Monday, February 2, 2009

Sadie and Erik in France: Sprints

Erik and Sadie were the top US finishers in the Sprints: report from

Praz de Lys, France; Feb 1, 2009

Scott Johnston

Today began the 2009 Cross Country World Championships for juniors (those 19 and under). Today's event was the Sprint 1.4km for men and 1.1km for women. The sprint format is relatively new to Cross Country skiing and is very demanding physically but also strategically. It consists of an individual start time trial on the usually 1-1.5km course. From this the fastest 30 skiers are selected to move into the heats which follow, typically 2 hours later. The heats are done in elimination fashion with 6 racing in each quarter final, semi finals and finals. The fastest two skiers in each heat of the quarter finals advance to the semis. After a short break of about 45 minutes during which time the other heats are racing; 6 skiers line up for the semi finals and do it all over again. The successful skiers race 4 times during the day at an all out pace. This involves warming up multiple times, staying hydrated and fueled with the correct foods as well as getting mentally prepared to give 100% for 3minutes. So while the races are short the day is long and exhausting as the efforts involved are maximal. The strategy and technical prowess required are at the highest levels involved in XC skiing.

When the Sprint event was introduced a dozen years ago; like many traditional Nordic racers I was dismissive of it: Thinking, quite wrongly, that this did not really represent what XC skiing was all about. In fact I have come to think now of it as representing all the best qualities of XC skiing and then some.

Sadie and Erik came into today's race with quite different frames of reference. Sadie is a World Junior Championship veteran. This being her fourth and last trip so she knows the drill quite well and has done well in the Sprint before placing 15th a couple of years ago in Italy. Despite her veteran status she came into this race with a lot of doubts. Her training has not gone well since late October and she has been feeling quite unprepared to achieve her high goals of a top 5 finish. She is fully capable of skiing at that level but I was pretty sure that it would not be possible this time around. This is my first experience at my not expecting Sadie to perform to her expectations and I too was unsure of how she would go today. But then Sadie did what she has done so well in the past in demonstrating an almost unique ability to push beyond her limits while under extreme pressure. I'll let Sadie tell her story;

Sadie's Sprint:

Race Day #1

Today was the first day of the World Junior Championships in Praz de Le. The morning started with my alarm failing to go off, and me jumping out of bed, throwing on some shoes, still dreaming as I sat down at the breakfast table. I started the morning with a rush, but that may have been a good thing for me. We are fortunate enough to be staying right on the race venue, less than a five minute walk down to the wax cabins. Cruising through the morning I prepared for my first race here at Worlds, not really knowing what to expect. I set goals earlier this season, but with the realities of how my training has gone this first year of college, I didn't know where I would be today. Getting everything together, and heading down to the venue, I started to get into race mode. The kind where I fail to see what's going on around me much, but focus on getting what I need to do. I did my usual warm-up, feeling strong and quick. The prelim went well, I qualified 15th, which means that I qualify for the rounds. Another girl on the team qualified as well in 7thposition. Resting for the next two hours, I started focusing on tactics for the heats. In the heat rounds, five heats of six people start. With six people going at one time, it's important to focus on tactics, staying on your feet, and being one of the first two to the line. The quarterfinals went well, I was able to finish strong and get second qualifying me for the semifinals. The semifinals were fast, and I was not able to hold onto the top pack. Advancing to the B-Finals, I was determined to make top ten. This would include beating at least two girls in this heat. I started off hard, getting a little bit tripped up at the top of the big hill, but staying positive. I came into the finish stretch tired, but determine to catch the girl in front of me that would put me in tenth. I came across the line inches behind, putting me in eleventh place. It was a good day for me, I posted my best result ever at World Juniors and the top US result. My next race is Thursday, the five kilometer skate race. I am excited for what is to come! I will keep updating.

SCOTT AGAIN: (Don't worry I'll be brief this time)
Erik was one of two rookies on the trip. At 17 he is among the youngest to compete here. In qualifying 23rd in the morning he immediately achieved his first goal for the trip which have centered around gaining experience at an international level. I will only briefly say here that Erik later demonstrated that champion mindset when, during his quarter final he passed 3 skiers including Thomas Northug the Norwegian race favorite to take the lead on the biggest hill of the course. The importance of Erik recognizing that he can ski with the best junior skiers in the world is the affirmation that we have sought in coming to this World Championship and will give Erik the confidence he needs to make the next step in his racing career. Now for Erik's story of today.

Erik's Sprint:

Coming into the race I had no expectation. I wasn't sure if I was going to be last or first. I knew one thing, and that was I had prepared myself the best I could and I felt great. My warm up went as planned and my skis were ready. So I had nothing to loose. Racing in Europe is a different type of racing. It's the same vibe as a football game in America. There where lots of spectators, booths, and loud music. The sprint had 3 up hills in it, 2 of them being very long and steep. I felt awesome throughout the race and put everything on the line and had an awesome qualifier placing 23rd. It was cool to hear the announcer say my name after I finished and I knew that I qualified. I was first of the American juniors and the only one to move on to the heats. The heats started two hours later so I had enough time to go back to the hotel and get some food into my system. I lined up in the heats with 5 other big guys. One of them being Peter Northug's younger brother, Peter Northug is probably considered to be the best skier in the world right now. The gun went of the first time with a second firing right after, indicating someone had false started. We all returned to the line and it was fired again, I had a bad start this time and I ended up fifth out of the start. But when we hit the second hill I made my move and went from fifth to first. It went then into a fast long downhill to the last climb. I got to that last hill in the lead and a skier on my right and left slingshoted by me, they had caught my draft on the down hill. I went over the top of that hill in fourth with a Russian right beside me. About half way down that final hill into the finish the Russian cut directly into me pushing me out of the middle lane into the far lane that was much slower. I was then in fifth and stayed in that position to the finish. I was happy with my race but thought to myself I could have done better. This has been a great introduction to racing with the world's best and I look forward to the 20km Pursuit on Tuesday.

1 comment:

James Varner said...

i know this a little late but way to go sadie and erik!