FALUN, Sweden (Feb. 19, 2015) - Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT) led the U.S. skiers at the first race of the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships with a 10th place finish in Thursday's classic sprint. Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO) was highest ranking American man with a 12th place finish. The U.S. qualified six skiers: Caldwell, Hamilton, Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), Dakota Blackhorse von Jess (Bend, OR), Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) and Ida Sargent (Orleans, VT) to the heats in warm snow conditions and a variable track, while Caldwell and Hamilton both advanced to the semifinals.
Sophie Caldwell raced in Thursday's World Championship Classic Sprint Qualification. She led the U.S. with a 10th place finish. (Flyingpoint Photography)
The Norwegians continued their dominance, taking first and third place in both the women’s and men's sprints. Marit Bjoergen of Norway was first for the women, Stina Nilsson of Sweden second and Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway third. Norwegian Petter Northug took first in the men's sprint, Alex Harvey of Canada second and Ola Vigen Hattestad of Norway third.
“I was psyched to be in classic heat having not been in one all year,” Caldwell explained. “On the ups, I just tried to ski as relaxed as possible. I was able to close some gaps.” Caldwell’s opening heat was fast with qualification winner Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland participating. “It was a fast heat from the start. I found myself at the back and fortunately I skied the downhills well to put myself in position (to advance).”
Simi Hamilton races during the men's sprint qualification World Champs. (Getty Images-Matthias Hangst)
Hamilton highlighted the quick start of the quarterfinals as well. “I thought it’d be a fast heat with the Northug brothers and I was able to get a draft to the finish," said Hamilton. "Things weren’t as chopped up as earlier in the day, but that variability is what makes it ski racing and what makes it fun.” Hamilton’s fourth place in the fastest quarterfinal allowed him to enter the semis as the lucky loser.
For Andy Newell, luck swung in the other direction. “It was sprint racing at its best. It was really scrappy," related Newell. "I thought I was able to get out and control every place. I was in third place coming down but my ski got caught in someone’s boot and the ski just died. That little mistake cost me a lot of speed and it’s frustrating when you can’t get through that quarterfinal.”
Hamilton and Caldwell skied to sixth and fifth places in their semi-finals respectively to snag their final results in front of a huge crowd for the championship event.
“It’s easy to put the blinders on and not soak in everything, but I’ve been able to look around and see the crowds," explained Hamilton. "The Swedes are great fans, they cheer for everyone. It feels like a good first day to the whole nine-day stretch.”
Viewers in the United States can watch an L.L. Bean-sponsored livestream broadcst of all Falun World Championship events at usskiteam.com, universalsports.com or on the Falun2015 Live Arena mobile app. To see the World Champs streaming schedule, click here.
Friday, Feb. 20 (times EST) - all live on usskiteam.com, universalsports.com and the Falun2015 Live Arena mobile app.
4:00 a.m. – Nordic combined HS100 jump
10:00 a.m. – Nordic combined 10k cross country
11:00 a.m. – Women’s HS100 jump
It was a fast heat from the start. I found myself at the back. On the ups I started to slip a little. I got into a super low tuck on the last downhill. I was able to go past the girl in front of me to get fifth in that heat.
I was psyched to be in a classic heat, having not been in one all year. On the ups I just tried to ski as relaxed as possible. I was able to close some gaps and luckily we had a fast heat.
It was sprint racing at its best. It was really scrappy. I thought I was able to get out and control every place. I was in third place coming down.
I was able to control the pace and be where I needed to be in the position. I got tangled a few times but that was a bummer. I tried to come back in the stadium but couldn’t get it done in the finish.
My ski got caught in someone’s boot and the ski just died. That little mistake cost me a lot of speed and it’s frustrating when you can’t get through that quarterfinal.
I felt a lot better skiing that quarterfinal than I did in the qualifier. I was able to relax and get a good draft off the Norwegians leading that pack. I really put the hammer down on the second half. I thought it’d be a fast heat with the Northug brothers in it.
Things weren’t quite as chopped up in the heats as they were in the qualifier. Things were starting to firm up too. It wasn’t perfect but that’s ski racing and what makes it fun.
It’s easy to put the blinders on and not soak in everything but I’ve been able to look around and see the crowds. The Swedes are great fans, they cheer for everyone. It feels like a good first day to the whole nine-day stretch.