Nordic Nation

 

Compiled and Edited by Allison Slavick

Women’s Ski Jumping U.S.A has hired a new traveling coach to work alongside head coach Alan Alborn as the duo leads the world’s top-ranked team into the 2014 World Cup and Olympic Winter Games season. Norwegian Erik Renmaelmo, who started December 1, joins Alborn, a three-time U.S. Olympic ski jumper himself. Renmaelmo has 13 years of personal ski jumping and coaching experience, most recently as the assistant coach of the Norwegian women’s World Cup team.

The December 7 World Cup ski jumping opener drew 70 elite women from 14 countries — the largest start list ever — showcasing a deep field who will vie for the sport’s first Olympic gold medal. Coaches said the U.S. jumpers battled a bit of nerves, despite strong jumps in training and the trial round. Jessica Jerome was 19th, Lindsey Van was 22nd, Abby Hughes was 36th, and Alissa Johnson 37th. Nina Lussi was outside of the top 50. Teammates Sarah Hendrickson and Nita Englund didn’t compete as they are recovering from injuries. The winner of the U.S. Olympic Trials for ski jumping on December 29 in Park City will get an automatic spot on the Olympic team. Remaining team members (up to three more) will be announced mid-January.

World Cup sprint champion Kikkan Randall, of thewomen’s U.S. Cross Country Ski Team, skied into second place in the cross country sprint World Cup opener in the Ruka Triple mini-tour in Kuusamo, Finland, in late November, with the best classic World Cup sprint result of her career. Ida Sargent posted the next best finish for the U.S. (16th) while Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk pulled out the victory. Sadie Bjornsen qualified third for the sprint, her career best, but did not advance past the quarterfinals. Andy Newell took the top spot for the men’s team in 24th.

In the second stage of the mini-tour, Bjornsen skied to a career-best seventh place in the women’s 5km classic and Randall was 15th. Kowalczyk claimed the victory. Seventh in the mini-tour standings, Randall was the leading U.S. athlete going into the final day’s 10km freestyle pursuit, starting the race 52 seconds behind the leader. Randall fought hard to earn a fifth-place finish during the pursuit, posting the best result for the U.S. while Marit Bjoergen from Norway took the victory for the second straight year. In the men’s 15k pursuit, Noah Hoffman posted the fastest race time of the day, emerging with an impressive ninth-place finish after starting 38th. Hoffman finished only 12.2-seconds behind winner Norwegian Martin Johnsrud Sundby.

Sadie Bjornsen delivered another breakout result in the Lillehammer 10k classic World Cup in December, where she skied into seventh and matched her career-best individual result set just the week before in Kuusamo. Bjornsen sat in the leader’s chair for a few minutes before Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk sealed the victory.

The next day, Jessie Diggins anchored a strong U.S. team made up of Kikkan Randall, Bjornsen and Liz Stephen. The foursome took third in the 4 X 5km relay and matched the best-ever World Cup result for any U.S. cross country relay team. Heavy snow hammered the 1994 Olympic course, but Randall was able to give the team a solid start. Diggins took over and built a lead over Sweden before she fell and broke a pole during a downhill section in the last lap. Then, in an inspiring act of sportsmanship, the Norwegian team support staff handed Diggins a pole, helping her hold her position and earn the U.S. its second-ever World Cup relay podium, behind  Norway. A second U.S. team finished 12th, anchored by Rosie Brennan with Sophie Caldwell, Ida Sargent and Holly Brooks. The U.S. men’s relay team finished 17th with the Russians taking the win.

Last year, the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team (Taylor Fletcher, Bryan Fletcher, Todd Lodwick, and Billy Demong), won its first-ever medal in the team event at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy (February 2013). In this year’s opener in Kuusamo, Finland, Taylor Fletcher posted the fastest time in his cross country anchor leg and to help pace the U.S. to seventh in the 4x5km team event. The team started the relay in 12th after the jumping portion; the Norwegian team jumped into first place and held its lead. The four U.S. athletes failed to qualify in the top 50 for the next day’s event and did not compete.

Moving on to Lillehammer in early December, Bryan Fletcher skied into the top ten during the cross country portion of the 10km individual, posting the fifth fastest time of the day. Lodwick finished right behind Fletcher in 11th. Both Americans started the race over a minute behind the leader. Germany’s Eric Frenzel won after also finishing second in the jumping portion.

Just two months before the Olympic Games, a foursome of Canadian biathlon women shocked the world with a stellar fourth-place finish in a World Cup relay in Annecy-Le Grand Bornand, France. Rosanna Crawford, Megan Imrie, Megan Heinicke, and Zina Kocher joined forces to chalk up the best-ever result for a Canadian women’s biathlon squad, placing fourth in the 4 X 6km relay.

Top performances throughout November earned three-time Paralympian athlete Tatyana McFadden Athlete of the Month recognition from the United States Olympic Committee. She became the first person to complete a marathon grand slam in wheelchair racing with her win at the New York City Marathon on November 3. McFadden earned her fourth major title of the year after shattering the previous world record by more than three minutes, completing the 26.2-mile course in a time of 1:59.13. McFadden transitioned to snow in Canmore, Alberta, in early December, the first stop of 2013-14 IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup races.

Brian McKeever will head into the critical Olympic and Paralympic qualifying block with back-to-back gold medals in his pocket, including a golden time of 54:55.4 in the IPC men’s 20-kilometer classic race. Competing without his guide Eric Carleton (who was out with illness) for the second straight race, McKeever took on many of the world’s best para-skiers including the powerful Russian team. McKeever hopes to qualify once again for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Cross Country Canada holds its Olympic Trials in Canmore January 8-12. Norwegian Mariann Marthinsen secured her third cross country victory at with a win in the women’s long distance sitting class.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has reached an agreement with EUROVISION (operated by the European Broadcast Union) giving USSA the media rights to the 2015 and 2017 FIS Alpine and Nordic Ski World Championships. Under the deal, USSA will manage rights distribution in the U.S., including television, radio, online, and mobile platforms. The package includes the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships at Vail/Beaver Creek, the 2015 Nordic World Ski Championships in Falun, Sweden, the 2017 Alpine World Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and the 2017 Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland.

In Gunnison, Colorado, the Kenny Mac Ski Fest and Winter Carnival will both be held, starting January 25, 2014, when the Gunnison Nordic Club will host junior and masters races at Hartman Rocks Multi-Use Recreation Area. The 28th Annua Alley Loop Nordic Marathon takes place February 1, part of the American Ski Marathon Series and an American Birkebeiner qualifier. The Alley Loop features course lengths ranging from 1.5 to 42 kilometers.

In Mars Hill, Maine, the Maine Winter Sports Center, with the support of the Libra Foundation, has announced its intention to make a gift of Bigrock Mountain and all the mountain’s assets to the non-profit Friends of Bigrock Mountain. The gift, when combined with demonstrated strong fundraising potential, will allow the mountain to continue to remain open.

Three-time Olympian Kris Freeman has joined Waterville Valley Resort as a Nordic racing instructor. After reading about Freeman’s loss of funding from the U.S. Ski Team, resort owner and general manager Chris Sununu hired Freeman, who will continue to train and compete for a fourth Olympic appearance in 2014. Freeman is the reigning national champion in the 50km, which he has won for three straight years. The position will provide health insurance for Freeman, who has Type 1 diabetes.

Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center in Truckee, California, will offer a new junior biathlon program led by former U.S. biathlon team member Tom McElroy. Beginning in January, the program will be an introduction biathlon, a combination of skiing and rifle marksmanship, for children in second through eighth grade. Tahoe Donner will also offer new biathlon clinics for adults, Winter Trails Day, programs for National Learn to Ski Week, moonlight skiing, a variety of races and Olympic-themed competitions, and ski orienteering events. Visit www.tahoedonner.com/cross-country for information.

Backcountry skiers (and bikers) in Idaho will find Sun Valley Trekking’s Coyote Yurts, destroyed in the Beaver Creek fire in August, completely rebuilt. The yurts are surrounded by plentiful north-facing burn skiing and spectacular views. See the building process at http://svtrek.com/blog/?p=961.

Sterling College in Craftsbury Common, Vermont, has announced the formation of two new athletic programs: trail and mountain running (the first collegiate program in the U.S.) and Nordic skiing, and the college’s first Nordic ski team will launch in the winter of 2014. The team was developed in collaboration with the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, and will work with both Outdoor Center coaches as well as Sterling College faculty, skiing in Division 3 USCSA competitions, and local and regional races.

A new study from Jackson, Wyoming, economist Mark Newcomb estimates that human-powered backcountry winter recreation contributes $22.5 million to the region’s economy. The area includes Grand Teton National Park, parts of the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests, and the Rendezvous Ski Trails in West Yellowstone. The report is available at www.winterwildlands.org.

A comprehensive Nordic ski exhibit has opened at the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum, with two floors of extensive cross country skiing memorabilia on display. Kick and Glide: Vermont’s Nordic Skiing Legacy explores the many facets of cross country skiing, including the personalities, the skiers, the competition, ski areas, and the evolution of technique and equipment. The exhibition will continue through Oct. 13, 2014.

The U.S. Forest Service now offers access to a variety of free and low-cost visitor maps for people using Android and iOS devices. The PDF Maps Mobile App is available as a free download from iTunes and the Android Play Store.

Noquemanon Ski Marathon officials in Marquette, Michigan, have improved the course for 2014, including removing rocks and roots, smoothing and seeding several sections, and eliminating a road crossing. Race organizers have secured a $150,000 grant allowing purchase of the County Road 510 trailhead and an eight-mile 100-foot-wide easement on part of the trail. A $52,000 road construction project from the Forestville Road railroad tracks to the Noquemanon Trailhead has begun, built to county specifications, allowing easier access to the Forestville facility.