Kikkan Randall's specialty event served as a springboard to the podium and back up the standings in the Tour de Ski on Wednesday, when fellow Anchorage skier Holly Brooks continued to grit through the pain of an injury.
Randall finished second in the 1.2-kilometer freestyle sprint in Toblach, Italy, and that podium finish in the sixth of nine races in the grinding Tour de Ski elevated her to fourth place in the overall standings. She started the day seventh overall.
Brooks, Randall's teammate on Alaska Pacific University's nordic program, finished 30th after discovering that she is competing with a broken left wrist -- Brooks, 55th overall in the Tour, was injured Christmas Day when she slipped while on a run.
Randall won her quarterfinal heat Wednesday -- Brooks was eliminated in that round -- and took second in her semifinal. In the final, she faced Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland and Marit Bjoergen, who are 1-2 in the Tour overall standings.
Randall moved around Kowalczyk on the final uphill, but could not catch Bjoergen. Bjoergen won her third straight race in the Tour -- the series features nine races in 11 days, at five venues -- after Kowalczyk won the first three races in the competition.
"I hoped that Bjoergen and Kowalczyk would make a big move,'' Randall said by email. "When they did, I was in a good position to go with them. Unfortunately, I couldn't get past Kowalczyk before the final hill and had to go around, and missed getting in Bjoergen's draft.''
The women today face a 15-kilometer freestyle, then take Friday off before Saturday's 10-K classic race and then Sunday's brutal 9-K climb that serves as the Tour finale.
Randall, a three-time Olympian, continues to be the world's top-ranked sprinter and is now ranked third in the overall World Cup standings.
Brooks told fasterskier.com that an MRI revealed she has hairline fractures in her left wrist and that German doctors told her the non-displaced breaks require rest.
But Brooks, who is paying her own way on the World Cup circuit, is trying to meet criteria to make the U.S. Ski Team for next season. That means she needs to finish in the top 50 of the overall World Cup standings or top 30 in either the sprint or distance standings. Currently, she is 40th overall and 26th in the distance standings, but fears those ranks won't hold up if she takes substantial time off.
"If I go home to rehab it, there's not really time to come back,'' Brooks told fasterskier.com. "And if I don't have any more results for the entire season, I don't know if it helps my case.''
All Randall knows is her friend and teammate is one tough woman.
"It's definitely hard to race at this level with anything going wrong, let along a broken wrist,'' Randall told fasterskier.com. "So props for her, for the toughness she's showing.''
The Stage 6 women's sprint in the Tour de Ski today. Video courtesy universalsports.com