The greatest female skier in the history of the sport beat Anchorage's Kikkan Randall in a photo finish Sunday, whetting Randall's appetite for February's Winter Olympics.
Randall, a three-time Olympian who is a medal favorite heading into Sochi, Russia, finished second to Norway's Marit Bjoergen in a World Cup freestyle sprint race in Davos, Switzerland.
The freestyle sprint is Randall's specialty and is on the schedule for Sochi.
Bjoergen overtook Randall in the final meters of the 1.5-kilometer race and won by mere centimeters -- Bjoergen's second World Cup victory in two days and her 62nd in a glorious career.
"While I really wanted to win here today, this close finish is really good for my motivation and training focus from now until Sochi," Randall said in an emaiI. "I doubt Bjoergen and I will line up again before then, so I have to work hard and be ready to ski faster on the finish stretch next time."
Randall was one of four U.S. Ski Team members to qualify in the top 30 during the morning preliminaries. Anchorage's Sadie Bjornsen went out in the quarterfinals and placed 27th. But Randall, Sophie Caldwell of Vermont and Jessie Diggins of Minnesota each won a quarterfinal heat to give the United States three of the 12 semifinal spots.
"Awesome to have the team ski so well today," Randall said. "It was a super-tight qualification so it was awesome to get four girls in the top 30. Almost thought we might have more than one American in the final. Just a little more experience for those girls and they'll be right in there."
Just missing a chance to ski in the quarterfinals was Anchorage's Holly Brooks, who placed 33rd in qualifying.
In winning her semifinal, Randall skied the fastest time of the day, covering the high-altitude course in 2 minutes, 55.59 seconds -- more than half a second ahead of Bjoergen, who finished second in that heat.
In the finals, Bjoergen won in 2:57.60. Randall was a heartbeat behind in 2:57.61.
"Kikkan was very strong in the semifinals," Bjoergen said at a postrace press conference. "So I knew it would be tough in the finals. I fought all the way to the line and I am very happy about the result."
Randall nearly crashed when she found herself in a tight spot as she came up on a Swedish skier, whose line pushed Randall toward the V boards.
"Luckily I didn't crash and I could change direction and still have a chance to get the lead before the hill," Randall said. "Unfortunately that move probably cost me a little bit for my next acceleration."
With just meters to go, Randall gave Bjoergen the smallest of opportunities, and Bjoergen made the most of it.
"I could tell Marit was coming up beside me and I had a little bobble about 10 (meters) before the finish that lost my advantage," Randall said. "I tried to get it back with a good lunge but it wasn't quite enough this time."
By BETH BRAGG