Team Spirit Showcased at Lahti Team Relay
It was a glitter, face paint, and team socks kind of day as the FIS Cross Country World Cup season continued with the team relays Sunday in Lahti, Finland. Although Norway once again swept the men and women’s races, the Davis U.S. Cross Country Ski Team’s spirit won the day.
“Really proud of this team (the men and women’s) for giving it our all this morning,” said Jessie Diggins. “The highlight of my day was, of course, getting to hand out the socks and put the USA face paint on our guys and gals. I love the team spirit of relay day and it keeps racing fun!”
The women’s 4x5k event and the men’s 4x7.5k event featured the first two athletes of each team skiing classic technique and the second two skiing freestyle technique. For the U.S. teams, new faces and new techniques were the order of the day. The women’s team included Rosie Brennan skiing the opening 5k classic, Diggins the second classic leg, then Sophia Laukli skiing freestyle in the third leg, and Caitlin Patterson skiing the anchor freestyle leg. All four U.S. women were skiing a team relay together for the first time. For Laukli, it was only her second World Cup race following her debut in Saturday’s skiathlon.
The U.S. men enjoyed some unique familiarity as all four teammates are from Alaska, including three from the same club team - Alaska Pacific University (APU). David Norris kicked off the race, skiing the first 7.5k classic leg, Gus Schumacher skied the second classic leg with Scott Patterson skiing the third leg freestyle, and Hunter Wonders, who also made his World Cup debut in Saturday’s skiathlon, skiing the anchor freestyle leg. Norris, Wonder, and Patterson all ski for APU, while Schumacher skis for Alaska Winter Stars.
With the 2021 FIS Nordic World Championships coming up next month in Oberstdorf, Germany, Sunday’s event provided a unique opportunity for athletes to not only gain World Cup and international experience but continue to build fitness for World Champs and try something different along the way.
“After a decade (literally - and wow that makes me feel old) of anchoring the U.S. relay team, I was very excited to try something a little different,” Diggins said. “For the first time in my life I asked to ski a classic leg and it was really fun to try something new. I think skating will always be my first love, but I’m finding a better and better relationship with my classic skiing over the years and this was a great place to work on improving it!”
Sunday’s distance team relay is the only one on the World Cup schedule this season. There are, however, two freestyle team sprints - which feature two athletes per team - on this year’s schedule. The first one took place in Dresden, Germany, last month, and the second one is scheduled for Feb. 6 in Ulricehamn, Sweden. The only other distance team relay this season will take place on March 4, a 4x5k event for the women, and March 5, a 4x10k event for the men, at the World Championships.
Up next, the FIS Cross Country World Cup Tour moves to Falun, Sweden, Jan. 29-31 with both freestyle and classic distance events, and a classic sprint. Heading into next weekend’s events, Diggins and Brennan are currently 1-2 in the overall World Cup standings, and World Cup distance standings.