DAVOS, Switzerland (Dec. 14, 2014) The story of Sunday’s U.S. Cross Country Ski Team begins with improvement and ends with Norway. In the first three World Cup weekends, it was easy to focus on the strength of the Norwegian team – it has won more podium positions than every other country combined since the competitive year began. In the freestyle sprint at Davos, Norway swept the men’s podium and took first through fifth in the women’s event in a display of winning so dominant, one Eurosport commentator remarked that the results looked like the Norwegian championships. The U.S. Cross Country Ski Team, however, continued to close the gap.
Ida Sargent had her best qualifying round and led the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team women with 16th in the Davos freestyle sprints Sunday. (Getty Images/AFP-Fabrice Coffrini)
“This was a really great day for Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT),“ described Head Coach, Chris Grover. “And while a lot of countries are scratching their heads on how to close the gap to Norway, we’re happy with our improvement for now.”
Sophie Caldwell, who skied into the heats of a World Cup sprint for the first time this year following an elbow injury in late summer agreed. “My goal for the weekend was to improve on last weekend. So I was thrilled to not only improve, but to make it into the heats. I know it's going to take some time to get back to 100% after being injured, so I'm trying to be realistic and take it one step at a time. My heat was tough and I got pretty tired, but I was extremely happy just be there in the first place.”
Caldwell, who owns the strongest finish from an American woman at an Olympic Games, has her eye set on the World Championships in Falun. For now, the man-made loops of Davos will become familiar for her and the rest of the U.S. Team as the World Cup circuit will remain in the area. A lack of snow has forced a move of next week’s La Clusaz World Cup event back to Davos for the second straight weekend. This is good news for Ida Sargent (Orleans, VT),
“Today was my best skate sprint qualification ever and the first time I had qualified here in Davos so it was great to see those improvements. I obviously wanted to advance out of the quarters but it was fun being in the mix. We have another sprint here next week so I'm looking forward to another go!”
Chris Grover echoed the love for Davos, “This is a home away from home and to have Ida and Andy Newell (Shaftsbury VT) on form this weekend is very encouraging. While it was disappointing for Sadie to miss out by such a small amount and while Kikkan is not quite back to her self ,we are heading in the right direction. We have athletes that are starting to come back a bit. I think we’ll be able to make a step forward a week from today.”
The changes in next week’s format and the return to the quick surface of Davos’ man-made loops are good news for the US. Simi Hamilton (Aspen, Colorado) who sat out this week with a cold.
Until then, the best skiers in the world are leaving very little room at the top. The American skiers have faced a few setbacks in the form of illness and injury but luck can change quickly on the World Cup and fortune favors the bold and the perseverant.
Davos will host next week’s World Cup events again after a move from Las Clusaz was announced due to a lack of snow. A distance individual skate race and a classic sprint will replace the scheduled mass start and relay.
It was a really fun day and I was really happy with my race. After having a cold I was psyched to be back in the heats. Today was probably my best skate sprint qualification ever and the first time I had qualified here in Davos so it was great to see those improvements. I obviously wanted to advance out of the quarters but it was fun being in the mix. We have another sprint here next week so I'm looking forward to another go!
My goal for the weekend was to improve on last weekend, so I was thrilled to not only improve, but to make it into the heats. I know it's going to take some time to get back to 100% after being injured and sick, so I'm trying to be realistic and take it one step at a time. My heat was tough and I got pretty tired, but I was extremely happy just be there in the first place
Chris Grover, Head Coach
Obviously, it’s really great for Sophie. The result was disappointing for Sadie to be out so close to the heats and Kikkan is not quite back to her self but we are heading in the right direction. The team is starting to come back a bit. I think we’ll be able to make a step forward in a week from today.
The changes in next week’s format are actually really good for us. The skate sprint is something we can look forward to.
Andy Newell is a little bummed because he’s heading home. We talked about changing plans but wanted to follow up on the long term plan to take that break. Our plan for him is a focus on the second half of the season, to focus on the World Championships.
We’re talking about the very best skiers in the world and there’s not so much room at the top. When you have an athlete like Kikkan Randall who has been in very top form. You can get used to that performance, but it is hard to maintain that top end form and you see that in other top end athletes. Everybody but Norway are building up and focused on getting to that level again. This week is a nice step forward in the right direction.
It’s a nice situation for those of us who just stay travelling in Europe all winter as we get to stay put and be in Davos for a more extended time. This place is a home away from home.
I expect us to have stronger results next weekend for sure. We’ve had more than our share of setbacks but we’ll be stronger next.