No Retina
XS Screen (480px)
SM+ Screen
SM Screen (768px)
SM- Screen
MD+ Screen
MD Screen (992px)
MD- Screen
LG+ Screen
LG Screen (1200px)
LG- Screen
XL+ Screen (1600px)

Ogden Sixth in Oberhof Classic Sprint, Diggins Ninth

By Leann Bentley - Stifel U.S. Ski Team
January, 19 2024
Ben Ogden; Kevin Bolger
Ben Ogden and Kevin Bolger skiing in the sprint heats in Oberhof, Germany. (NordicFocus)

The Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team is back in Oberhof, Germany, for the first time since 2013 and the team is starting off on the right foot, with all but one athlete advancing through to the classic sprint heats. Ben Ogden led the day in sixth place, followed by Jessie Diggins in ninth and Kevin Bolger in 12th.

Coming off a hot Tour de Ski, where Diggins took home the overall crown, Sophia Laukli secured her first World Cup victory, Ben Ogden achieved his career-first podium and several athletes set personal bests, the momentum was strong going into the next trio of races. Before today's race, the entire team took a couple of days to recover and put in some hours of rest, but you could tell all the athletes from around the world were ready to click into their race skis once again.

On soft snow, under overcast skies and on a technical sprint course featuring tight turns and fast uphill kickers, all Americans named to the Stifel U.S. Cross Country Ski Team made it through to the sprint heats—a feat not easily accomplished and not seen in recent history. The start list included five women and four men, including World Cup overall leader Jessie Diggins, Rosie Brennan, Julia Kern, Sammy Smith, and Erin Blanco from Bridger Ski Foundation, who recorded her first-ever World Cup start. For the men, the sickness had been beaten, and Ben Ogden was back on the start line alongside JC Schoonmaker, Zak Ketterson and Kevin Bolger.

In the first round of sprint racing, the top 30 times would be the cutoff for who makes it to the sprint rounds. This time, eight of the nine athletes advanced, with Blanco just a few seconds from making the cut. Ogden secured the third spot in the qualifiers, giving him confidence going into the next lap around the sprint course, while Diggins and Brennan secured the fourth and fifth positions, just four seconds behind the fastest qualifying time set by Sweden's Jonna Sundling.

Moving into the heats, with six athletes per heat and only the top two securing a place in the semis, along with two lucky losers (the fastest third-place time from two athletes), only Diggins, Ogden and Bolger advanced through the next round of racing.

"It's really nice to be racing again," said Diggins post-race. "It was so cool to have eight of us into the heats, and it is some fun momentum to carry into the rest of this racing period."

Going into the quarterfinal heat, it was all about positioning and skiing a smart race to punch your ticket to the semis. Brennan, Diggins, Kern and Smith represented the U.S. women, with Diggins being the sole athlete to advance based on finishing within the top two in her round. Even without advancing, all the women secured an overall top-30 result on the day—a step in the right direction in adding crucial World Cup points to their overall standing.

In the end, the Swedish team swept the podium, with Linn Svahn taking home her 13th World Cup victory. Svahn is currently sitting second in the overall standings, with Diggins securely in first. Alongside Diggins' ninth place, Brennan finished 21st, Kern 27th, and Smith 28th.

For the men, as the moved into the men's finals, there was already a clear upset - Norway's Johannes Hoseflot Klaebo did not advance through to the finals. Klaebo had been on the podium in every single sprint race since 2018 and with today's result, it clearly shows the depth of the men's field and emphasizes that in cross country ski racing, anything can happen.

For the U.S., Ogden punched his ticket to the final and lined up on the line with four Norwegians and one Swedish athlete. Regardless of the place Ogden skied to in the end, he was splitting up the Scandinavian sweep in the process.

In the final, Ogden quickly got off the line, sitting comfortably behind the sea of red (Norway). Into the technical, nearly 180-degree turn, Ogden made a push to secure himself a safer position going into the uphill. With the classic 'Benny Shuffle,' he pushed the pace alongside Norway and Sweden into the finishing straight. Ogden crossed the line in sixth and was all smiles in the finish pen. Norway swept the podium, with Erik Valnes taking home the victory. Bolger just missed the top 10 in 12th, Ketterson 16th and Schoonmaker 24th.

"It feels good to put down a good race today and I'm glad how my body responded post-sickness and I'm psyched for the races to come," said Ogden. 

Tomorrow, the team is back to racing, with a 20k mass start looming. Watch LIVE on, with men kicking off the line at 4:25 a.m. ET.