Anchorage skier Sadie Bjornsen was right in the mix for a medal Saturday during the opening stage of the Tour de Ski, but came up short during a thrilling finish in the women’s freestyle sprint.
Bjornsen went from second place to last place in the six-woman finals in Toblach, Italy.
It was a good day all the same for Bjornsen, who posted the day’s fastest qualifying time despite fighting a fever and chest cold in the days leading up to the race.
“To finally feel my legs back yesterday, just in time, was a miracle!” Bjornsen said by email. “It was fun to qualify as number 1, and know that I had the speed and power to take on the world today.”
Sweden’s Stina Nilsson put a three-second gap on the rest of the field to win the first race in the seven-stage Tour de Ski. She finished in 2 minutes, 36.26 seconds, ahead of a five-woman sprint for the remaining podium spots.
Those five were separated by four-tenths of a second. Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter was second in 2:39.26, Minnesota’s Jessie Diggins was third for her first podium finish of the season and Bjornsen was sixth in 2:39.66.
“As I crested the final descent in second place, I knew I was going to have to dig for every last ounce of energy into the finishing stretch,” said Bjornsen, who placed ninth overall in last year’s Tour de Ski. “As we rounded the corner, I felt all the girls coming flinging up beside me for essentially a five person photo finish.
“I was bummed to have missed out on the podium, especially considering I had skied most of the race in second position, but at the same time I walked away with a lot of belief.”
The only other American in the women’s race, Vermont’s Sophie Caldwell, finished ninth. No Alaskans skied in the men’s race.