USA: team of the season 2011/12
Kikkan Randall’s crystal globe as sprint champion was a long time coming for America. And with it came a newfound strength for the women of the U.S. Ski Team who brought a fresh new spirit to the FIS Cross Country World Cup this season.
The Alaskan became the first American to win since Bill Koch in 1982. It was a goal achieved over more than a decade racing internationally – methodically and patiently plotting her way to the top. But a big jump this past season saw her become competitive not just as a freestyle sprinter, but as a well-balanced skier who also finished fifth in the overall.
“Looking at my third place finish last season I knew that to contend for the win I had to really increase my classic sprinting results,” said Randall, who admits that watching Petra Majdic get the globe last year was a big motivator for her. “We incorporatee more classic specific training into my plan – a lot more time double poling and doing classic intervals on the glacier in Alaska this summer and also increasing my volume to make sure I could withstand the whole season and keep racing strong throughout. The extra attention to those details really paid off.”
Randall stormed into the season with a pair of opening sprint wins and holding her own in classic sprints and distance.
But alongside the whole way were five teammates who scored points on the World Cup and made quite an impact as a team in bringing a new atmosphere to the tour.
“It really speaks to the team atmosphere we have and the fact that the girls are seeing a whole new world of possibilities,” said Randall. “Now it’s ‘I don’t want to just want to compete on the World Cup, I want to win a World Cup some day. It’s possible.’ With that belief you can really feel the confidence over here. Everyone’s supporting each other.”
While the others weren’t challenging for titles, all six U.S. women – veterans and rookies alike - had personal best seasons. Seeing the success of Randall, they each rose up to build on her energy.
“If we all work together we can all become a little better,” said Randall. “I have to credit the great atmosphere we have on the team for my results this season. Whenever I’ve had a low day I’ve always had another teammate’s success to celebrate.”
The low point of the season came in Nove Mesto in February. The U.S. women were out of the points in the 15k classic for the only time this season. With Randall out sick, the four-person team event the next day could have been a disaster. But with Randall as the cheerleader, the girls decided to just have fun. They painted their faces, just as they did with the young girls at the Fast and Female clinics they held back home, and wore colorful stockings. And they turned in an American best fifth place finish including the fastest anchor leg by Jessie Diggins.
“We were fired up with glitter, face paint, knee high red, white, and blue socks and a lot of positive energy,” said Ida Sargent. “Our fifth place finish goes to show the depth of our team right now,” added Holly Brooks. One of the happiest of all, though, was Randall on the sidelines cheering on her teammates.
“They’re pushing me to be better and I’m happy to be challenging them as well,” said Randall. “We don’t just have to have results right now. It’s going to continue to build. We can build a legacy of fast skiers in years to come. What’s been really cool this year is that everyone’s noticing how good our team is as a whole - it’s good to feel that we really belong over here!”
Contributed by Tom Kelly, US Ski Team