KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (Feb. 11) – World Champion Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) suffered a heartbreaking loss Tuesday when she was knocked out of a stunning individual freestyle sprint event at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Randall was heavily favored to win but did not advance past the quarterfinal round, finishing fourth in her heat at the Laura Cross Country Ski Center. U.S. Ski Team rookie Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT) muscled into the final and took the top spot for the USA in sixth on the slushy course, where Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla took home gold. The men’s and women’s freestyle sprints air on NBC at 3:00 p.m. EST and can be streamed on NBCOlympics.com. Next up is the women’s 10k classic on Thursday, Feb. 13.
World Champion Kikkan Randall suffered a heartbreaking loss Tuesday when she was knocked out of the individual freestyle sprint event Tuesday at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games, while rookie Sophie Caldwell (pictured) skied into sixth and the top spot for the USA. (Getty Images/Harry How)
I’ve been thinking about this race for a long time and we’ve been planning it out and showed up today ready to go. I was really happy with the way the preparation has been coming into these games. I felt really strong and ready to go today. I’ve always said my number one goal was to come in ready to go and ready to fight for the medal and give it everything I had and I did that today.
I knew it was going to be a really tough quarterfinal heat with (Denise) Herrmann, (Marit) Bjoergen and (Mona-Lisa) Malvalehto. Those are all women you could easily see in the final. I got into a good position over the top, made a couple good moves and was feeling really good, but that final gear just wasn’t there. Unfortunately, I feel apart right before the finish and didn’t get a good lunge in. Seven-hundredths of a second is an incredibly close margin. I’m sure I’ll be reliving those moments hundreds of times in my head, but I was happy to be on my feet today, happy to be in the fight. I gave everything I had and just to come into the games as a gold medal contender was incredible. I wish I would have been able to fight for that in a few more rounds today, but maybe my teammates can carry the torch now.
To make the final was really exciting. I definitely wasn’t expecting that coming into the day, so it exceeded any expectations I had and I was thrilled to be there. I tried not to think too much about who was in my heat, but right before the semi my coach and I pulled out the paper just to see who I was with and it was Marit (Bjoergen), Ingvild (Flugstad Oestberg) and Denise (Herrmann) and that was a little intimidating. But I’ve raced them all before and I just tired to remind myself that it was just another ski race and I knew how to do it and I belonged there.
I’m not sure exactly what happened when I fell. We were coming around that corner on top and someone tried to come on the inside right as I was stepping over to take the corner. We got tangled and the next thing I knew I was on my butt.
I think this was the hardest sprint I’ve ever done, and I’ve done a lot of sprints. I almost made it work. It was challenging conditions. It’s pretty slow out there and with a course like that, with a hill like that it just makes it really tough, plus with the altitude and everything you’re just breathing so hard when you cross the finish line. I didn’t feel great in qualifications, but I kind of regrouped and felt okay in the quarterfinal.