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Bjornsen Earns First U.S. Podium In Lillehammer Sprint

By Reese Brown
November, 30 2018
Lillehammer Women's Podium
Stina Nilsson (left) of Sweden was second, countrywomen Jonna Sundling was first, and Sadie Bjornsen third at the opening FIS Cross Country World Cup freestyle sprint of the season in Lillehammer, Norway, Friday. (Getty Images/Agency Zoom - Laurent Salino)

Sadie Bjornson (Winthrop, Wash.) earned the first World Cup podium of the 2018-19 season for the U.S. Cross Country Team this season in Lillehammer, Norway, on Friday.  Bjornsen, qualified sixth, battled through the quarterfinal and semifinal heats to finish third behind Sweden’s Jonna Sundling and Stina Nilsson, who finished first and second respectively in the opening World Cup freestyle sprint.

“Today was such an exciting day because I have had my eyes on a skate sprint podium for a long time”, said Bjornsen. “I have now accomplished a podium in all the disciplines - skate sprint, classic sprint, classic distance, and skate distance, which is a huge accomplishment for me. Also, with so many skate sprints this season, I am so excited to get some confidence and belief to fight for the top in the long season to come.”

Bjornsen’s podium in the first of the three-race Lillehammer mini tour positions her well for the remaining two races - Saturday’s 10k freestyle mass start and Sunday’s 10k classic pursuit - both of which will be streamed live on NBC Sports Gold and the Olympic Channel. Rosie Brennan (Park City, Utah) qualified ninth and Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) qualified 12th, but neither advanced from the round of 30. Sophie Caldwell (Stratton Mountain, Vt.) was unable to start due to a cold.

“We are very excited for Sadie,” stated U.S. Cross Country Ski Team Head Coach Chris Grover. “She stayed out of trouble all day and made opportunistic moves passing other racers whenever she had an opening. The key to this race was what kind of position one could create on the final downhill to the stadium and carrying momentum around the last turn into the finish lanes. Sadie put herself in great finish position all day and skied the final downhill aggressively and with poise. It’s going to be a big season for her. Congratulations to coach Erik Flora and the APU program!”

“I am so happy with my qualifier today,” said Brennan, who skied to a career-best World Cup sprint qualification. “I finally was able to find a good balance of speed and power to make things happen and that felt good!  With expanded start quotas for all teams in a mini-tour and the nation's group, this is probably the most competitive World Cup of the year so to also get my best qualifying place is a huge accomplishment for me. I still have very little experience in the heats and am looking to make some improvements in group skiing, but it was a great start in sprinting and I am really looking forward to the rest of the tour.

On the men’s side, Simi Hamilton (Aspen, Colo.) was the lone qualifier in 22nd place, finishing fourth in the quarterfinal round. Italy’s Federico Pellegrino won the race with Norway’s Emil Iversen second and Canadian Alex Harvey closing out the podium in third.

Women’s sprint
Men’s sprint

All times EST
*Same-day delayed broadcast

Saturday, Dec. 1
4:30 a.m. - World Cup women’s 10k, Lillehammer, NOR - NBC Sports Gold & Olympic Channel
6:15 a.m. - World Cup Men’s 15k, Lillehammer, NOR - NBC Sports Gold & Olympic Channel
12:00 p.m. - World Cup women’s 10k, Lillehammer, NOR - Olympic Channel*
9:30 p.m. - World Cup women’s 10k, Lillehammer, NOR - NBCSN*

Sunday, Dec. 2
4:15 a.m. - World Cup women’s 10k pursuit, Lillehammer, NOR - NBC Sports Gold & Olympic Channel
5:45 a.m. - World Cup Men’s 15k pursuit, Lillehammer, NOR - NBC Sports Gold & Olympic Channel
2:30 p.m. - World Cup women’s 10k pursuit, Lillehammer, NOR - Olympic Channel*
9:00 p.m. - World Cup women’s 10k pursuit, Lillehammer, NOR - NBCSN*