Victory lifts Randall to second straight World Cup sprint title

bbragg@adn.comMarch 9, 2013 

Kikkan Randall, queen of the nordic sprint world, extended her reign for another year Saturday.

Randall, the three-time Olympian from Anchorage, beat Norwegian superstar Marit Bjoergen in a photo finish to win a World Cup freestyle sprint race in Lahti, Finland.

With the win, Randall clinched her second straight World Cup sprint title, based on a whole season's of results.

Randall's prowess in sprint racing is such that she clinched the title with two races to spare. Regardless of what happens in the final two sprint races of the World Cup season, she's assured to collect a crystal globe for winning the 2012-13 World Cup sprint crown. It's her second such trophy in a row.

"Winning last year was so much fun, and I really wanted to go for it again this year," Randall said in an email. "When I was injured this fall I thought I might have to take the sprint title off my goals list. But then the season started so strong for me and it was great feeling to be back in the red (leader's) bib again. I was really anxious to see if I could hold my shape all the way to the end of the season.

"Now, I can really enjoy the final two classic sprints in Drammen and Stockholm.

Randall spent much of last summer in a walking boot because of a stress fracture in her foot, but she was her old self by the time the World Cup season began. In the first three weeks of racing, she collected four medals.

Saturday's victory was the fourth this season and the 11th of a decade-long career for Randall, 30. It came in her 100th World Cup start.

She said she wanted to make No. 100 a special one, and she did.

"It turned out to be a great day," she said. "I felt strong and was able to make good tactical moves in all my heats. I was really psyched to be going up against Bjoergen in the final. She hadn't raced any of the other skate sprints this season and it's always fun to be able to go head-to-head with one of our sport's greatest athletes.

"It's kind of fun that it ended up being a two-person battle over the second half of the course with Marit and I exchanging leads."

Randall, who won her quarterfinal and semifinal heats, beat Bjoergen by a boot-length by lunging across the finish line.

"I knew I wanted to be leading coming off the final turn as it's really fast and short finish stretch," she said. "I could feel Marit coming up beside me in those final meters and knew I needed to be prepared for the lunge. (I) timed it just right today."

Randall, the greatest female skier in U.S. history, last month teamed up with Jessie Diggins of Minnesota to win the team sprint at the world championships. It was the country's first world championship in nordic skiing.

Diggins was 25th Saturday and Sadie Bjornsen, who trains with Randall at Alaska Pacific University, recorded a career-best ninth-place finish.


Reach Beth Bragg at bbragg@adn.com or 257-4335.

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