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Schoonmaker Seventh in Goms Skate Sprint; Ogden and Diggins 11th

By Leann Bentley - Stifel U.S. Ski Team
January, 27 2024
JC Schoonmaker
JC Schoonmaker skis in the skate sprint in Goms, Switzerland. (NordicFocus)

In one of the more demanding sprints on the 2023-24 World Cup circuit, three Americans landed in the top 15, led by JC Schoonmaker in seventh, achieving his career-best skate sprint in the process.

The rain stayed away and the sun was out for the late afternoon sprint in Goms, Switzerland. With hundreds of athletes on the start list, and thousands of fans corraled around the course, the sprint ahead was anything but easy.

Steep uphills, tight corners and fast downhills – this course featured all the challenging aspects of a tough sprint. Paired with fast conditions and high altitude, there was carnage in nearly every heat: broken poles, crashes and one broken ski.

Moving into qualifications, where only the top 30 for both men and women advance, the Stifel U.S. Ski Team sent eight athletes through, led by Jessie Diggins qualifying in ninth and Ben Ogden qualifying in third.

Women's Sprint Heats

Entering the heats, in the second quarterfinal heat, Rosie Brennan did not advance but was still proud of her effort, ultimately ending the day in 17th.

"I'm really happy that I used what I had and skied the way I wanted to," said Brennan post-race. "This course was challenging, it was a big long climb and then a fast and sketchy downhill, followed by that all again. There was full contact out there today because there was not much room to spread out, but I am happy with the way I skied and am looking forward to the challenge tomorrow!”

For Sammy Smith, one of the youngest competitors on the World Cup circuit, it was another day to gain valuable World Cup experience. Easily advancing into the heats, Smith lined up on the quarterfinal start line alongside some of the sport's leading sprinters. Off the start, she skied a smart race, choosing the inside line on the long uphill, setting herself up nicely for the long downhill. An unfortunate crash ended her day early, yet she still finished the day in 21st.

For Diggins, she easily advanced through to the semifinals, winning her quarterfinal heat. In the semis, taking an similar inside line to the long hills as her teammates, Diggins was battling for position, ultimately getting bumped from advancing to the finals due to an unfortunate fall in the last turn. Diggins, however, ended the day with another top 15, in 11th, and continues her lead in the overall World Cup standings.

In the end, the Swedish women swept the podium led by Linn Svahn in first, Maja Dahlqvist in second and Jonna Sundling in third. 

Men's Sprint Heats

For the men, Ogden, Schoonmaker and Gus Schumacher represented the red, white and blue in the heats; Zak Ketterson was right out of the top 30 bubble, finishing his qualifier race in 31st. 

In Schoonmaker's quarterfinal heat, he skied a clean race but had to turn on the gas in the final stretch alongside Sweden's Johan Haeggstroem to advance. Crossing the line in a photo finish - ultimately called in Schoonmaker's favor - Schoonmaker clocked in one one-hundredth of a second faster than Haeggstroem and secured his spot in the semifinal round.

In the last quarterfinal of the day, Ogden and Schumacher had to finish in the top two to advance or have the third-fastest time in the heat. With both Americans taking the inside line on the first big climb, they were jockeying for position into the tight downhills. Into the last horseshoe turn going into the stadium, Ogden shot into first, crossing the line in first, with Schumacher finishing fourth - only Ogden advanced to the semis

"I was really happy with my qualifier today," said Ogden. "I am happy with the heats played out, I crashed but that happens - I step on people, people step on me, it happens!"

In the semis, Ogden and Schoonmaker represented the U.S. men.

For Schoonmaker and Ogden, lining up on the semifinal start line was familiar, as they did together earlier this season in Östersund, Sweden, when Schoonmaker clinched his career-first sprint podium. With things getting a bit messy with the choppier snow and the tactical challenges of getting pushed around, Ogden had an untimely crash, leaving him out of contention, but teammate Schoonmaker gave it everything in the final stretch and made moves to finish the day in seventh, just outside making finals.

The day ended with Norway's Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo back on top in first, France's Lucas Chanavat in second and Haavard Solaas Taugboel of Norway in third. 

"My strategy for this course was trying to make all of my moves on the second half," said Schoonmaker. "It was a really tough first hill, so I tried to save my legs there so I could ski the downhills and corners with some energy.”

With Schoonmaker's seventh-place result, he now bests his previous eighth-place skate sprint career best and continues to make an impression. 

"Today's result feels solid," he said. "I’m happy with it but am always going to want more. To be close to the final is bittersweet, but I also think it’s cool to realize that I’m at a point where getting knocked out in the semis comes with a little disappointment. Overall I’m just happy to feel like I’m skiing well again after a challenging last few weeks.”

Now, the team resets for tomorrow's 20k skate mass start. Watch LIVE on at 3:30 a.m. ET for the women and 7:30 a.m. ET for the men.