Norwegian men could dominate
US women’s cross-country team looks forward to home trail advantage, but watch out for the Norwegians
The Norwegian American
Jessie Diggins got her wish, a World Cup-designated cross-country skiing event in her home state of Minnesota. How much of a boost will that give the Afton, Minn., native—and her American teammates—to finally compete on home snow?
The ultimate event of the March 14-17 Fastenal Parallel 45 Winter Festival in Minneapolis will be March 17, when more than 100 men’s and women’s skiers from over 25 countries will participate in sprint races on the newly built 1.7-kilometer. (just shy of 1.1 miles) Trailheads Course in Theodore Wirth Park that has a clear view of the city skyline. It is the first time since 2001 that a World Cup event has taken place in the United States. The November-March weekend schedule takes place throughout Europe, with one event in Canada, meaning the Americans are perpetually on the road. Imagine a hockey team playing all its games on the road for 19 years.
The American women’s team has made great strides, with the spotlight on Diggins. The Americans have three in the top nine in the World Cup sprint standings, and four in the top 18 as of Feb. 18.
Diggins is fifth overall and seventh in the sprints. The 28-year-old is an eight-time U.S. champion, with six World Cup individual victories, and at the 2018 Olympics, she won the team sprint gold with Kikkan Randall for the American cross-country women’s first Olympic medal.
In November, Sadie Maubet Bjornsen became the first American woman to lead the World Cup standings. She is currently seventh overall and ninth in the sprints. Sophie Caldwell is fifth in the sprints. Julia Kern is 18th in the sprints.
Bjornsen, 30, from Anchorage, Alaska, has 10 top three finishes in World Cup races, is a two-time Olympian and five-time World Championship team member. Diggins and Bjornsen were three-four in Stage Six of the classic sprint in this year’s Tour de Ski.
Caldwell has two World Cup victories, eight podium finishes, was the first American skier to win a World Cup classic sprint, and was a four-time All-American at Dartmouth. Her grandfather John Caldwell was an Olympian and author of The Cross-Country Ski Book (1964), the first American guide to cross-country skiing.
Anamarija Lampič of Slovenia dropped from the top spot in the World Cup sprint standings, replaced by Linn Svahn of Sweden after the Feb. 18 competition in Åre, Sweden.
Norway’s Therese Johaug sent out a warning at Åre. The dominant distance racer, who leads the overall standings, won her first sprint of the season leading a Norwegian sweep with Heid Weng second and Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen third.
Maiken Caspersen Falla is the best Norwegian sprinter at sixth in the standings, with Jacobsen 10th, Tiril Udnes Weng 13th, Heidi Weng 14th, Ane Appelkvist Stenseth 16th, Johaug 17th.
Besides Svahn, the Swedes boast Jonna Sundling (fourth), Maja Dahlqvist (11th) and Stina Nilsson (12th), while Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva is third. Switzerland has Nadine Fähndrich (eighth) and Laurien van der Graaff (15th), and Slovenia also boasts Katja Višnar (19th).
The Norwegian and Russian men have been battling each other all season. Seven Norwegians are in the top 11 of the World Cup overall standings, six Russians are in the top 16. Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo is second overall but leads the sprint standings. Six Norwegians are in the top 17: Pål Golberg (third), Erik Valnes (fifth), Håvard Solås Taugbøl (ninth), Sindre Bjørnestad Skar (10th) and Pål Trøan Aune (17th). On Klæbo’s tail is France’s Lucas Chanavat. France has two other capable sprinters: Richard Jouve (11th) and Renaud Jay (13th). Russia features Alexander Bolshunov (sixth; first overall), Gleb Retivykh (seventh) and Sergey Ustiugov (18th), while Sweden features Johan Häggström (eighth), Teodor Peterson (12th), Oskar Svensson (14th) and Marcus Grate (15th). Italy boasts Federico Pellegrino (fourth), Slovenia Miha Šimenc (16th) and Switzerland Jovian Hediger (19th). The top Americans this season are Simi Hamilton, who is 20th, and Logan Hanneman, who is 42nd. Hamilton is a three-time Olympian.
This article originally appeared in the March 6, 2020, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.