The ladies’ U.S. ski team has delivered stellar performances during the first World Cup period. Led by Kikkan Randall who has put down several personal bests in distance competitions the team is looking forward to the 7th edition of the Tour de Ski. FIS Cross-Country News sat down with U.S. Ski team coach Matt Whitcomb right after the last competition in Canmore.
FIS: We are at the end of the Period 1 of the 2012/13 World Cup season. Has the US ladies’ team reached the goals you set for yourselves at the start of the season, and then some?
MW: Absolutely! Everyone on the team has set a career best result. As a group we have really taken a step forward, and we have done it together. We have worked together as a team, throughout the training period. It’s all happened in unison. These ladies are feeding off of each other and we are psyched.
FIS: Some of the team have struggled with sickness during the Canadian World Cup stops.
MW: Yes, the Canadian trip has been a difficult one for us. It is a brutal trip from Northern Finland heading to Quebec and then up to altitude in Canmore. It was nothing out of the ordinary though.
FIS: Despite sitting out a few girls you still had strong results.
MW: That is what is great about these girls. We sit out three of our National team girls, and Ida Sargeant shows up today (Canmore Skiathlon) and records a career best finish in 14th place. Kikkan was in the top 10 again. Someone always steps up to pick up the slack when there is slack to be picked up. It’s like they are skiing for one another. I am really excited as a coach to see them work so well as a team.
FIS: The girls that sat out the racing (Liz Stephens, Sadie Bjornsen and Jessie Diggins), is there any concern for their preparation for the Tour de Ski?
MW: We made some decisions with regards to starts this weekend (Canmore). With Liz, Sadie, and Jessie we made some very conservative decisions to skip races. Our focus is on the Tour de Ski and the World Championships and we are not going to let our excitement for one World Cup here or there getting in the way of their health and long term goals.
FIS: There is a break in the racing now, when will the team get back together to prepare for the Tour?
MW: Yeah, small breaks for everyone, Kikkan will stay in Canada with her husband’s family, Liz and Holly will stay in Canmore with Chandra Crawford, Jessie will go back to Minnesota. Most are heading to their homes and will reconvene in Oberhof December 24th, and on the 27th. The staff will arrive on the 27th as well. We can’t wait for the racing at the Tour de Ski to get started.
FIS: How many athletes will you guys bring to the Tour de Ski?
MW: We will have 4 women and 3 men. On the women’s side it will be Kikkan Randall, Liz Stephen, Jessie Diggins and Holly Brooks. There is a chance that Ida Sargeant may start but these is also a good chance that she will skip the Tour to have a focused preparation for the World Championships. On the men’s side it will be Andy Newell, Kris Freeman and Noah Hoffman.