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Countdown to the 2022 Olympic Winter Games

Kern Earns First Career World Cup Podium Result

By Tom Horrocks
December, 21 2019

Julia Kern overcame challenging snow conditions, rain, and lightning delays to claim her first career World Cup Podium, finishing third Saturday in Planica, Slovenia. Sophie Caldwell was fourth. On the men’s side, Simi Hamilton led three Americans into the heats, finishing 12th, Kevin Bolger was 18th and Logan Hanneman was 25th. 

“The conditions were so crazy and I think that was so fun and amusing,” said Julia, who kept the podium streak going for the U.S. women with the fifth-straight top-three result. “It was weird to stand on the podium, honestly it didn’t feel real, but I am sure the feeling will kick in later.”

“It was so cool to see Julia get her first podium,” Sophie said. “I knew she was going to have a good one as soon as we saw the weather forecast because she’s one of the few people who are tough enough to actually enjoy adverse conditions. It was pouring rain all day long, so the trick to the day was figuring out how to stay warm and dry between races and how to warm up before races. The conditions felt a little surreal, and we even had a delay for a thunder and lightning storm, but I would say we made the best of it and I am just so proud of Julia.”

Julia qualified 20th and stormed into the heats, which were delayed midway through due to lightning and thunder. She won her crash-filled quarterfinal heat, moving into the lead from fifth position with a powerful V1 technique to skate away from the field. In the semifinals, she pulled the same move and again staked away from the field to take the win.

“I felt really good, especially on the V1 sections and into the finish,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sophie qualified fifth. She finished second in her quarterfinal heat and then advanced to the semifinals as one of the lucky losers. 

In the finals, Julia again found herself in fifth, right behind Sophie, with Sweden’s Stina Nilsson, who missed a stroke off the start, charging from the back and moving into the lead heading into the first climb. At the midway point of the race, it looked like Julia was gapped off the back, as Sophie battled for the inside line, almost running off of the snow, to move into third. But Julia dug deep to maintain contact and when Sweden’s Linn Svahn - last week’s sprint winner - fell after making contact with Sophie’s ski, it opened up the inside line for a clear sprint to the finish.

“I was really nervous the first half of the final, but then kicked into gear on the last hill,” Julia said. Sweden’s Jonna Sundling took the victory, with Stina rebounding from her poor start to finish second.

“Today was a really great day for our team,” Sophie said. “Also very cool to have all three men and two women qualify for the heats and have three in the semi and two in the final.”

With her third-place finish, Julia moved up to 25th in the overall World Cup standings. Jessie Diggins is the top Davis U.S. Cross Country Team member in third overall, Sadie Maubet Bjornsen is fourth, Sophie is 18th, and Rosie Brennan is 21st.

Up next, Julia and Sophie, and Simi and Kevin will team up for Sunday’s Team sprint. 

RESULTS
Women’s freestyle sprint
Men’s freestyle sprint

WORLD CUP STANDINGS
Women
Men

HOW TO WATCH
All times EST

Sunday, Dec. 22
5:00 a.m. - Men and women’s team sprint, Planica, SLO - Olympic Channel
6:30 p.m. - Men and women’s team sprint, Planica, SLO - NBCSN*

*Same-day broadcast