Freeman sixth, Swenson 13th for U.S. team in 30km World Cup race

Freeman sixth, Swenson 13th for U.S. team in 30km World Cup race{mosimage}USSA — Kris Freeman, in his first full season on the World Cup, finished 1.2 seconds back, tied for sixth place Saturday in a mass-start 30km freestyle race — the best showing by a U.S. skier since 1984 — while Carl Swenson overcame a spill starting the sixth and final 5km loop to finish 13th.

Sweden’s Mathias Fredriksson, the defending World Cup champion, covered the six 5km loops in 1:09.51.5 to edge Germany’s Rene Sommerfeldt by six-tenths of a second. Frenchman Vincent Vittoz and Norway’s Kristen Skjeldal tied for third (1:09.52.2).

Freeman’s result was the best since Jim Galanes was fifth in a 15km after the Sarajevo Olympics in March 1984 in Murmansk, now in Russia and then part of the Soviet Union. Freeman’s time was 1:09.52.7, tied with Belarussian Sergei Dolidowitsch. Swenson was 13th in 1:10.23.7.

“It was clustered all the way,” Freeman said, referring to the lead pack, which got smaller as the race continued. “The first half I just tried to stay out of trouble, keep the leaders in sight. And then people started to drop away … before I knew, I was skiing in a pack of 10.

“I wasn’t quite strong enough to win it but I had a good finish,” he said. “It was a beautiful day, sun beaming down, about 34 degrees; you couldn’t beat the weather.”

Swenson, who fell when he got tangled early in the final lap, said, “There was a pretty good group of 15 or 20 starting the last lap and it just strung out from there. Mathias was driving it all day. It was definitely messy, but mass starts always are; that’s kind of the nature of ‘em.”

After he went down, he was caught between the front group and the chase pack, worked his way back to the leaders and held on for the third top-15 of his career.

“Quite a day. Kris and Carl were in the lead pack the whole way. Kris was within a second of winning a 30km skate,” said U.S. head coach Trond Nystad. “With any luck we could have had two in the top six, top five. It shows how the margins are so small now on the World Cup … so small.”

Estonian Kristina Smigun won the women’s 15km freestyle in 37:11.7 with Ukraine’s Valentina Shechenko second in 37:27.1. No U.S. women competed but Canadian Beckie Scott, married to three-time U.S. Olympian Justin Wadsworth, was 12th.

Sunday, the schedule calls for freestyle team sprints, i.e., two athletes competing on a 1K course, free technique.

FIS Cross-Country World Cup
Dobbiaco, Italy
December 6, 2003
Men’s 30km FR Mass Start

1. Mathias Fredriksson, Sweden, 1:09.51.5
2. Rene Sommerfeldt, Germany, 1:09.52.1
3= Krister Skjeldal, Norway, 1:09.52.2
3= Vincent Vittoz, France, 1:09.52.2
U.S. skiers:
6T. Kris Freeman, Andover, N.H., 1:09.52.7
13. Carl Swenson, Boulder, Colo., 1:10.23.7

Women’s 15km FR Mass Start
1. Kristina Smigun, Estonia, 37:11.7
2. Valentina Shevchenko, Ukraine, 37:27.1
3. Claudia Kuenzel, Germany, 37:31.7
No U.S. women raced

Ski Racing Magazine LB1