Sarah Hendrickson soared to the first of nine wins in last season's opener in Lillehammer. Ski jumping and nordic combined open in Lillehammer, Norway with cross country in Gaellivare, Sweden. (Getty Images/AFP)
LILLEHAMMER, Norway (Nov. 22) - The USA is poised and ready as the three FIS Nordic World Cup series' open this weekend in Scandinavia. Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) and Liz Stephen (Montpelier, VT) lead the U.S. Cross Country Ski Team in Gaellivare, Sweden. Meanwhile in Norway, the 1994 Olympic venues in Lillehammer play host to the nordic combined and ski jumping opening events. Bryan Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, CO) will look to repeat his historic season-ending win in Oslo while Sarah Hendrickson (Park City, UT) returns to the site of the first of nine World Cup wins last year.
The FIS Cross Country World Cup opens in Gaellivare, Sweden this weekend with ski jumping and nordic combined opening in Lillehammer, Norway.
Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) and Liz Stephen (Montpelier, VT) will lead the USA in cross country. Stephen is coming off a second place finish in the final pre-season race in Finland last weekend. The U.S. women are expected to challenge in the first team event of the season in Gaellivare where temps will be just above freezing with rain and snow predicted.
Bryan Fletcher (Steamboat Springs, CO) will look to repeat his King's Cup victory from Holmenkollen in Oslo to close out last season. He will be joined by Olympic medalists Billy Demong (Vermontville, NY) and Todd Lodwick (Steamboat Springs, CO). Johnny Spillane (Steamboat Springs, CO) will sit out the opener still nursing a back injury.
A new mixed gender team event will debut Friday with Olympians Anders Johnson (Park City, UT) and Peter Frenette (Saranac Lake, NY) joining two women yet to be named in the historic debut.
QUOTES Bryan Fletcher, nordic combined King's Cup winner Coming off a win like that and entering into a new year, I have been asked a lot how I am preparing for this season. The truth is, I look at it as the first step in a very long staircase. In certain ways it takes the pressure off because I know if I never win again, I can be happy that I at least got one under my belt. However, I want more, and this summer I continued to work hard and didn't rest on my laurels.
Sarah Hendrickson, FIS Ski Jumping World Cup champion It's obviously a lot of pressure to go into a World Champs season with the globe from last year, but that's what makes it exciting. Going into it I have to use that energy to my advantage and work toward my special goals. I am hoping for another fun winter to come and hoping the results will be there as well.
Paolo Bernardi, Women's Coach The Team is in good shape for the time of the year, we don't have enough jumps on snow but I'm confident we can do well. Sarah had a way longer break and she is on the right track to be fully recovered in January. Right now the technique is really good and the small number of training jumps were enough to put her jumping shape on a good level for the opening here in Lillehammer. I can see Sarah already on the podium this weekend.
Chris Grover, Head Cross Country Coach Kikkan is still recovering from an injury but doing well. She is planning on racing Saturday but our expectations for her are not super high since her training and racing have been compromised this fall. But we are taking the long view of her performance anyway. We still have three months until the World Championships begin. The women are in great shape and I expect to see a few top-30 results out of that group. For the relay selection, we will analyze performance on Saturday as well as this past weekend in Muonio. We will also look at how these men and women have historically performed in the relay, and specifically on this course - this is a very rolling, technical course without much sustained climbing.