Bjorn Einar Romoeren starts the season off right.
Start Kick (and Glide)
As World Cup begins for nordic athletes in Europe,
U.S. team looks promising BY PETER Q. GRAVES
The World Cup nordic tour has begun — and in this all-important Olympic season, things are looking good for the U.S. Ski Team.
At the opening event in Beitostolen, Norway, on November 21 and 22, it
came as no surprise that the Norwegian cross country skiers came out gunning. The surprise was the man who led the charge: Ronny Andre Hafsaas,
who was the best of the best in the 10K skate. He’s been one of Norway’s top
junior skiers and skied biathlon; and in his only other World Cup event, he
was 36th place. Now Hafsaas is deciding whether to focus on cross country or
biathlon in order to get to Vancouver.
In the women’s race, Norwegian Marit Bjoergen topped all others by an impressive margin. Her best races often come in classic skiing, but her skating
has improved, and the world champion sprint racer from the Worlds in Val
di Fiemme (and three-time World Cup overall champion) appears rested, relaxed and in terrific condition. Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla was second, while
another Swedish skier, Anna Haag, was third.
Norway’s Ronny Andre Hafsaas skis toward a win in Beitostolen.
There were certainly promising performances for the U.S. , too. Top ranked
skier Kris Freeman had a solid 22nd place in the 10K event, while Kikkan
Randall was 21st in the women’s 5K — she has continued to demonstrate
growing prowess in distance events. “Kikkan showed she has made another
step forward in her skiing,” said U.S. coach Pete Vordenberg, “by having her
best distance placing — and her best distance skate races ever.”
Vordenberg was also upbeat about Freeman’s start to the season. “Kris raced
about on par with expectations and he is very much on track for a great season,” said Vordy. Freeman told Ski Racing that he was satisfied with a solid
start but noted: “I didn’t feel that comfortable on my skis last week because of
the varying conditions on the course; it was ice-rink hard and in some places
it had deep sugar snow. I had great energy, though, and I’m looking forward
to my first classic race.” It all was a harbinger of things to come.
The Swedish women’s squad took the first relay title of the season. The team
of Anna Olsson, Sara Lindborg, Anna Haag and Charlotte Kalla beat powerhouse Norway consisting of Vibeke Skofterud, Therese Johaug, Kristin Sto-ermer Steira and Marit Bjoergen. Finland was third. The American women
did not field a team.
In the men’s relay, the Norwegians were back up on top with a team of Elder
Roenning, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Ronny Hafsaas; Petter Northug skied
an amazing anchor leg. The Russian men were second while the German
team was third. The American men finished 19th overall with Freeman skiing
to an impressive sixth-place time on his leg. Andy Newell, Lars Flora and Torin Koos were also part of that team. Following the race, Koos told Ski Racing
that the men’s relay team is “still a work in progress. This was my first distance
race since last March, I hung with the leaders for 5 kilometers, close for seven
kilometers and then the wheels came off.”
Recent doping violations by the Russian team were a hot topic during the
World Cup opening weekend. Some 20 coaches from seven countries gathered
in a meeting reportedly organized by U.S. Ski Team coach Justin Wadsworth.
“Our coaches have been communicating with the head Norwegian coach, the
Swiss coaches,” Wadsworth told the Associated Press, “and we’re trying to
rally other countries to have stronger sanctions against the Russians.”
The group of gathered coaches will reportedly urge their own national feder-
GEPA ( 6)