her on a pair of skis and she’s going to fly. Tell her she’s in the lead, and she’s really gone.

Earlier that morning, U.S. coaches looked at the sky and talked about the forecast for snow right at race time. In the USA wax cabins, the techs were processing a complex forecast. Temperature. Humidity. Old snow mixed with new. Thousands of variables. Four skiers, four different ski brands: Madshus for Caitlin, Salomon for Jessie, Rossignol for Liz Stephen, Fischer for Kikkan Randall.

Coaches ran skis back and forth to the test track – a course they knew wouldn’t be the same 30 minutes later. It was time to roll the dice. The Americans prepped for wet, new snow. At the start line, the U.S. athletes clicked into rocket ships – they just didn’t know it yet.

In an interval start race, athletes hit the track at 30 second intervals, racing against the clock, coaches watching split times along the course. With over 70 starters, it would take over a half-hour to get everyone on course – the best seeded athletes towards the very end. Gregg started third, Jessie Diggins 37th and Kalla 49th.

When Gregg started, there were tiny flakes. As Diggins headed out 17 minutes later, the snow was dumping. Coaches suddenly realized that Gregg’s early splits were for real. The track was slowing. As Diggins reached 3k, Gregg was finishing as race leader, making her way into the stadium as the first finisher. Sweden’s Kalla was just kicking out of the start.

Gregg sat in the fur-lined leader’s chair, a novelty often enjoyed by early starters – simply waiting for the next one to bump her out of her seat. But today it was different No one came.

As Diggins churned through the snow into the halfway mark, it was now clear. The Americans had a real chance. Coaches from every nation yelled at Diggins repeatedly, ‘you’re in the lead.’ She heard them, loud and clear. Seven k’s into her race, the top seeded Norwegians and Swedes were hitting the early splits. The Swedes, led by Kalla, were on it. The Norwegians were not. America was two-three behind Kalla.

For the next 15 minutes, the world spun in slow motion. As more splits rolled in, Kalla was the only skier showing up ahead of the Americans. Bursting with energy those final few kilometers, Diggins took every risk on the corners – almost crashing. She came in to unseat her teammate. But they continued to hold first and second until Kalla came home the winner.

As Caitlin and Jessie accepted their medals that evening, a lone American flag flew higher and bigger over the sea of blue and yellow. In the back, two sets of stars and stripes were raised.

“We had this opportunity and we took it,” said Diggins. “To be part of the amazing atmosphere on the U.S. Ski Team? It’s incredible. We have so much fun together. We create this really positive energy. I feel really proud to be a part of the team.”

There were many winners in the Falun 2015 medals plaza that snowy night. But Coach Matt Whitcomb said it best. “The group I’m most happy for tonight are all the nine-year-old kids back home who will be inspired.”

Sport is about inspiration. It’s about seizing opportunity and sharing it. From all the cross country kids in America, congratulations Jessie and Caitlin! Now let us inspire you.


The U.S. Ski Team relies solely on the support of the American public. Click here to support the team.

Harvey Claims Stellar 5th as Northug Grabs Fourth Gold in Men’s 50km CL at Falun – Killick Strong 19th


Northug ahead of Bauer, Olsson and Vylegzhanin with Harvey just behind [P] Nordic FocusMarch 1, 2015 (Falun, Sweden) – Petter Northug (NOR) pounced near the end of the men’s 50km CL race moving up from the mid-teens with a turn of speed that none could match as he slipped between the race leaders to claim his fourth gold of the 2015 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships. Lukas Bauer (CZE) took second at 1.7s behind with defending champ, Johan Olsson (SWE), in third just ahead of Russia’s Maxim Vylegzhanin in fourth.

Canada’s Alex Harvey, who was in the fight for the medals from the start, settled for a strong fifth place as snowy, difficult conditions made it a challenging day in the Falun tracks with temperatures above freezing.

Alex Harvey (CAN) at the front... [P] Nordic Focus

Harvey and his teammates, Ivan Babikov and Graeme Killick, were at the front for much of the race with newbie Killick having a superb day finishing 19th with the lead group and veteran Babikov in 30th just behind. The top American finisher was Noah Hoffman just out of the points in 31st.

”It was kind of hard to break away and I spent too much energy in the first part of the race and should have read the situation better. My skis were very good I gained a few spots in the end but couldn’t do more. Northug skied the smartest saving his energy until the end. These are my best championship ever so overall I’m really, really happy,” commented Harvey.

Babikov and Hoffman  [P] Nordic Focus

Northug’s typical final charge was impressive as he quickly gained a dozen or so spots moving up on the last climb to third by the final corner leading into the finishing straight. For most of the race he sat back in the group keeping a watchful eye and resting while waiting for the right moment to attack. When he did it was like an explosion of speed and nobody could control or match him.

”It feels great to finish with a gold. I tried to be more in the front during he final 10km,” said Northug of this strategy. “I was happy with my position in fourth coming  towards the stadium. Then I stepped in between Bauer and Vylegshanin in the final stretch and had some strength left. It has been a fantastic championship and a dream to win four golds.”

Petter Northug (NOR) wins [P] Nordic Focus During the first half of the race Olsson tried to escape but the conditions were tough and the pack remembered his superb solo victory effort at the 2013 Worlds in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

”As soon as I tried to get away and looked back, I saw a whole bunch of skiers,” said Olsson. ”As more snow fell, the more I realized that it was useless. So I decided to stay in the group. I tried to save myself for the last 5km to have good legs when we would go up the Mordarbacken “killer hill” the last time. I’m proud of three medals at these championship but of course I would rather have had a gold today.”

Olsson pointed out that he had some luck in the end when Vylegzhanin lost his balance in the last few meters allowing the Swede to pass him for the bronze while holding off Harvey and Dario Cologna (SUI) just behind.

While the Canadians made their presence felt throughout the race the Swedes were also looking for glory at home as veteran Anders Soedergren, 37, attacked with 35km to go in a farewell bid performance. The silver medalist from the 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme gave local fans lots to cheer about but he was reeled in with 5km to go.

”I had bad skis for the first 15km but then when I changed skis it got better and I was able to catch up with the first group. Then I had a good grip and could press on. I knew it would be hard to stay away until the finish,” said Soedergren.

(l-r) Yoshida, Killick and Soedergren [P] Nordic Focus In the final 5km Bauer, 38, made an unusual but tactical ski change that gave him fresh skis as he quickly re-joined the lead group of about 20 skiers and moved to the front grabbing the silver at the finish.  “Changing skis before the last lap was a key to coming second. It was a very big risk I took, but when I was up there with a couple of kilometres left, I felt I had the chance of a medal. I lost the gold on the last hill where I had major problems,” said Bauer.

For Canada’s Killick who also changed skis with 5km to go it was a memorable championships. ”Our skis were really good so right off the start they put me in a great position coming down to the stadium. I just tried to ski as relaxed as I could and whenever it strung out I didn’t try to battle too hard but I was able to just stay relaxed and it came back together a few times.

Ivan Babikov (CAN) [P] Nordic Focus

”The one mistake I made is coming in when many in the lead pack switched skis but I didn’t. Ivan and I, and I think Bauer, pressed on. I thought my skis felt ok but later they were like dogs and I lost contact with the lead pack. Then I switched in the last 5km and I actually think it was really good to switch there because I made up a couple of positions.

”The hardest part was coming right thru the stadium. You almost needed a canoe to get thru as it was really loose. You had to stay relaxed thru that whole section and try not to overdo it scrambling there.

”It’s been amazing. I haven’t done a whole lot of skiing in Scandinavia but to see how it is and the huge crowds here is really cool and especially coming from Canada and seeing that level of enthusiasm  for the sport, its really special to see and hopefully we can get there someday”.

Final podium [P] Nordic Focus

”I haven’t skied around Northug too much but he just kept on coming back and sitting in. That’s his style and I just don’t know how he does it, just drifting all over the place. That’s how he likes to do it and he is strong enough to just make it back whenever he wants to. It’s cool to ski with those guys for sure,” he concluded.

For Babikov in 30th it was a solid day on snow. ”I couldn’t believe my skis were so good. It was not my intention to lead… I was just trying to keep the pace up. It was super fun, the crowd was amazing up the Mordarbacken.

“The conditions were tough – I think they did the best they could. With so many competitions – the Nordic combined and us – I don’t know if salting today would have helped it. It is what it is,” he added.

Fifth for Harvey... [P] Nordic Focus

For the USA’s Hoffman in 31st it was a good sign that he’s on the comeback trail following his early season injury and ankle operation altho he hoped for more.

”It was really challenging, really tough conditions. Ski exchanges made a big difference. It was just a hard race and I was kind of flat again, similar to what it’s been the whole week.

”I was in the pack when I didn’t change after 15km and then I changed at 25km and slowly skied back on and got back into the group. And then at the change again at the 35km that’s kinda where it strung out and I was at the wrong side of that string.

“I just didn’t have anything special today, I’m looking for better in the next couple of weeks. It hasn’t been a spectacular comeback from injury but it’s not terrible either,” commented the Hoff.

Full results here.

Canada’s Bedard 19th in Men’s 10km Sprint on Day 2 of IBU Cup 7 in Canmore – Graf Wins, USA’s Roberts 22nd


March 01, 2015 (Canmore, AB) – Germany’s Florian Graf was unstoppable while the Canadians showed modest improvements on Day 2 of IBU Cup 7 at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Graf held onto the overall IBU Cup lead with the victory, as he was perfect in the range to reach the top of the podium with a time of 24:36.1.

Florian Graff (GER) wins men's Sprint on Day 2 [P] Pam Doyle

Antonin Guigonnat of France shot 8/10, but was only 12 second back of Graf. Christoph Stephan, also of Germany, finished third. Graf took extra time in his last bout of shooting, and it paid off with the win.

“I was on the shooting range a little bit more focused and concentrated,” Graf said.

Marc Andre Bedard was the top Canadian, finishing 19th, with a time of 26:04.9. He was happy with his performance in the range, where he shot 9/10, and said he moved much faster on his skis

“I needed yesterday to get the toxins out,” Bedard said, who hasn’t raced internationally or picked up his rifle since January. “Physically it was way better today. I still felt not exactly like I want to be, but I shot nine which was good. On the skies, it really was different.”

Marc Andre Bedard (Can) 19th in men's Sprint on Day 2 [P] Pam Doyle

An outlier on the Canadian team, Bedard doesn’t have a coach and trains by himself under a modified plan adjusted to his needs. For example, most Canadian biathletes shoot 10,000 rounds of ammo a year, while Bedard shoots 1,000. After 15 years in the sport, he’s confident he knows what he needs to do to perform.

“I’m happy to be able to race at that level. I’ve been training full time, even more than I’ve ever trained, but in a totally different way. I couldn’t say the coaches in general are super excited about this. I haven’t trained with the National team in over a year now. I’m just coming in and getting my shape up,” Bedard said.

Scott Perras was the second fastest Canadian, finishing 23rd . Matt Neumann was 34th, Matthew Hudec 36th, Andrew Chisholm 40th and Macx Davies was 42nd after a rough day in the range.

The USA’s Wynn Roberts logged a solid 22nd place finish to grab the top American spot. Teammates Patrick Johnson and Eathan Dreissigacher finished 44th and 46th, respectively.

Results here.

Johaug Destroys Field in Women’s 30km CL @ Falun 2015 – Stephen 11th Leads three Americans in Top 20


Therese Johaug (NOR) [P] Nordic FocusFebruary 28, 2015 (Falun, Sweden) – Therese Johaug (NOR) charged to victory in dominant style in the women’s 30km CL as she soloed to across the line with a decisive 1:31 margin over her super star teammate Marit Björgen in second claiming her third gold medal of the 2015 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships.

Swedish star Charlotte Kalla recovered to take the bronze and her fourth medal in Falun after two crashes and almost completely being eliminated on the “killer hill” – Mordarbacken – halfway through the race.

Final podium [P] Linus Trygg

The US camp was smiling as well with a very solid day placing three skiers in the top 20 led by Liz Stephen in 11th – one place shy of her top ten goal – with newcomer Rosie Brennan a superb 16th at her Worlds debut, followed by Sadie Bjornsen in 20th.

As expected the pace was hard from the start Johaug, Björgen and Weng at the front. But the Finns, Kerttu Niskanen and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, and the Swedes including Sofia Bleckur were there as well even leading to show Norway they were up for the challenge.

Liz Stephen [P] Linus Trygg

The USA Björnsen was also at the front in the beginning of the race. “I just go out as hard as I can and see how long I can hold it. Sometimes It works and sometimes it does not and today it worked for about 10km and then I got tired,” Björnsen told Trax post-race.

Her teammate Stephen also had a better than she usually does. “I had a really good start for me, I think I was third out of the stadium which has never happened – I’m such a slow starter.”

But on this day no one could stop Johaug as she jumped into the lead at the 6.5km mark and attacked up Mordarbacken never looking back as the group split under the pressure leaving six chasers.

”After 5km we were still in a large group and I felt that it went fast but I increased the speed at Mordarbacken and got a 5-6 second gap on the top. I felt it was a little early with 23km still to go but my skis and shape were so good. I focused on myself and my technique. It was fantastic to go out there. I got so much energy from the crowd. I’ve never been in such good shape before,” said Johaug.

Bjoergen, Johaug and Kalla [P] Linus Trygg

She made a ski change around the 15km mark with a 50s lead but Niskanen and Saarinen did not change skis and moved up to within 30s. Most of the big names also made a change including Kalla who fell going into the stadium. Soon after it looked like she was cooked on the Mordarbacken – she even thought of giving up.

But she hydrated and soon started to feel better and regain her energy. ”We’re supposed to drink every five kilometers but I’m not sure if I did. I saw water stations all over the place and it was good after that,” said Kalla with a laugh. Her fast skis were crucial in making up ground to capture the bronze over Niskanen and Bleckur.

Björgen was untouchable in second as the group was shattered given the challenging pace – but even the multi-decorated Norwegian star could not match Johaug this day.

Marit Bjoergen (NOR) [P] Nordic Focus

”I tried but Therese was too strong. I had no chance to get back to her after we changed skis. I’m very happy with the silver today,” said Bjorgen. ”My goal at these championships was to take an individual gold and I done that. I’ve had a very good season with a victory in the Tour de Ski and the overall World Cup.”

Following her strong start Stephen fell back after 5 kilometers dropping to 24th. But soon after she regained her form and continued to fight advancing thru the field to lead the second chase group in 8th place. In the end she found herself in a sprint for tenth against top Norwegian sprinter Ingvild Flugstad Østberg.

”My goal was top ten but I really need to work on my sprinting if I wanna ever beat Ingvild at the finish, so I think my result is ok. I kind of just worked myself into the race. It was hard from the start which is typical – that’s how women race these days – so I just tried to be patient and keep going and it worked out.”

Bjornsen (l) and Stephen [P] Linus Trygg

You pushed really hard out of the stadium on the second lap: ”I have to push on all the uphills because I tend to loose time on the downhills, so I was fighting for every second and knew that the next pack I could see was second through to tenth or something so I was just trying to get to them the whole time.”

Bjornsen recapped her day, “I haven’t been feeling spectacular lately…I just haven’t felt on fire yet. As I said I went out hard and just tried to keep fighting and not give up. I was yoyo-ing with some skiers around me but I had some really spectacular skis and it was a hard decision to figure out if I should switch or not because I was so happy with them.

“Sometimes I wonder if I should had just stayed on the same skis but I was trying to look around to see what everyone else was doing… it’s hard to keep the same skis when everyone else is switching. But fortunately I had another good pair and I’m really happy with JP who waxed my skis excellent today. They kept me going.”

Emily Nishikawa (CAN) [P] Nordic Focus

For Canada’s Nishikawa in 32nd it was a decent day. ”It was very fast from the start, I think this is one of my best 30km results. It’s still a really hard race and I struggled a little bit in the middle and then I felt better at the end, but a big improvement from my last one.

On Mordarbacken: ”It’s great! There’s so many fans out there and so loud and the fans give you so much energy”.

Are you satisfied with your race? ”Yeah it’s not my best performance but yeah I’m happy”

What’s next: ”I’m going to Lahti and then Holmenkollen in Oslo.”

Full results here.

Norway Claims 8th Consecutive Men’s Relay Title @Falun 2015 – Canada 10th, USA 11th


February 27, 2015 (Falun, Sweden) – Norway won a thrilling 4x10km Men’s Relay at Falun 2015 by a mere 0.6 seconds over Sweden as it all came down to the wire when Petter Northug beat Calle Halfvarsson in the final stretch to the line. France made a strong big for the victory and in the end took home the bronze. It was Norway’s eighth straight World Championships relay title.

Northug wins over Halfvarsson [P] Nordic Focus

Behind the Canadian and US teams were locked in their own battle as Len Valjas prevailed over Simi Hamilton putting the Canucks 10th on the final scoreboard with the Americans settling for 11th.

On the first CL leg Canada’s Alex Harvey showed that his shape is still good as he won the first leg followed by Finland, Kazhakstan and Norway as Sweden’s Daniel Richardson had a tough day with his wax finishing in seventh. The USA’s Erik Bjornson also struggled with the pace tagging off to Noah Hoffman in 10th another twelve seconds behind Richardson.

”I felt really good today. This race was important as a lead up to the 50km on Sunday. It was kind of a test race for me,” said Harvey. ”The skis were great today. Now I’m really looking forward to Sunday. Our wax team is working so hard and always giving us fast skis.”

Alex Harvey (CAN) won the opening CL leg [P] Nordic Focus

Harvey handed off to Graeme Killick who stayed with the lead group for as long as he could. Behind Sweden’s Johan Olsson was leading the charge with France’s Maurice Manificat to pull back a 20-second deficit and soon their small group caught Killick and by the 5K mark they reached the leaders.

Olsson attacked after a short rest putting pressure on Norway’s Didrik Tønseth but could not escape. As the transition approached he tried again and this time he gapped the field tagging off with a 6-second advantage over Manificat with Tønseth at 20s.

”I am very pleased with my race and happy for the medal. But of course when it’s the relay, you want gold,” Olsson said at the press conference.

The USA’s Hoffman had a strong leg as well also passing Killick as he tagged Kyle Bratrud in ninth. The Canadians were now eleventh as Ivan Babikov took over for Killick on the first of two skating legs.

Sweden’s Marcus Hellner and France’s Robin Duvillard were leading but marked by Norway’s Anders Gløersen who made steady gains and finally passed them putting Norway back in the driver’s seat. Gløersen finished strong giving Petter Northug a nice lead ahead of France’s Adrien Backscheider as Hellner handed over to Calle Halfvarsson at 20 seconds behind Norway.

Hellner leading Gloeersen [P] Nordic Focus

”I started at my own pace on the first lap. On the second, I sped it up. Then I rested a bit before I attacked at the end,” explained Gløersen.

Babikov and the USA’s Bratrud were in their own battle during the third leg as Babikov could see him in front throughout the leg and finally passed him at the end.

Up ahead Halfvarsson bridged to Northug as Backscheider attacked and established a gap of 5-6 sec. But at the 7.5km mark they reeled him in and and then the fireworks began between Sweden and Norway.

Coming into the stadium Halfvarsson was ahead of Northug but up on the last small hill in the stadium Northug exploded and got past him on the inside lane before the last little downhill into the home stretch and it was game over.

Halfvarsson leading Northug with Backscheider behind [P] Nordic Focus

”I’m made a mistake today and Petter was able to get better speed from behind and pass me. He knew what was he was going to do while I had difficultly keeping track of him,” said Halfvarsson.”It was great with all the people cheering. This was my first international medal and it means a lot to me.”

For Northug it was his fifth time anchoring the Norwegian team to gold. “I was prepared for many different scenarios. It was fun that is was a fight with two other teams. After Sochi we had pressure on us to succeed. Only gold is good enough for the fans,” said Northug.”

Northug wins [P] Nordic Focus

Valjas and Hamilton worked together on the last leg trying to catch up with Germany and Finland as they had them in sight but they didn’t succeed and in the end Valjas was the stronger at the finish claiming 10th the Canada with the USA 11th.

Grame Killick (Can)

”It was not the best race for me. I tried to stay with the leaders but the pace was a little bit high so I faded and then I was just trying to maintain and not lose more ground – but four times up Mordarbacken is really tough.”

On his skis: ”I have to judge them by the first couple of laps ’cause they got quite tired towards the end but they where quite good for sure.”

Are you going to do the 50km? ”Yeah I will. Hopefully it’ll be a little more relaxed off the start than this race was.”

Graeme Killick (CAN [P] Nordic Focus

Noah Hoffman (USA)

”This was the best race of the season for me. Nothing totally spectacular but a step in the right direction and better feeling. Moved up in the field a little bit, and was able to ski with some fast guys… I am much happier with today.”

”The skis were excellent, really good and fast too.”

On the 50km on Sunday: ”I feel much better about that race after today.”

Kyle Bratrud (USA)

””It was hard. My legs definitely weren’t fully recovered from the 15km. That slush took a toll on my legs, as I am sure it did on everyone elses. But this in my second race here and only my third race at this level so it’s all pretty new to me, it’s just nice to mix it up with the top guys in the world.

”It’s very exiting, most of these guys I have only seen on TV. To come to Sweden and to ski with these kind of crowds is something I’ve never done before either so it makes me appreciate skiing on a whole new level.”

Ivan Babikov (CAN) [P] Nordic Focus

On US vs. Canada: ”Oh I mean Babikov is a strong guy  so when I saw him come by  I just knew I had to try and hang on to him but he got away from me a little bit at the end. It was sweet to see him out there. It’s good whenever North Americans succeed. We are happy for Alex and we hope that we can help raise each other’s game so it was good to come with Ivan to the finish for sure.”

On the 50km: ”No, I’m actually flying home tonight. I’m still in college so I’m going to ski my last NCAA’s and then I’ll graduate college and hopefully come back here soon.”

Ivan Babikov (Can)

”Way too fast for me. The course is a really fast, lots of one-skate and not much off set so it doesn’t really suit me. The first two laps those guys were going way to fast for my speed but then in the end I picked up a bit, but not great.”

It was a fight between Can and the USA… with two sprinters on the last leg. ”Yeah we are joking about that. Hopefully they’ll stick together until the end, there is a gap now I can see but hopefully Len can stay in there and sprint against Simeon.”

Will you do the 50km? ”We’ll see… I don’t know. I’m not feeling great but maybe I’ll try. We’ll see how it is and see how I feel tomorrow.”

Alex seems to be in very good shape: ”Oh Alex is in top shape for sure. He is so strong these day, he has a good chance for a medal for sure.”

Len Valjas (CAN) [P] Nordic Focus

Len Valjas (Can)

How did it feel to beat Hamilton at the finish? ”It was fun. There is always two races – the main one against all the countries and then the North American battle. We worked together the whole race and it came down to the final sprint. This time we got them, last time they beat us so I’m happy, I think we all are all happy.”

On how did it feel out there: ”I felt good, especially for a distance skate race. The tracks stayed firm enough, you really had to move around to find the good hard snow. I don’t ski well in the soft snow so I was moving a lot. It was really fun, I’m glad America was there to make a fun race…otherwise I’d have been there alone.”

What’s next for you now? ”Lahti and Drammen, and then my season is over.”

How has it been here in Falun? “Amazing, even with this weather it’s been really good. Epecially we have a good housing situation and I don’t want to leave. Our wax-techs have done an incredible job. Every day I have been passing people on the downhills and the courses here are awesome – it’s a world class venue, one of the best for sure.”

Simi Hamilton (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

Simi Hamilton (USA)

You had a good fight with Len: ”Yeah for sure. You know we are fighting but we are great friends. I think it’s a good kind of competition. We had Finland and Germany right ahead of us and I think we both really wanted to catch those guys so we put in some turns seeing if we could eat some time away but unfortunately we where unable to catch them.”

”Right before our teammates tagged off to us we looked at each other and said ‘Let’s see if we can get those guys’. Len is such an awesome guy and such a great skier so it’s fun to have a race like that with a good friend. He got me this time but I’m sure there will be times in the future when I cross the line first.”

What’s next for you? “I’ll go to Lahti, I won’t ski the 50k this weekend for sure so I’ll prepare for the skate sprint in Lahti. I’m really exited to skate sprint again and I think the last one was in Rybinsk so we’ve had a pretty big chunk of time between skate sprints. It should be fun to hopeful finish off the world cup season well and look toward next season.”

On Falun: ”It’s been awesome. Sweden is a super country and such a great place and with all the support not only for the Swedish skiers but for everyone so it’s been great. The crowds have been huge and yell not only for their skiers but for all the skiers. We love coming here and the people are just wonderful… skiing in Falun is awesome. All the volunteers and all of the course workers have been doing an amazing job this week making sure the snow stays good. Mother nature hasn’t been super nice to us, but they have been doing a great job and we really appreciate it.”

The American team seems to have had great skis every day: ”Yeah our coaches and wax-techs haw been wiring their buts off every day and they love what they do and it really shows because we always get great skis, fast skis and with good kick so it’s good to be a part of that bigger team as well.”

Full results here.

Final podium [P] Nordic Focus

Norway Unstoppable as Team USA Captures 4th in Women’s Relay @ Falun as


February 26, 2015 (Falun, SWE) – The Women’s 4x5km Relay was full of surprises and drama as Norway took no prisoners on their way to a resounding victory as they handled the pressure and reclaimed the top on the throne. Sweden looked strong to contend for the gold but a fateful crash by Maria Rydqvist at the beginning of the third leg put them in a see-saw battle with Finland for the silver which went to the host nation.

Norway wins Women's Relay [P] Nordic Focus

Team USA came ready to play but they too suffered an unexpected crash on the first leg by Sadie Björnsen that scuttled their chances for a podium finish. But the American team skied with heart battling back from 8th to finish 4th ahead of Poland and Germany to match their result at the Worlds in Val di Fiemme. Canada did not field a team.

”I had incredibly fast skis and today so it was a bit hard to maneuver them on the downhill and unfortunately someone came in on the track on top of me and kind of spun me around,” said Bjornsen.

”I tried so hard to come back but I flushed my legs pretty bad trying to get back on pace. I did the best that I could but sometimes stuff like that happens. The other girls skied incredibly well and I think that’s the thing about our team. I’m so very proud of them being able to fight their way back up and finish in 4th, a huge success..”

Sadie Bjornsen (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

On the first leg Norway’s Heidi Weng and Finland’s Aino Kaisa Saarinen set a really fast pace on the second lap but Sweden’s Sofia Bleckur recovered and pulled back to within 12 seconds of them at the exchange.

”I was nervous. But how wonderful it is to win today. In Sochi, we were number five and now we are the best again,” said Weng.

For Bjornsen it was a tough pill to swallow as she was in third before her fall at 2.5km but dropped 46 seconds at the 4km mark and at the exchange she was 50 seconds behind when she tagged Rosie Brennan in 6th.

The drama began to unfold on the second leg as Norway’s Therese Johaug pulled away from Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen but Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla had other plans putting in the best time – ten seconds faster than Johaug and 27 seconds faster than Niskanen.

Kalla was on fire passing Niskanen and chasing down Johaug as both had great skis. She clawed back to within 7-8 seconds and with super glide heading down into the stadium she almost caught Johaug and put in an extra effort to tag Rydqvist only 1.6 seconds behind Johaug.

”I had good skis and just tried to relax and keep my shoulders down and get good grip with the skis,” commented Kalla post race.

Charlotte Kalla (SWE) [P] Nordic Focus

Brennan, who was racing in her first relay for the US team, lost a bit of ground falling to 7th place when she switched over to Liz Stephen at 1:40 behind Finland and Norway.

”It was really good and I’m happy with the way I skied – I was really excited. It means a lot to be on this team,” shared Brennan. “I never imagined I would be in a position to be racing the relay at World Championships so I am very excited about today and really happy to be racing alongside my three teammates.

”It’s been a really amazing experience. Really enjoyable. Our team’s success here is gonna help the sport a lot back home and give us some more support,” she concluded.

Fate was not on Sweden’s side as Rydqvist got tangled up and fell early in the third leg fell and lost her chance to catch Astrid Jacobsen and battle for the gold.

”I didn’t see it happen but Maria is a tough girl and she can come back after such a thing…and get positive again and think about the right things,” commented Kalla.

”The fall was so unnecessary. I was a little too excited at the start. After I was able to recover and the finish was good. Since I’m in good shape I can handle stressful things, otherwise it is easy to become over-stressed. I was able to continue,” explained Rydqvist.

It became a battle for silver as Finland’s Riitta-Liisa Roponen attacked but Rydqvist was able to respond and they duked it out finishing the leg together at the exchange.

Behind American Stephen had a very fast leg earning the second best time behind Germany’s Denise Herrmann and tagged off to Jessie Diggins in fifth.

”I felt great today. My energy is awesome and I was going out to chase as hard as I could. I really proud of our fourth place, for sure. It’s not the podium we’re dreaming of but it’s damn close,” said Stephen.

Liz Stephen (USA) [P] Getty Images

”I didn’t see Sadie’s fall… I heard about it right before I started. It’s too bad for sure but it doesn’t mean we give up and it doesn’t mean you stop fighting. We had good skis. Our techs have been rocking and all the girls that were here and not on todays relay were out cheering,” she added.

The last leg belonged to Norway and Marit Björgen as she crossed the finish line with a comfortable 30-second margin over Sweden and Finland where a close battle played out.

”I’m grateful for the starting position the other girls gave me. It felt good from the start and I was told I had  a 24 second lead after 1km. Then I just had to stay on the skis. It was great to get into the stadium and take the Norwegian flag. Heidi was meeting me almost before the finish line,” said Bjorgen. “This was great for many Norwegians today. Two days ago we were far behind with bad skis. It’s great to come back and win.”

Sweden’s Stina Nilsson, the sprint silver medalist, did not trying to chase Bjorgen as she and Finland’s Krista Parmakoski were locked in a battle for the remaining two medals.

”I had clear directives. I should stay just behind Finland. So then I did it,” said Stina making it sound easy. “I am very pleased and the body responded very good. I felt fine the whole way.”

 Jessica Diggins (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

Nilsson, 21, had the upper hand when the two finally came into the stadium and hit the home stretch as Finland’s Parmakoski settled for the bronze as the stadium erupted as Nilsson brought home the silver.

Another battle was raging not far behind as Jessie Diggins was battling with Poland and Germany for fourth place. In the final push into the stadium Diggins was unstoppable dropping her rivals as she crossed the line with the third-best leg time, only 12s behind Bjoergen.

”I was really excited to race and really proud of our team and I was psyched to be on the chase. When I caught up to Poland and Germany on the first lap I was trying to drop them. But when I realized that wouldn’t work I eased up and rested and then I thought okay I will push over the top on the last sprint climb and then drop them coming into the stadium and that worked out really well.

”I’m very proud of Sadie as she skied and gave it everything she had in a tough situation. I was really impressed as our skis were really fast and I had confidence in that if I was resting and skiing tactically smart I could make a good move at the end.”

US Women's Relay Team (l-r) Diggins, Stephen, Bjornsen, Brennan [P]

We caught up with Stephen as she’s now fired up for the 30km CL. ”I’m going for the 30km now. It’s been a really fun championship and Falun has done a just amazing job hosting it through the cloudy weather and the snow. The volunteers are all smiling. It’s been a wonderful place.”

”I think we should make sure that we acknowledge Kikkan [Randall]. She was the one who taught us to dream and to believe. I mean it’s weird not to have here on the team today but she was out there and she’s in our hearts. She led the way and that can’t be forgotten. It’s really the ups and downs in people’s careers…she taught us how to dream big.”

Full results here.

Team USA [P] Johan Trygg

Sweden’s Johan Olsson in Charge in Men’s 15km FR @ Falun 20156 – Canada’s Babikov 20th


February 25, 2015 (Falun, SWE) – Despite having only one World Cup start behind him this season, in Ostersund 10 days ago, Sweden’s Johan Olsson crushed the competition today in Falun with a decisive victory in the men’s 10km FR individual.

”It was a good race, maybe the best skating race of my career,” commented Olsson who had an early start number due to his absence from the World Cup which was an advantage on this wet day in Falun.

Because of Olsson’s absence from the World Cup scene he had an early start number which was an advantage on this wet day in Falun. Some skiers were disappointed that the start order was not changed due to the weather conditions. Dario Cologna (SUI), who finished 18th with bib #71, was really annoyed.

Men's 15km FR podium [P] Nordic Focus

But silver medalist Maurice Manificat in bib #63 did not think it was such a big disadvantage even if it went a “little heavier” on the second lap. ”I like to go when it is wet and I had good skis,” said the Frenchman. Anders Gløersen took third for Norway claiming the bronze.

Canada’s Ivan Babikov was the top North American finishing a solid 20th tweeting, “After a slow start but very good 2nd lap I finished 20th in 15km skate today. Got to work on my pacing.” @IvanBabikov.

Following Babikov were his teammate Graeme Killick in 32nd with the USA’s Noah Hoffman just behind in 34th. American Erik Bjornsen was 47th with teammate Kyle Bratrud 52nd, Canada’s Jesse Cockney finished 57th and the USA’s Kris Freeman was 59th.

Ivan Babikov (CAN) [P] Nordic Focus

Olsson looked smooth and strong from the get-go as only Russia’s Ustiugov was a bit faster at the 1.5km by 0.4 seconds. After 7.5km Olsson had the second best time at 0.3 seconds behind Manificat. On the second lap Olsson took charge and was the fastest man accelerating up the climbs near the end to win gold with a 17s margin in front of a delighted home crowd.

”Bib #17 was an advantage today, for sure. And I had maybe the best skis in the whole field. I will probably share the medal with my waxer, Mats Eklund, who also waxed Kalla’s skis yesterday. We usually do not agree before the start but today we agreed on which pair of skis to use,” shared Olsson.

With great skis Olsson had a fast start. ”I was aggressive in the beginning but then took it a little bit easier to recover. Soon after I felt that I could just go for it. I wasn’t sure about how my legs would react on race-day but they were strong today and I could fight up the hills and when the crowd was shouting that I was going for gold it helped me a lot.

Olsson (SWE) [P] Nordic Focus

”Once I stand there and it’s not training, not the Swedish championship, not the World Cup but the World Championship or the Olympics then it’s like a click in my head. When I really get under the gun I can pick up a little extra power”

”Today I felt it went very, very fast and I was able to catch up to Roland Clara, who started 30 meters in front of me. When I came into to the stadium, I finally caught and passed him on the sprint track so I knew it would be good, but you never know how fast the skiers behind me were going.”

Manificat also had a superb day despite the late start number making a charge on the second lap in the wet conditions. But over the final kilometers he could not maintain Olsson’s pace.

”This was a perfect day for me. Sure, the snow was a little soft on the second lap but I like wet conditions. But it’s as much about the fight itself when it’s tough physically,” added the Frenchman.

Bronze medalist Gløersen agreed, ”Sure, it was soft and wet but I had good glide and had to fight hard all the way. In these kind of conditions it is important not to think about the feeling. Just get motivated by the positive coaching along the way,” commented Gløersen who won the 15km at the Davos World Cup in December. The former sprint star has been focusing on this World Championship race all season.

“I have mixed feelings today,” said Babikov who was nine second behind one of the favorites, Cologna. “On the first lap I started really slowly, but I was feeling really good on the second lap. The conditions were challenging with deep slush in some parts but rock solid section in others. I just wish I had felt the same on the first lap.”

Graeme Killick [P]

Killick had been sick earlier and was happy overall with his race today. ”The skate isn’t really my strength so the race today was okay for me. I felt like I didn’t blow up as much as I normally do – this was good to get in with the 50km coming on Sunday. I was sick for the Pursuit so this race was my first here in Falun – it’s good prep and was a solid effort,” he added.

The USA’s Hoffman was nine second behind Killick in 34th. ”It was nothing special today. I was hoping for more but didn’t feel bad. I had even feelings through the race but I wasn’t skiing fast enough. It’s been a challenging year and I’m looking to kind of build every race. It was a little bit better maybe than the Skiathlon”.

”Everybody’s skis were slowing down as the race went on. They were great at the beginning but then guys were sliding by me on the second lap with fresh skis. I’m looking forward to the 50km and then the two distance world cups remaining this season. I just need as much racing as possible.”

His teammate Freeman was disappointed after the race. ”I started out and felt quite good for 7km… I thought that I was right were I wanted to be but then I stopped moving. I just started to sink in the snow and I could’t get of my feet and I couldn’t recover.

“My skis were really good. I was just bad and I don’t know why. I don’t know if I’m on the men’s relay team or not, but today was a really bad race. I’m really disappointed.”

Full results here.

Jessie Diggins and Caitlin Gregg Nail Historic Double Podium for USA in Women’s 10km FR @ Falun 2015 as Kalla Takes Gold


Women's 10km Free Ind podium (l-r) Diggins2nd, Kalla 1st, Gregg 3rd [P] Andrew GerlachFebruary 24, 2015 (Falun, Sweden) – Team USA was on fire in the women’s 10km FR individual race with Jessie Diggins and Caitlin Gregg delivering stellar performances to claim silver and bronze for a historic podium. But the day belonged to Charlotte Kalla who captured the gold and the hearts of the hometown crowd in Falun with a resounding victory by 41 seconds over Diggins.

“This was a dream come true. Winning my favorite distance at home in Sweden,” said a smiling Kalla who made good in challenging conditions as heavy snow began falling while she and other late starters were on course.

While Kalla’s victory was not so surprising the USA’s double podium was a stunning affirmation of the team’s evolution to a world-class level that began year’s ago with American super-star Kikkan Randall, who finished 15th today. Her teammate Liz Stephen finished a strong 10th putting four US skiers in the top 15 with two on the podium.

While the zero degree weather and snowfall became a positive opportunity for Sweden and the USA it was not good news for Norway as their top skiers Marit Bjoergen and Therese Johaug were well off the pace at over 2min behind. The best Norwegian Heidi Weng finished in 22nd almost two minutes behind Kalla.

 Jessica Diggins (USA) [P] Andrew Gerlach

No one could have predicted such an outcome and clearly the mid-race snowfall proved to be an advantage for the early skiers but as Diggins commented post-race, “I knew today today I had great skis, and I skied my heart out to create the opportunity. Our coaches have told us when you see a chance don’t just take it – drive a Mack truck through it.”

During the early part of the season when Norway was dominating so many races there was talk about how dangerous it might be for the sport as interest could die out internationally. With Sweden, USA, France, Switzerland, Finland and Japan all in the top ten it appears the opposite may be true.

Canada’s Emily Nishikawa finished 30th and Perianne Jones was 32nd for a solid effort as well as their teammate Alex Harvey also skied into the history books with silver and bronze at the beginning of these championships. Now with four medals midway through the Worlds it’s clear that the North American cross-country train has arrived.

As the race began this morning Kalla was nervous and longed to get on her bib and go. Before the start her final choice of skis was made very late when it started to snow even more.

”I knew it could be a late change of skis. I had two pairs with me and the choice was made just a couple of minutes before the start,” said Kalla.

Charlotte Kalla [P] Linus Trygg

A very successful choice as Sweden, like Team USA, clearly had very good skis, but for Norway and others it seems that they missed the mark this time.

“Charlotte has been looking forward to this race since Falun won the bid many years ago,” her boyfriend Anders Svanebo told Trax. “She has been dreaming of it over the past year and it’s amazing that it has come true.”

Gregg set an early best time and enjoyed a stint in the hot seat until Diggins her teammate unseated her by five seconds with a very good time of 25:49.8 – then the waiting game began as the rest of the skiers came in.

“I was skiing so hard and gave it everything that I had but didn’t realize that it could mean a medal,” said Diggins. “When I crossed the line I had no idea where I finished. I was in so much pain – I couldn’t think or move. I didn’t even realize it was Caitlin coming to congratulate me – I was out of it and had nothing more to give.”

In the end there was only one skier that was faster and it was Charlotte Kalla who dominated from start to finish – at 5km she was 17 seconds ahead of Diggins, while Johaug by comparison was 26th at 52 seconds behind.

Jessica Diggins [P] Nordic Focus

“It was important to have the right focus throughout the race. The coaches shouted that I was going for the gold… so I concentrated and worked hard all the way. I was so tired of the peak of a hill that I double-poled over the crest. The coaches were wondering what I was doing but my legs were so tired,” said Kalla.

Diggins and Gregg including the entire American camp were obviously very happy after the race. Diggins was hoping for a top six on a good day, but she ended up with the silver just ahead of Gregg who she began training with at the age of 16.

”When Charlotte came in and crossed the line I thought that’s okay. I didn’t realize that everyone else was so far behind her and that I was still on the podium. Then I found my coaches and had never seen some of them cry before. It was really cool. I was thinking, this is not happening,” Diggins explained.

“During the race I got good split times from our coaches but also from the Swedes and others. Coaches from different countries were yelling ‘Come on Jessica’… it was really cool.

“Because I had an earlier start number I was thinking that I had to fight and go hard as fast skiers were coming later. I broke the race down into five different climbs and attacked each one and tried to recover on the downhills. It was snowing and I knew that the course was going to be slower so on the downhills I wasn’t putting my skis on edge, it was risky but very, very fast.

”For me this was an amazing course. I paced the Mordarbacken like I wanted but you had to be careful as the crowds and the fans were amazing and you just want to start going crazy, but you can blow up.

”It’s a big gliding course and the downhills take a lot of work. I love downhills like that. I’ve always had good races here in Falun so I had a good feeling at the start.

”Usually the team events get me more fired up but to be here with Caitlin it feels like another team event. It’s so cool. Just the fact that we are making some history here with the first US women to podium in a distance event at championships is really crazy.

American hug [P] Nordic Focus

”Our coach Matt [Whitcomb] said at our meeting last night that at the World Championships and Olympic Games, sometimes crazy things happen. People who are favorites don’t always come out on top. You never know. Especially with the snow today. It’s like okay here is a chance, why not me? I had trained as hard as anyone and I wanted it as much as anyone. With that in mind we went out there today and just fought so hard.

”I’m so lucky because I feel US skiing had been pushing us towards this and it’s not just me and Caitlin up here on the podium. It’s the entire ski community in United States. It took so many people to get us here and the coaches did an amazing job with the skis, and the atmosphere and the team has been so much fun, and the energy has been great. I feel so happy and proud to be part of this team,” concluded Diggins.

We caught up with Diggins’ parents back home in Afton, MN for their impressions on the day. “We are on cloud 9 here in Afton. Today is so special for Team USA and especially for the Minnesota Nordic Ski Community that Jessie grew up in, and which has supported Jessie and Caitlin with unwavering enthusiasm through all of their ups and downs.  Every coach, friend and supporter who has been behind them every step of the way to this podium (and most of whom were watching the live feed this morning) is enjoying this day along with us.  And what a reward to the US Team coaches and wax technicians, who put our athletes in a position to be competitive with the world.

“It was exciting to see Jessie put it all together to ski smart, dig deep and lay it all out there, skiing the kind of race we have always believed she is capable of.  Her joy on the podium put tears in our eyes. We are so very proud of her as a person and as an athlete,” wrote Deb and Clay Diggins by email.

Caitlin Gregg (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

Bronze medalist Gregg was 6th with Randall in the Team Sprint at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver and now she has a World Championship medal.

”I started with bib #3 and the goal was to take the lead when I finished. It took probably 20-30 skiers to come in before I realized that I had a really great time. I’m fully aware of how lucky I am that it snowed,” Gregg told SkiTrax. ”When I crossed the finish line I thought that it was a good effort. I knew my skis were really, really good – I could tell by the girls around me.

”There are many people and so much behind us including all of the fans back home cheering. Our skis were just so great and the energy was so great. I was so excited just to race today,” added Gregg.

 Brian Gregg (l) and Zach Caldwell [P] Linus Trygg

We caught up with Caitlin’s husband, Brian on site for his take on things. ”What an incredible day. Everything coming together and it’s really awesome. The support crew with the US team we have is quite a bit smaller budget than other programs but they’ve got a really good system and I was really happy that they allowed me to be part of it. I just came to Falun yesterday to work on testing. We previewed the course and try to treat it like any other race. We laugh and make some jokes, keeping it relaxed but also really, really dialed in. We had great skis, great structure and great wax.”

For Stephen in 10th it was a super day at the office. “Four in the top 15 is a good day for us fore sure. The snow made it quite fun. This is better than anyone could have imagined – a really special day.

”It was a great race for me. The snow definitely threw in an unexpected twist. I skied a really good race and while it was not the podium that I was going for we took up two spots on it,” she said with a laugh.

Randall was ecstatic for her teammates tweeting, “Some corks popping tonight! Such a sweet day for our entire team. So cool to see everything come together to do what we’ve known was possible all along. Big congrats to our medalists @jessiediggins and @CaitlinGregg.”

Her 15th place today was her best distance result this year but, ”I was hoping for more today. I didn’t feel as strong as I did in Ostersund a week ago. I’m going into every race hoping to find a little bit better form and today I didn’t really make the improvements I was hoping for – but I had fantastic skis and was definitely passing others on the downhills,” she added smiling.

Kikkan Randall (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

We also caught up with Canada’s Jones. “It was pretty crazy when it started snowing and it was hard to see. I had very low expectations going in because I’m more of a sprinter so I was pleased with my result,” said Jones. “I had a little bit of a cold last week and I’m just getting over that.

“I didn’t know how my body would be today but I felt really good and I was really happy to be out here. We had great skis and our techs are doing an amazing job this season. The two Americans on the podium was amazing and truly inspiring – great for the sport,” she commented.

Bill Koch was the only US skier to win a distance medal at the Nordic Worlds winning bronze at the 1982 Championships in Oslo, Norway. We spoke with Marty Hall, who was the US Head Coach back then and is currenty recovering from an operation, who told Trax that when he heard about Diggins and Gregg, “… they had to chain me to the bed.”

Finally we checked in with US Head Coach, Chris Grover, and Women’s Coach Matt Whitcomb.

“We’re fairly stoked over here. It was an amazing day for the women’s team. Of course it definitely surprised us, as you might imagine. We ended getting a little bit lucky today but things also came together for us. For sure we had some of the best skis, if not the best skis in the field today. That really allowed those gals to ski fast before it started snowing but also to continue to ski pretty fast as the heavy snow started to come down.

“We had some athletes that were really ready to go and have a good race…and we got a little lucky with an early start number for Caitlin and Jessie benefited from starting in the middle of the field. It ended up being a little bit unlucky for Liz who also had an incredible race but just could not compete with such a late start number.

“This season hasn’t gone exactly as planned with some bad luck along the way but we’re halfway through the championships and the team is healthy… today is an excellent confirmation that we’re moving in the right direction,” said Grover.

(l-r) Gregg 3rd, Diggins 2nd,Kalla 1st [P] Andrew Gerlach

Whitcomb was pleased for Diggins and Gregg adding that having positive team chemistry is an important part of their success.

“Today was certainly challenging but not as different or difficult as any other race on the circuit despite what you may read tomorrow in the Scandinavian press. What you saw today was a couple of athletes step up to the plate, swing really hard, and connect. They ended up on the podium and their teammates finished tenth and fifteenth. The conditions were difficult but what’s more difficult is to have to ski those conditions – they made it work when perhaps others struggled a little bit.

“This is a great lifetime result for both Jessie and Caitlin… we’ve seen Caitlin ski this way before and while I’m a little surprised that she was able to time it so well and make it happen today, it’s really not that surprising. Caitlin is that good at cross-country skiing and it’s the same with Jessie. This level of performance is in both of them and they were able to put it together on the fourth day of these Championships.

“Team chemistry has so much to do with athletes competing well and the team’s recent video is testimony to that chemistry. Our philosophy is… get the team right and the results can happen,” commented Whitcomb.

Full results here.
Teleconference here.
Uptown Funk video here.

News FLASH – USA’s Jessie Diggins and Caitlin Gregg Score Historic SILVER and BRONZE in Women’s 10km FR @ Falun 2015


Jessie Diggins, Charlotte Kalla, Caitlin Gregg [P]

February 24, 2015 (Falun, SWE) – Americans Jessie Diggins and Caitlin Gregg claimed a historic podium today winning a stunning silver and bronze in the Women’s 10km FR individual at the 2015 FIS Nordic World Championships in Falun, Sweden. Local star, Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla, took the gold at home in style with an impressive 41s-margin over Diggins.

Historic day for Team USA [P]

This was Diggins second trip to the podium at Worlds as she and Kikkan Randall won Team Sprint gold in 2013 at Val di Fiemme, Italy. For Gregg it’s a dream come true to snag such a presitigious medal while making history with Diggins marking the USA’s first double-podium at the Nordic World Championships. The USA’s Liz Stephen finished a strong 10th putting three Americans in the top ten – another first for Team USA at Worlds – while Randall finished a solid 15th. Canada’s Emily Nishikawa placed 30th followed by Perianne Jones in 32nd with Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt at her debut Worlds in 52nd.

(l-r) Diggins, Kalla, Gregg Women's 10K FR final podium at the finish [P] Falun 2015

Heavy snow that began mid-way through the race plagued some of the favourites who started later in the competition as top Norwegians Therese Johaug and Marit Bjoergen were well off the pace.

“I know today today I had great skis. And I skied my heart out to create the opportunity,” said @jessdiggs

“Our skis were so great and the energy was great. I was so excited just to race today,” said @CaitlinGregg

Full report, interviews and more photos to follow.

Full results here.

Doherty’s 11th Leads North Americans in Pursuit Races @ IBU Youth/Junior Worlds


February 23, 2015 (Minsk-Raubichi, Belarus) – A day after his bronze medal in the junior men’s sprint, Sean Doherty (USA) had the top North American performance in Sunday’s pursuit races with an 11th-place finish in the junior men’s 12.5-kilometer event at the IBU Youth/Junior World Championships in Belarus. Doherty crossed the line in 37:17.4 minutes, with seven penalties, while Aidan Millar (Can) scored the best Canadian result in a strong 14th place.

Sean Doherty (USA) [P] US Biathlon

Russia claimed two of the top-three spots on the podium with Eduard Latypov taking the win in 35:02.8, with two penalties, while teammate Alexander Povarnitsyn came in third (35:30.9/+5). Norway’s Vemund Gurigard slipped in between the Russians for the silver medal (35:27.2/+2).

Other Canadian results include Carson Campbell (Can) in 48th, followed by Matthew Strum (Can) in 49th.

In the junior women’s 10k pursuit, Maddie Phaneuf (USA) hit 18 of 20 targets to move up from her starting position of 33rd to finish in 22nd place. Phaneuf went clean at three of the four shooting stages, missing her only two targets in the first standing stage.

“I believe that this was one of the best races in my career,” said Phaneuf. “The shooting was almost perfect, and I felt smooth and strong skiing. Moving up 11 spots and seeing that my ski speed was in the top 25 for this field is a huge confidence booster.”

Sarah Beaudry (Can) logged the best Canuck result in 40th. Team USA’s Mikaela Paluszek (USA) finished 55th.

Marie Heinrich of Germany won the junior women’s pursuit, shooting clean and posting a time of 27:58.3. Galina Vishnevskaya (KAZ) finished second, 15.4 seconds back with two penalties, while Ukraine’s Yuliya Zhuravok placed third with clean shooting, 20.7 seconds behind Heinrich.

Youth Pursuit Races

Megan Bankes (Can) placed 27th in the youth women’s 7.5km pursuit to earn the best North American placing with three penalties and a time of 27:47.2. Four athletes represented the U.S. in the youth women’s 7.5k pursuit on Sunday. Siena Ellingson (USA) was the top Team USA finisher in 39th place (29:56.3/+6), followed by Chloe Levins (USA) in 42nd (30:07.5/+9), Amanda Kautzer (USA) in 46th (30:28.9/+7), and Hannah Streinz (USA in 50th (31:48.6/+6). For the Canadians, Bryn Robertson (Can) was 40th.

Norway’s Ingrid Landmark Tandrevold continued her strong showings this week by taking the win with a time of 23:26.9, with two penalties. She was joined on the podium by a pair of Austrians: Julie Schwaiger, 44.3 seconds back, with two penalties, and Simone Kupfner, 55.5 seconds behind, with three penalties.

Pearce Hanna (Can) powered to a solid 13th place in the youth men’s 10km pursuit to secure the best North American result, finishing only +2:43.0 off the pace with three penalties. Paul Thomas Everett (USA) was the lone American in the youth men’s 10k pursuit where he finished 43rd with a time of 33:21.9, with five penalties.

The race was won by Austria’s Felix Leitner with a time of 28:12.3, with two penalties. Russia’s Kirill Streltsov was second, three seconds back with two penalties, and Norway’s Mattis Haug finished third, 11 seconds back, also with two penalties.


Youth Men’s 10km Pursuit here.
Youth Women’s 7.5km Pursuit here.
Junior Men’s 12.5km Pursuit here.
Junior Women’s 10km Pursuit here.

Norway Untouchable in Men’s 1.4km FR Team Sprint as USA Takes 7th in Falun 2015


Petter Northug (NOR) at the finish [P] Nordic FocusFebruary 23, 2015 (Falun, Sweden) – The Norwegian team of Finn Haagen Krogh and Petter Northug were untouchable in the men’s 1.4km FR Team Sprint on Sunday. Like their women counterparts, the duo quickly established a lead that grew to take the gold over the Russian team of Nikita Kriukov and Alexey Petukhov, the defending champions, with Italy’s Dietmar Noeckler and Federico Pellegrino claiming the bronze.

Final podium (l-r) Italy, Norway, Russia [P] Nordic Focus

Team USA’s Andrew Newell and Simeon Hamilton, who qualified a strong 3rd in their Semifinal heat, could not match the brutal pace in the final, finishing 7th at 17.48 seconds behind Norway. The Canadian team of Jesse Cockney and Len Valjas raced in the same semi as the Americans placing 7th and did not advance to the final ending up 13th on the day.

Krogh and Northug celebrate [P] Nordic Focus

”It was a good race and great to win. It’s a great day for both of us,” commented Northug who crossed the line with a 5.64 margin but enjoyed a huge lead of 17-18 seconds when he began the final lap.

The pace was quick from the start as Krogh went to the front and started turning the screws which Northug continued. Behind the teams scrambled with Sweden initially near the front but Calle Halfvarsson and Teodor Peterson caught some bad luck when Petukhov went over Peterson’s pole in close quarters and their race was done.

With Norway out front it was Russia, Italy and Germany battling for the remaining medals as the USA duked it out with Finland and the Czech Republic another 10s back.

Simeon Hamilton (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

”I felt I recovered pretty well after Thursday’s sprint but still felt a little tight today,” said Hamilton post-race. “We had great conditions and it was fast. I liked that and we had great skis.

”One of the nice things about Team Sprint is that even though it’s super hard, you get three chances to improve your game. It’s the kind of course with technical corners where it can be a big advantage if you’re at the front.”

”It was great to make the finals – that was our number one goal. We’ve been around 7th-9th a few times so for sure it was one of my personal goals to be top six today and we were just outside that.”

Simi Hamilton (USA) [P] Linus Trygg

His teammate Newell echoed their top-6 goal and came away with positive feelings about their effort.

“It was a really fun day of racing but as always with sprint relays it was tough and painful. The course was actually in perfect condition since they had it closed all morning. With fast downhills had many turns which made it tough to recover.

Andrew Newell (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

“Our semi went great and I felt really strong and confident racing against those guys. As the lead off sprinter a big part of my job is making sure the heat doesn’t slow down too much to give us a much better shot at a LL situation.

“In the finals we held our own but we were all caught off guard by the fast pace. It made for some hard laps and as always it’s our goal to be within the top 6 in the final. We caught a little bit of good luck with Sweden bonking and France crashing going into the stadium so it was great pick off a few spots.

Newell with Cockney to his left [P] Nordic Focus

“In general I think it was a positive day for us and I think when Simi and I are in top shape we can be medal contenders in the future which is the ultimate goal,” Newell told Trax.

Jesse Cockney (CAN) [P] Nordic Focus

Canada’s Cockney was happy with his effort with Valjas but wants more and looks forward the next opportunity. ”It was a better feeling than the classic sprint for me, so I was happy with that. It’s a good format for Lenny and I doing the team sprint. It’s our third time racing it together and we got some good experience and hopefully we can crash podium some day.”

Len Valjas (CAN) [P] Linus Trygg

Valjas is also optimistic. “It’s tough as these guys are all fast. I felt okay but not fast enough to pass them, just enough to keep up. We had very good skis and need to find one and a half seconds which is very doable.”

Full results here.

Northug with Valjas behind [P] Nordic Focus

Norway Dominates Women’s Team Sprint @ Falun 2015 – USA 8th


February 22, 2015 (Falun, Sweden) – Norway out-classed the field today crushing all opposition in the Women’s 6×1.2km FR Team Sprint, as anchor Maiken Caspersen Falla crossed the finish line more than eight seconds ahead of the nearest rival. The real battle was for silver and Stina Nilsson (SWE) delivered for the hometown fans as she pulled ahead of Poland’s Sylwia Jaskowiec in the finishing lanes to claim second.

Norway's Falla (l) and Oestberg [P] Nordic Focus

The defending champs from Val di Fiemme in 2013, Team USA, finished eighth overall. Sophie Caldwell and Jessie Diggins placed a strong second in the second Semi final, but when the pace picked up in the final they could not respond.

While Diggins and Kikkan Randall had won gold two year’s earlier the switch to Caldwell was made by Head Coach Chris Grover noting, “The team sprint is an important medal opportunity for us and we’re putting our best sprinters on the starting line. While Kikkan and Jessie are the world champions, we need to go with the athletes who are skiing the best right now. Kikkan understands that and also knows that she’s helped our team get to the point where we have options.”

Stina Nilsson (SWE) [P] Nordic Focus

In the final Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and Falla dominated from the start with Østberg creating a gap and Falla extending it. Germany, Poland and Sweden formed the lead chase group with the other teams further back.

By mid-race Norway’s lead was massive as Germany’s Nicole Fessel battled with Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk for second with Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter behind in fourth.

On the final exchange Falla surged to victory as Nilsson almost collided with Germany’s Denise Herrmann in a tight corner close to the stadium. Soon after Nilsson dropped her as Hermann faltered and now the duel for silver was with Poland’s Jaskowiec who could not contain the fiery Swede and settled for the bronze.

Sophie Caldwell [P] Nordic Focus

Team USA crossed the line in eighth behind Switzerland. ”That was a tough one as it’s a combination of sprinting and distance skiing. When you’re feeling perfect it can be amazing but when you’re feeling a little less than that it’s a hard race,” commented Caldwell.

“I was really excited, but also extremely nervous going into today. I’ve never felt nerves like that before. I was not super happy with how I felt today, but I was really impressed with Jessie and was honored to be on a team with her. Everyone did a good job of reminding me that this was a new team with no expectations, but I still put a lot of pressure on myself and need to learn how to fix that.

“I wish I could have had a better day, but I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate and friend. I think on a perfect day we could be great, but we gave it our all today and I’m proud of that,” Caldwell told Trax.

Jessica Diggins (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

For Diggins it was great to reach the final, knowing they weren’t the favourites, which helped with the pressure.

”You never know how the other team’s are going be. The goal was to stay as close to the pack as possible and expend as little energy as possible early on, then start picking people off. I feel like my shape is good and the skis were amazing but I blew up a little in the end. It was a shame to be passed in the finish by Switzerland but that’s how it is sometimes.”

”It’s definitely a disadvantage to be i the second semifinal,” she continued. “To be in that first semi would have been awesome as  you get another half hour to rest – that would have been sweet. We made our goal to reach the final. That so cool.”

”We were defending world champions but we didn´t come here as favorites – that took some pressure off. We had the potential to do something amazing… if you’re lucky and everything falls in place we can maybe take a medal again.”

Final podium [P] Nordic Focus

For Nilsson it was a special day and she left everything on the tracks. ”I was very inspired by Ida’s amazing last lap. I felt that the medals were really close. I gave everything I had on the last lap and I’m very happy that it worked so well.”

Accorinding to Østberg things unfolded as they hoped. “Our plan was to start a little easy in the first round and speed up in the second and then give it all in the final lap.”

Final results here.

Harvey Wins Historic Bronze in Men’s 30K Skiathlon as Vylegzhanin Takes Gold @ Falun 2015


Final podium (l-r) Cologna, Vylegzhanin, Harvey [P] Nordic FocusFebruary 22, 2015 (Falun, SWE) – Canada’s Alex Harvey won historic bronze in a thrilling finish to the men’s 30km Skiathlon as Russia’s Maxim Vylegzhanin won his first ever international gold medal beating Dario Cologna (SUI) by just 0.4 seconds. With his second podium in as many days Harvey became the first Canadian cross-country skier to win two medals at a World Championships.

Fellow Canuck Ivan Babikov finished 23rd while American Erik Bjornsen had a breakthrough race finishing 28th. The USA’s Noah Hoffman placed 44th, Kris Freeman was 48th and Matt Gelso was 54th.

Babikov [P] Linus Trygg

“It’s a great day for me. Hard to believe,” said Harvey. “I felt pretty good in the classic and my skis were amazing – the wax team is doing a great job. I have not been feeling as good in skating this year so my plan was to stay in front and go slower on the climbs because that’s where I’m weak and it worked.”

Harvey and Petter Northug (NOR) opened strong at the front with Calle Halfvarsson (SWE) and Ivo Niskanen (FIN) with them during the first lap. Northug dropped back as Maurice Manificat (FRA) and Lars Nelson (SWE) broke loose from the main group after 5 km but Harvey led the chase to reel them, and then took over the lead looking strong and composed at the exchange zone.

Harvey leading during the skate leg [P] Nordic Focus

At the pit stop the lead group featured about 20 contenders led by Harvey followed by Niklas Dyrhaug (NOR) and Jean Marc Gaillard (FRA) with several top names like Cologna, Northug and Marcus Hellner (SWE) lurking further back.

Harvey was in control but then several skiers including Hellner tried to beak loose. It wasn’t until they faced the Mördarbacken climb for the third time that Cologna initiated a strong attack with only Vylegzhanin and Didrik Toenseth (NOR) able to respond as the trio managed to get a few meters on the chasers.

Vylegzhanin attacks with Cologna just behind [P] Nordic Focus

Harvey looked like he might be done but the Canadian star reloaded and bridged to the three leaders before they entered the final straightaway to the finish for a thrilling finish with Vylegzhanin leading and Cologna on his heels.

The Russian, who was runner up to Petter Northug Jr. in Oslo four years ago and fifth at Fiemme 2013, went head-to-head with defending champ Cologna for the win showing impressive speed in the finishing lanes to secure his first-ever international gold medal. Harvey could not catch the leaders but jetted past Toenseth to claim the bronze, his second Worlds medal.

“I was trying to save everything for the last two kilometres,” said Harvey. “Even when Dario attacked I drifted, but on top of the Mördarbacken I was still in reach with the skis that I had, as the next part of the course was good terrain for me.

Vylegzhanin in the finishing lanes with Harvey behind [P] Nordic Focus

“From Thursday’s result I knew that I could sprint well but I was just trying to stay on my skis because my legs were pretty jammed by then. I was starting to not see clearly but it was good enough to grab bronze. I’m surprised. I have two world medals in my career in three days,” he concluded – post race interview below with SVT.

We caught up with the USA’s Bjornsen to hear about his great top-30 result at Worlds. “I was very happy with today’s result. It’s my best world champs result and my first top-30 for a distance race this season. My goal was to fight the whole way and that’s exactly what I was able to do.

Erik Bjornsen [P] Rossignol

”For the classic leg I went for fast skies and a little light on the kick. I’ve been working on my classic technic and was just trying to stay relaxed. In the skate I was trying to hold on to a group and was surprised as I passed a couple of them in the last kilometers and then came up to more guys.

”I was starting to cramp so I just tried to hold on. I was pretty happy the last few kilometers as I was able to pick a few more spots. It was awesome. I’m pretty excited. Thanks to my coach, Erik Flora and the programs I’ve been working with the last few years with APU/USST.

Erik Bjornsen [P] Linus Trygg

“Of course I couldn’t be here without the support from my parents all through the years. I also have to thank Alaska Seafoods and Lund Engineering for financially supporting me. It was a great day with a great atmosphere on the track,” added Bjornsen.

Full results here.

USA’s Sean Doherty 3rd in Junior Men’s 10km Sprint @ IBU Youth/Junior Worlds – Canada’s Aidan Millar 10th


February 21, 2015 (Minsk-Raubichi, Belarus) – In his first year as a junior competitor, Sean Doherty (Center Conway, N.H.) won the bronze medal in the junior men’s 10-kilometer sprint on Saturday at the IBU Youth/Junior World Championships in Minsk-Raubichi, Belarus.

Junior M IBU Sprint podium - Doherty (#21)  [P]

Doherty’s time of 24:59.2, with one penalty, was just 10.2 seconds off the winning time of Russia’s Aleksandr Dediukhin, who shot clean and posted the winning time of 24:49. France’s Fabien Claude was second also with one penalt at 4.6 seconds behind Dediukhin.

“I am very happy with the race today,” said Doherty who shot clean until the last target in standing. “I felt good on the skis and I was able to keep that momentum all the way through the race. On the range, the last shot got me, but I am very excited for tomorrow.”

Doherty was in fourth place as he exited the shooting range with one lap to go but turned in a superb last lap to clinch the bronze medal. His coach, Jean Paquet, talked about the race strategy.

“Sean was to start the race at pace without holding anything back, considering the long uphill and the downhill before the range,” Paquet said. “He was in control at the first shooting stage with five solid hits. He kept a good pace on the second loop and his standing shooting was sharp, but he missed the last target by a quarter of an inch. I am very proud.”

Canada’s Aidan Millar, 20, turned some heads as well as he missed only one target on his way to an eigth-place finish. “I’m pretty excited right now. I definitely wasn’t expecting a top-10,” said Millar. “I was just trying to race my own race and improve my shooting from the Individual. I couldn’t have asked for a much better race, so I’m happy it happened at Worlds.”

Canadians Matthew Strum and Carsen Campbell finished 46th and 55th, respectively. Campbell, who posted the best Canadian men’s result in the Individual earlier this week, struggled on the range, missing three targets. Other US finishers were Jakob Ellingson in 65th and Brian Halligan in 67th.

Doherty, who was the youngest member of the 2014 U.S. Olympic biathlon team, won a gold and two silver medals in the youth divisions at the 2013 IBU Youth/Junior World Championships. He will start just 10 seconds behind Dediukhin in Sunday’s 12.5k pursuit.

Women’s Race

The USA’s Maddie Phaneuf finished 33rd with two penalties in the junior women’s 7.5km sprint while Canada’s Sarah Beaudry was 38th with three missed targets. The USA’s Mikaela Paluszek was 54th with four penalties.

The top-six finishers all shot clean as Lena Arnaud of France won the junior women’s sprint, posting a time of 20:40.6. Taking second place was Galina Vishnevskaya (KAZ) 2.4 seconds back, while Arnaud’s teammate, Chloe Chevalier, was third at 13.1 seconds behind.

Women’s results here
Men’s results here.


Canada’s Henrich 5th and USA’s Hendrickson 6th as Germany’s Vogt Claims Women’s World Ski Jumping Title


Taylor Henrich [P] FISFebruary 21, 2015 (Falun, SWE) – Canada’s Taylor Henrich ended up a stellar fifth after qualifying a stunning first at the women’s World Ski Jumping championships yesterday in Falun, Sweden. The USA’s Sarah Hendrickson, the defending champ, followed in 6th while her teammate Jessica Jerome was 9th putting two Americans in the top 10.

Germany’s Carina Vogt took the World Championship title on the normal hill, a year after she won Olympic Gold, with Yuki Ito (JAP) taking home the silver while Daniela Iraschko-Stolz (AUT) placed third for the bronze.

According to Canadian head coach Gregor Linsig a freak cross-wind in mid-flight prevented Henrich from executing a telemark landing which cost her points and likely a medal as he told the Calgary Herald, “It wasn’t her fault. She usually always lands in a telemark. It was just bad luck.” – read more here.

Final podium (l-r) Ito, Vogt, Irascho-Stolz [P] FIS

Tailwind Takes its Toll on Hendrickson’s Bid to Repeat Title

A tailwind on her first of two jumps throttled back Sarah Hendrickson, with the defending World Champion finishing sixth. She led two Americans into the top-10, with Jessica Jerome ninth on a very strong second jump. Germany’s Carina Vogt came from behind to take gold. Japan’s Yuki Ito won silver and first-run leader Daniela Iraschko-Stolz took bronze.

Hendrickson came into the event as the defending World Champion. But she also came in knowing the reality that recovery from a horrific crash 18 months earlier was still dictating her comeback. Back-to-back podiums a week ago in Slovenia buoyed her confidence. But a touch of tailwind on her first jump took the wind out of her sails.

Sarah Hendrickson (USA) [P] Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

“I was on the bar and knew [about the tailwind] immediately,” said Hendrickson, who ended up going 87.0 meters. “I didn’t have a fantastic jump technically, but I had the worst wind of the whole round. It’s frustrating, but it’s part of the sport. I’m glad I came back with a strong second jump.”

Hendrickson stood eighth after the first round – one spot ahead of her rival from two years ago, Sara Takanashi of Japan. Austria’s Daniela Iraschko-Stolz held the lead by two points over Germany’s Carina Vogt. Jerome stood 14th.

In the second round, Jerome came down and launched a strong 90.5 meter ride to  move into the lead. Her jump would stand as the fifth best of the second round. Hendrickson came down a few skiers later, soaring out to 90.5 for the fourth best score of the round, putting her into sixth and earning her at least a spot at the prizegiving ceremony Saturday night.

“The second jump felt great,” said Hendrickson. “I cheered. I was very happy. It’s fun to go further! Even if I didn’t win, having a far jump is what I love about ski jumping. That’s what I have to take from today and build on it.”

Jerome, meanwhile, put all the pieces together for her second jump and was thrilled. “The second round, I did what I was supposed to do,” said Jerome. “Obviously, it went four meters farther. So, I¹m happy with the second jump.” It landed her into ninth, putting two Americans in the top-10.

Hendrickson knew defense of her title would be tough. And she has kept a keen focus on the future – World Championships again in two years in Finland and PyeongChang 2018. “My goal is to win gold in Korea. That’s what I’m training for. I don’t train to be 10th. I train to win,” she said. “I haven’t worked as hard as I’ve ever worked before these past 18 months. I kind of thought the fight was over after I made it to Sochi, but I was very very wrong. Mentally and emotionally, I’ve been suffering. The physical is there, but the mental side is a huge part of this sport. I’m actually really happy with my sixth place today.”

The U.S. also put four athletes into the top 18. Nita Englund was 12th with Tara Geraghty-Moats 18th – both making their major event debut. Abby Hughes was 34th in her comeback from double knee surgery last fall.

The women are back in action together with the men on Sunday for a first-ever mixed gender team event. The two-man, two-woman team will be named Saturday.

FIS Ski Jumping Report

A year after she won Olympic Gold, Carina Vogt now also took the title at the World Championships. On the normal hill in Falun (SWE) the German won ahead of Yuki Ito and top favorite Daniela Iraschko-Stolz. Like in Sochi, Sara Takanashi came in only fourth.

Carina Vogt scored 236.9 points with her jumps on 91.5 m and 92 m and had a lead of 1.8 points over Yuki Ito. The newly crowned World Champion said: “After the first round I didn’t expect to win here today. It’s unbelievable after everything that happened last year. I’m very happy.” Yuki Ito jumped on 89 m and 93 m.

Iraschko-Stolz “risked everything”

Daniela Iraschko-Stolz was in the lead after her first jump on 92.5 m, 89 m in the final and 233.8 points earned her the bronze medal. The overall World Cup leader said: “I did what I could today. I risked everything and made a small mistake over the knoll, there I lost a few meters. If you want to win, then it has to work well for you. But it’s still great, you don’t win a medal every day.”

Takanashi with bad first jump

Sara Takanashi lost her chance to win a medal already in the first round, when she was only 9th. With 93 m in the final and 228.3 points she moved up to fourth. Again she could not win the long awaited medal. The fifth place went to the winner of the qualification, Taylor Henrich of Canada, with jumps on 90.5 m and 91 m and 227.9 points.

Defending champion Sarah Hendrickson finished sixth with 226.4 points, followed by the two Austrians Jacqueline Seifriedsberger (225.6 points) and Eva Pinkelnig (223.8 points) in seventh and eighth. Jessica Jerome of the USA was ninth with 219.4 points, Spela Rogelj was the best of a disappointing Slovenian team in tenth with 217.9 points. Russia’s Irina Avvakumova closely missed the Top 10 in eleventh, Nita Englund and Maja Vtic followed in 12th and 13th.

Ups and downs for German team

Juliane Seyfarth, Katharina Althaus and Ulrike Graessler were 14th, 17th and 22nd and would have hoped for better results today. The same applies for Maren Lundby in 15th. The two French Julia Clair and Coline Mattel finished 21st and 27th, Julia Kykkänen represented Finland in 23rd. Also Czech Michaela Dolezelova and Italian Elena Runggaldier qualified for the final round and came in 29th and 30th.

The second and final competition for the ladies at the World Championships will be the mixed team event on Sunday.

Full results here.

Canada’s Harvey Scores Impressive Silver in Men’s CL Sprint @ Falun 2015 as Petter Northug Wins Gold


Harvey celebrates silver [P] Johan TryggFebruary 19, 2015 (Falun, SWE) – Canadian Alex Harvey demonstrated how strong he is at these championships as he claimed the silver medal today in the men’s 1.4km CL Sprint just behind Norwegian star, Petter Northug, on Day 1 of the FIS 2015 Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden.

Men's finish - Northug takes the win over Harvey [P]

Harvey really pushed Northug in the final run to the line in a double-poling match up that had fans on the edge of their seats. The Canuck had to switch lanes just before the line as he pulled up beside Northug which may have cost him the gold in the photo-finish lunge which went to Northug. Olympic champ, Ola Vigen Hattestad (NOR), took the bronze as he held off Italy’s Federico Pellegrino and Russia’s Nikita Kriukov.

“It felt really good today. I’m always a little slow in the beginning but then I came with good speed and I had really good skis today,” said Harvey who won silver at the Tour de Ski this year and at the Ostersund World Cup last weekend.

Alex Harvey (CAN) [P] Nordic Focus

“I just love racing in Falun,” continued Harvey, who won two Stage World Cups here in 2012 and 2014 while his father Pierre won World Cups in Falun in 1987 and 1988. “The course is so hard and it requires sustained work, and I just enjoy racing here. I’m really excited. It was a great day for me and our entire team.”

Harvey was fifth in the qualification and finished second in his quarterfinal in a close race with Pellegrino. Both he and Northug was Lucky Losers in their tough semifinal against Hattestad and winner Tomas Northug, Petter’s younger brother.

“I went light on the kick wax in the qualifier. I didn’t want 100 per cent grip because there are so many downhills into the finish, especially with this wet snow, but we had to make a choice so we went with the fast skis today,” said Harvey. “That qualifier was a great start for me. In the quarter-final, I knew I was in it and I just said ‘it is on now for me!”

Podium (l-r) Alex Harvey (CAN), Petter Northug (NOR), Ola Vigen Hattestad (NOR) [P] Nordic Focus

“I knew in the semis the Norwegians would go full blast. They had to with four guys in it. I just bit my teeth on the climbs and tried to be strong for the finish,” added the two-time Olympian.

Northug was also happy to finally claim his first sprint Worlds gold. “It means a lot to me to win my first gold in the sprint. This was a good start in the championship. I have good shape and looking forward to the rest. It is important season for me after everything that happened. The goal has always been to get in shape for Falun. I have marked these days in red in the calendar. Now I sit here with a gold,” commented the champ.

Simi Hamilton (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

The USA’s Simi Hamilton had a solid day as well qualifying 28th and then had a strong quarterfinal to advance to the semis. He started well but ran out of steam ending up 12th on the day.

“Today did not start as I thought but I had a good quarterfinal so things were looking up. But I only had about ten minutes to reload for the semi-finals. I felt good over the first minute, but then the wheels fell off,” said Hamilton. “Our race skis were great and our staff has been putting in 16 hour days to deliver – they have been amazing and their tireless work always deserves a lot of the credit. Our whole team is incredibly pumped for Alex. He is skiing so well right now and he carries his success with so much humility and grace.”

Canada’s Len Valjas who finished in 14th looked like he’s regained his old form having a solid burst of speed during his quarterfinal to finish third in his heat but did not advance as a Lucky Loser.

Len Valjas (CAN) [P] Nordic Focus

“The course was great today. The weather was warm and the snow was perfect for klister. Our techs absolutely nailed the skis in the heats. I had bomber grip to climb all the long hills.

“My quarterfinal was really fun. I paced the first hill on purpose and when a lane opened up on the second climb I decided to take the opportunity to go from last to first. I am feeling snappy again, first time this season.

“I was forced really far outside coming into the finish by Nikita Kriukov (Rus), which allowed Teodor Peterson (Swe) to come by on the inside and beat me. It’s a bit tough to swallow but that’s racing. I definitely felt like my shape today was better than my 14th place result and I’m looking forward to the Team Sprint this Sunday, get some revenge,” Valjas told Trax. Jesse Cockney, of Canmore, Alta., was the only other Canadian to suit up and finished 49th.

Andrew Newell (USA) [P] Nordic Focus

American Andrew Newell in 17th was happy with his form but not his tactics during his quarterfinal that cost him some speed and advancing to the next round – here’s what he had to say.

“Today was a solid day for the USA but nothing spectacular. I think this is the first time we’ve qualified 6 skiers into the heats at Worlds so that was a positive start to the day.

“I felt great in the qualification and I think the course skied really well. They preserved the tracks throughout the day so we weren’t allowed to warm up on them which made for some pretty firm classic tracks for the heats and some good kilter skiing.

“I skied my quarterfinal heat the way I wanted to staying up near the front and trying to catch a good draft into the stadium. Unfortunately I made one big mistake and got hung up on Peterson coming off the downhill out of the draft. I got my ski stuck between his legs which forced me to stand up and change track losing a lot of momentum into the stadium.

“I would have liked to have a better kick in the lanes but just swung way to wide. So I’m happy with the way my body feels but disappointed in the tactics on the day and in the result. I’ll start preparing for the Team Sprint on Sunday and I think we can have a very competitive run out there. I was excited to see Alex come through in the final… great performance.”

Dakota Blackhorse-Von Jess  (USA) [P] Nordic FocusAmerican Dakota Jess von Blackhorse in 30th overall turned heads when he qualified and with his gutsy skiing as he attacked during his quarterfinal to take the lead, which said wasn’t planned, yet stepped up when the opening came. While he couldn’t hold the pace the Bend, Oregon skier had a strong debut to the Worlds.

This was the third World Championship medal of Harvey’s career. He won gold in the team sprint with Devon Kershaw in 2011, and finished third in the individual CL sprint race two years ago in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

Now Harvey is looking forward to the rest of the championship in Sweden. “The two mass starts I look forward to. IF I have rocket skis like today anything is possible. The relay I also look forward to, it is always fun, but I will not do the 15km race.

Harvey was strong on the final stretch today adding, “I’m always working hard in the gym to improve myself. Chin ups with 100 pounds for example. I always try to improve myself in every way. The finish is so important in all mass starts. At 50k it will take a longer time on the final stretch so maybe I’ll beat Peter then,” Harvey said with a laugh.

Qualifications here.
Final Results here.

Shellie Milford Passes the Torch @ American Birkie after 28 Years + On-Site Interview w/Peter Graves


February 19, 2015 (Cable, WI) – Shellie Milford, director of race operations at the American Birkebeiner, is stepping down after the Feb. 21, 2015 running of this year’s Swix Birkie (50km skate and 55km Classic), ending almost three decades of service to North America’s most prestigious Nordic mass event. Over the years, she has worked under nine different executive directors, serving as registration assistant, administrative assistant, assistant director and, ultimately, race operations director. Now, Milford is passing the torch to her successor, Alan Serrano.

[P] courtesy of the American Birkebeiner

“At 67, I’m feeling the need and desire to have more time to spend with my family (husband, children and grandchildren); that’s a big one,” responded Milford when asked of her rationale for stepping down now.

SkiTrax’s Peter Graves caught up with Milford on the eve of her final Birkie and spoke with her about the decision to leave the organization, her legacy, lessons learned, and her plans for the future. Listen to what she has to say in her audio interview with Graves:



Milford is not exactly sure which year she started working for the organization: “It was either 1986 or ’87. My friend Donna Hughes (registration queen) brought me to the Birkie to help process registrations. No database, just new entries each year, meant we had to physically look up five years of results for each person and pick the best time to seed them. We’d sit on the floor in the basement of the office (in the old Walker Hotel, corner of Main and 63rd, that burned down approximately 15 years ago) surrounded by those big computer-printout books! I was hooked and started expanding my responsibilities each year.”

She began part-time, but this slowly evolved into full-time work. Over the years, the American Birkebeiner has expanded, not only in terms of the number of skiers at its flagship “Birkie” event, but also in the number of events it oversees (now four, as explained below). Staffing levels have increased to keep up. “There were three full-time people and five or six part-time people when I started. There are now seven full-time and five part-time (some are year-round part-time).”

[P] courtesy of the American Birkebeiner

The pattern of annual business has also changed over the years. “Now that we have four events – the Birkietour in January, Birkie in February, Fat Bike Birkie in March and Birkie trail run in September – we don’t really have a down time. Also, we continually work on marketing, media, publishing of the Birch Scroll, a myriad of supply orders, etc. Of course, the busiest time is the two months or so prior to the Birkie. I personally work full-time year-round, and in January and February on weekends as well. Weekends are my quiet time to get organized and take care of lots of details. Years ago, I realized that if I kept a small spiral notebook on the bedstand, I could write down thoughts that I’d have during the night (sleep tends to be disrupted prior to events). I could write down these thoughts and know that they were there for me to deal with in the morning. Thus, my head was cleared and I could fall back to sleep. Because of the additional events, I’d say that I have the notebook there nine months of the year.

“More recently, the foundation’s goal has developed into supporting a year-round healthy lifestyle . . . thus the additional events. As we improve the logistics (busing, parking, etc.), we are able to gradually increase numbers of participants for the Birkie events in particular. There is room for the other three main events and they continue to increase in numbers.

[P] courtesy of the American Birkebeiner

“Allan is an experienced FIS Technical Delegate (TD) – he was the Birkie’s TD in 2014 – so he has vast knowledge of race operations,” explains Milford, speaking about the man who is stepping into her shoes. “He is very good at working on logistical aspects of the event. He takes to heart the questions and concerns of race chiefs, and is already developing a good relationship with them.” Serrano has been working alongside Milner for the past few months.

“I think my strength is the ability to communicate well with most people. When I talk with someone (staff, skier, parent or volunteer), I make an effort to focus on that conversation with sincerity and compassion. At the Birkie office, we have a strong bond and the ability to step in and help each other out when needed. I appreciate our staff very much. Also, of course, the good folks who volunteer their time to make the events successful . . . there are thousands.

“I am a ‘people person,’ and appreciate the many relationships and friendships that I have made over the years with staff, volunteers and skiers,” responds Milford when asked of her proudest accomplishment. She has no regrets, but remembers a few tough situations that happened over the years.

[P] courtesy of the American Birkebeiner

“Probably the one [Birkie edition] that comes to mind first is the cancellation year of 2000. Not great snow leading up to it, then 12 inches the week before, so we were all dancing, then rain started Monday of race week and the decision to cancel on Friday at 5:00 p.m. I stood on a table in the red-arrow room at Telemark (registration and bib pick-up) and made the announcement. There were hundreds of people waiting to hear the decision. I had tears streaming down my face (makes me tear up even now); there was a pause when I finished and then the room broke into applause. Maybe because they felt my emotion. . . .

“My retirement plans include gardening, travel and grandchildren. And I will also volunteer for the Birkie!”

SkiTrax joins the American Birkie and ski communities here and around the globe in thanking Milford for her years of dedication and passion and wishing her the very best.

Uptown Funk – US Ski Team Style


February 18, 2015 (Falun, Sweden) – Get down and boogie with Team USA as the Falun 2015 Nordic Worlds gets underway tomorrow with the first major event the Classic Sprint. Simi Hamilton tells it like it is tweeting… “Yeah, we’re feeling a little good funk before World Champs. Had a blast making this w/my awesome team! #Falun2015. Rumour is Jessie Diggins was the chief choreographer and Hollywood hints may have played a part. Broadway is calling…

More Medals for USA and Canada on Days 2, 3, 4 @ IPC World Cup in Japan


February 18, 2015 (Asahikawa, Japan) – Canada’s para-nordic athletes rattled off three medals for the second-straight day at the IPC World Cup in Asahikawa, Japan on Sunday, Day 2 of competition. Canadian Team rookie Brittany Hudak captured her first career victory in the women’s standing division, while Mark Arendz skied to the bronze in men’s standing and Chris Klebl grabbed the bronze in the men’s sit-ski race.

Canada's Brittany Hudak [P] Photo Scott Grant/Canadian Paralympic Committee

The 21-year-old Hudak, who got introduced to the sport just two years ago, has been solid all year and finally broke through with her first career win in the classic-ski sprint race on the IPC World Cup.

“The learning curve has been so huge for me,” said Hudak heading into the race. “Now having the opportunity to attend national training camps, particularly the New Zealand camp this summer, I have noticed a huge improvement in my technique. It has been such an advantage for me to be in the same environment with the high-performance athletes, seeing how the train and learning from them.”

Japan’s Yurika Abe was second, while Russia’s Ekaterina Rumyantseva grabbed the bronze medal.

Two-time Paralympic medallist Arendz won his second-straight bronze medal. The 24-year-old had his personal best finish in a classic cross-country ski sprint race.

“The snow conditions were changing throughout the day, but the staff gave me great boards and I finished a close third,” said Arendz.

Russia’s Vladislav Lekomtcev won the men’s standing race. Japan’s Yoshihiro Nitta was second.

Day 3

The USA’s Andrew Soule continued his fantastic run of form at the 2015 IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup on Tuesday (Feb. 17), with his third win in as many races in Asahikawa, Japan, in classic cross-country long distance sitting.

US Army veteran and recent World Championships bronze medallist Soule (45:10.2) headed a strong field of finishers, including Canada’s Chris Klebl (45:16.3) in second and his teammate Daniel Cnossen (45:40.8) in third.

In sunny conditions just above freezing, Norway’s Mariann Marthinsen (40:39.2) reclaimed the top of the podium, collecting her first win of the competition in the women’s sitting.

Marthinsen beat Soule’s compatriot Oksana Masters (41:14.3), who has so far had the winning edge in Asahikawa, into second. Russian Natalia Kocherova (42:49.8) completed the top three.

Russian Vladislav Lekomtcev (59:31.2) picked up his second win in the men’s standing, leading world champion teammate Rushan Minnegulov (1:00:23.5) and Japan’s Yoshishiro Nitta (1:00:27.3) onto the podium.

Canadian Brittany Hudak (57:04.2) also collected her second win of the competition in the women’s standing. Yurika Abe (1:01:20.4) provided more delight for the home crowds with her latest podium. World Championships bronze medallist Russian Ekaterina Rumyantseva (1:02:27.0) was third.

Hudak’s reigning world and Paralympic champion compatriot Brian McKeever (1:00:15.5) demonstrated his long distance prowess once again with guide Graham Nishikawa in the men’s visually impaired.

Norwegian Eirik Bye (1:05:33.0), guided by KM Hellerud, sealed valuable World Cup points in second, leading Japan’s Hiroshi Kato (1:25:31.0) and guide Y Katsutoshi into third.

Day 4

Russian skiers sealed a double win at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup in Asahikawa, Japan, on Wednesday (18 February), bringing their day’s podium total to five in cross-country sprint freestyle races.

Vladislav Lekomtcev headed the field in the men’s standing, securing his third win of the competition and pushing himself further out of reach in the overall World Cup rankings.

France’s Benjamin Daviet was second, splitting Lekomtcev and his teammate Ivan Kodlozerov in third.

The second win for Russia came in the women’s equivalent courtesy of Ekaterina Rumyantseva who once again led Japan’s Yurika Abe and Canadian Brittany Hudak.

There was also double joy for the USA, as Oksana Masters took her third win and Andrew Soule his fourth in the women’s and men’s sitting respectively. The win continues Soule’s unbeaten record for the competition.

Masters finished in front of Norwegian sprint Paralympic champion Mariann Marthinsen, whilst Akzhana Abdikarimova collected another podium for Russia in third.

Soule meanwhile continued his tussle with Alexey Bychenok over 1km, edging the Russian out to take victory. Norwegian Steinar Trygve Larsen completed the top three.

There was a continuation of a strong French showing at the World Cup level following the team’s convincing World Championships performance, as Anthony Challencon and guide Lucas Dupperex were victorious in the men’s visually impaired.

Norwegian Eirik Bye, guided by KM Hellrud, retained their form with a second place finish.

South Korea’s Bogue Choi and guide Jeongryun Seo collected third, emerging just in time for the beginning of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games cycle.

Results here.