Friday, November 25, 2011

Season of the Kikkan

I know the World Cup season is only two individual races old, but I'm jazzed about Kikkan Randall's chances this year. Her one "weakness" - relative to the most elite racers - has been her classic skiing, in both distance events and, more importantly, sprints, but so far this season she's showing some real chops along both axes.

In the 10k skate at Sjusj√łen last Saturday, she turned in a distance PR result of eighth, boding well for her distance racing. In Sunday's relay, she skied the American team's second classic leg, and logged the second-fastest time, slower only than Kowalcyzk and moving the team up from 16th to 12th place at the halfway point.

Today, over at Kuusamo, Kikkan matched last Saturday's distance PR with a PR in the classic sprint that opened the "Ruka Triple" event: fourth, a hair behind Vibeke Skofterud (who's not known for her sprinting). Fasterskier points out that Randall had not even qualified for the Kuusamo heats the past three years. This year she qualified comfortably in 15th and then skied almost up to the podium in the heats.

Randall's next tests come right away - a 5k freestyle race on Saturday and a 10k classic pursuit on Sunday over Kuusamo's brutally jagged course. If she does well, I think we can assume that Kikkan is going to fare very well all season long, no matter the distance or the technique. I can't wait to find out.