Nordic Worlds: Randall takes silver in sprint


American Kikkan Randall took home a sliver medal in the women’s cross country sprint today at the 2009 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic. Randall’s feat, the best finish any U.S. cross country racer has ever had at a World Championship, heaps more glory onto the already historic run the U.S. team is having at the event.  

Italy’s Arianna Follis won the race and Finland’s Pirjo Muranen took home third.

It was Follis’ first World Championship title after taking bronze in Sapporo, Japan, in 2007. “Today is incredible for me,” she told the Associated Press. “I think this evening with the Italian team we’re having a party.”
American Kikkan Randall took home a sliver medal in the women’s cross country sprint today at the 2009 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Liberec, Czech Republic. Randall’s feat, the best finish any U.S. cross country racer has ever had at a World Championship, heaps more glory onto the already historic run the U.S. team is having at the event.  

Italy’s Arianna Follis won the race and Finland’s Pirjo Muranen took home third.

It was Follis’ first World Championship title after taking bronze in Sapporo, Japan, in 2007. “Today is incredible for me,” she told the Associated Press. “I think this evening with the Italian team we’re having a party.”

Randall’s hardware is the first U.S. cross country medal since Bill Koch won a bronze in 1982, and the first World Championship medal for any American woman in cross country. Randall’s sliver is the U.S.’s fifth medal of these championships. Until now American athletes have never won more than one medal at the same World Championship. The Americans now lead the medal standings with three golds, a silver and a bronze.

“It feels amazing. I’ve known in the back of my heart all along that it was possible,” Randall said. “Considering where I was eight months ago – in the hospital with a blood clot – it feels incredible. I’m just so happy.”

Randall qualified seventh before advancing to quarter and semi finals, both of which she won, to make finals. Arianna Follis of Italy had the lead coming into the finish while Randall battled Finn Pirjo Muranen for the silver. The two were neck and neck with the scoreboard initially showing Randall bronze, but then changing it to silver thanks to a daring lunge by the Alaska native.

“Today she qualified seventh so we knew she was a little bit faster [than 10th in Italy last week],” said U.S. Cross Country Ski Team Coach Chris Grover. “She skied clean and smart and put herself into a position to show her fitness in every round.”

In the quarterfinals, she led start to finish. “Her leading the quarterfinals was good because behind here there was a lot of contact,” said Grover. In the semis, she let the Russian lead over the long first downhill and drafted her, then made her move to win and move into the finals.

In the A Finals, Randall took the lead over the first hill with the winner Follis overtaking her coming into the final corner before the finishing straight. Randall was a clear winner at the line for the silver.

Randall has a storied history in setting benchmarks for the U.S. She had the best U.S. women’s Olympic finish in history with a ninth in the sprint in Torino then, she won a World Cup in Rybinsk, Russia in Dec. 2007 to become the first U.S. woman to win a modern day cross country World Cup. According to Randall, the success the USA has seen thus far at the nordic Worlds inspired her performance Tuesday.

“It’s really hard to put the experience fully into words. Everyone has been skiing so well this week,” Randall said. “I’ve got to hand it to the combiners, jumpers and Kris Freeman for setting the tone this week. They just made us feel like greatness was possible. I’m happy to be a part of history – it’s a great club to be in.”

Norwegians Ola Vigen Hattestad and Johan Kjoelstad took the top two spots of the men’s event, finishing first and second, respectively. Russia’s Nikolay Morilov rounded out the podium in third place.

“I felt terribly strong in all the heats, but I have to admit I feared Johan in the final,” Hattestad told the AP. “I noticed he was on my back, and I felt pretty tired with just a few hundred meters from the finish. But I held up.”

“This is incredibly big,” Kjoelstad said. “I was fresh and had a really good day. Of course I was hoping to win, but a Norwegian double is huge.”

Andy Newell was the lead racer for the U.S., finishing 12th. Newell qualified second and had a strong quarterfinals, but went out in the semis.

“Newell got a pretty good start but he got boxed out and ran out of real estate at the end,” said Grover. Newell was in the bottom bracket of the semi’s and had only moments before the turnaround to the B Finals. “It’s hard for him to do with him to do the quick turnaround when the recovery time is really compressed.”

For complete results click here.

OFFICIAL RESULTS
2009 NORDIC SKI WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Liberec, Czech Republic – Feb. 24, 2009
Sprint

Men
1. Ola Vigen Hattestad, Norway
2. Johan Kjoelstad, Norway
3. Nikolay Morilov, Russia
4. Dario Cologna, Switzerland
5. Marcus Hellner, Sweden
-
12. Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT
37. Chris Cook, Rhinelander, WI
43. Torin Koos, Leavenworth, WA
44. Garrott Kuzzy, Hayward, WI

Women
1. Arianna Follis, Italy
2. Kikkan Randall, Anchorage
3. Pirjo Muranen, Finland
4. Natalia Matveeva, Russia
5. Ida Ingemarsdotter, Sweden
-
40. Liz Stephen, East Montpelier, VT
42. Laura Valaas, Wenatchee, WA
53. Morgan Smyth, Vernon, VT
# # #
  
Information and some quotes in this story were provided by the USSA.

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