Randall and Freeman win season
openers in Muonio, Finland
By Tim Reynolds
Fine Finnish First
Kikkan Randall leads
in the quarterfinal.
TIM RE YNOLDS
Kris Freeman and Kikkan Randall are of one mind when it comes
to priorities for the 2011 season: World Champs in Oslo is when it really counts to ski fast.
The pair was also on the same page at the season-opening FIS races in Muonio, Finland, Nov. 12-14. Despite being almost three months
of racing away from the Oslo opening ceremonies, Randall and Freeman both showed excellent early-season form, notching victories in
each of their first races of the winter.
Randall started the weekend off on the right foot for the U.S. Ski Team
in the 1.1K freestyle sprint at Muonio. She finished second in the quali-
fier, right behind Olympic bronze medalist and World Cup powerhouse
Petra Majdic. Randall then cruised through her quarter and semifinals,
“I took the lead from the start because I wanted to
be able to ski my own rhythm up the climb,” said
Randall. “Coming into the final climb, Petra was right
in my draft and she tried to make a move around me
on the left. [I] still had zip in my legs so I was able to
hold her off… it was a super-short finish stretch so I
kept the lead to the line. I didn’t believe I had it until
I crossed that line!”
On the men’s side, it was Andy Newell leading the
Americans, matching Randall’s second place in
qualifying. However, he hit trouble on the tight trail in his quarterfinal,
getting boxed out and failing to move on.
Randall took the silver medal at the World Championships in Liberec
in this same event in 2009, the first championship medal ever in cross-country for an American woman. If Muonio was any preview of what
she is capable of this season, the “Kikkanimal” will certainly be in the
hunt for the top step of the podium in Oslo.
“Today was a pretty solid field,” said Randall. “Majdic, Kowalczyk,
Follis, Genuin and Murranen [the women’s final heat] are all consistent World Cup finalists so to ski well against them today is a good
sign that preparation has been good for the season.”
Also of note in the ladies’ sprint was Ida Sargent’s fifth-place qualifying result. With this performance, the 22-year-old Dartmouth senior
earned her debut on the World Cup in Gaellivare, Sweden, on Nov.
During the distance races, Finnish spectators watched the Freeman
show for the rest of the weekend. Energized by his teammate’s success the previous day, Freeman won the 10K classic by almost 15
seconds over Germany’s Tobias Angerer, making it two wins in as
many days for the Americans. He followed up his win with a solid sec-ond-place finish the next day in the 10K skate behind Sergey Shiriaev
“I felt strong in the two races,” said Freeman. “There were a few things
I had forgotten, like what it’s like to breathe cold air at full speed, and
how power needs to be applied to the poles more gradually on snow
then when rollerskiing. It came back to me quickly, though.”
Freeman wouldn’t speculate on how he might have finished in a full
World Cup field, though these races weren’t a far cry from the real
thing with German, Kazakh, Estonian, Italian, Finnish, and Belarusian
national teams all represented. As for the World Cup opener, however,
Freeman’s finishes here have still given him confidence. “Looking forward to Gaellivare, I’ll be very satisfied with a top- 10 finish,” he said.
The USST members weren’t the only Americans in Finland taking
advantage of early season on-snow training and racing. They were
joined in Muonio by Craftsbury’s Green Racing Project and the Maine
Winter Sports Center group. All told, the Finnish season openers saw
upwards of 25 Americans on the start list, forming one of the largest
American contingents to race together in Europe.
These Muonio races have grown into some of the largest international FIS races on the calendar. With guaranteed snow in late October (the race organizers save snow over the summer), national teams
and club teams alike flock to the area for early season skiing. The
weekend’s races saw more than 700 starters each day.
“The skiing in Muonio was the best pre-season conditions I have ever
had,” said Freeman. “The Finns make holding the largest international
FIS race in the world easy. No course or crowd control, no ski marking, no electric timing. There was just a start, a lap lane, a finish, and