Randall Back on Sprint Podium in Davos
DAVOS, Switzerland (Dec. 9, 2017) - World champion Kikkan Randall (Anchorage, Alaska) found power and speed coming down the final stretch in Davos to score her first World Cup podium in nearly three years, finishing third behind Sweden's Stina Nilsson. Jessie Diggins (Afton, Minn.) was fourth.
On a day reminiscent of last February's World Championship freestyle sprint in Lahti, Finland, the Americans put three athletes into the final heat with Randall, Diggins and Ida Sargent (Orleans, Vt.) who was sixth. Five U.S. Ski Team women qualified into the heats including Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, Wash.) and Sophie Caldwell (Peru, Vt.) who made it to semis.
Norway's Johannes Høsflot Klæbo won his sixth straight World Cup to remain unbeaten - tying a record. Klæbo plans to sit out Sunday's 15k skate. Simi Hamilton (Aspen, Colo.) skied a strong quarter-final to advance to the semis where he finished ninth.
The women's final was a remarkable matchup with U.S. Ski Team women making up half of the field. Nilsson and Norway's Maiken Caspersen Falla dominated much of the race, building a gap over Diggins and the chase group. Diggins, who won her semifinal heat, set a strong pace for the chase group with Randall picking her way through the field to set herself up nicely for a finish sprint.
After taking a year off for the birth of her son Breck, Randall had a slow start a year ago before a breakthrough freestyle sprint medal at World Championships in February. But a World Cup podium eluded her as she only made one finals all season.
"The first couple weekends of the World Cup have been a mixed bag for me," said Randall. "I felt like my shape was there but I wasn’t able to put it together in classic It’s really nice to know I’m in position where my fitness is good and I”m just sharpening that race gear."
Randall was strong and tactical in her heats, positioning herself well for the podium sprint. "I was in a perfect place coming into the stadium. I felt the gear shift and feel there’s just a little bit of just sharpening and confidence that will let me bridge that. It’s cool having that concrete example in front of me."
“It was really meaningful for Kikkan,” said Head Coach Chris Grover. “This is a course where she’s won before so she knows how to ski it. But it’s another step in her return. This year she feels like she’s been in good shape all summer and fall. To start out with the first skate sprint - her signature event - with a podium means we’ll see a lot more of Kikkan this year.”
"Our techs and coaches did an incredible job - we had incredible skis," said Sargent, who had a very strong day. "It was so much fun to zoom by people on the downhill. I was feeling great energy when the altitude hit me pretty hard. But it was awesome to be in the final with Kikkan and Jessie."
In the World Cup overall rankings, Diggins moved up to seventh with Bjornsen dropping to ninth.
Sunday is another day of skate racing - this time in an Olympic discipline, with team spots on the line. Diggins will be among the favorites in the women's 10k with the men racing 15k.