New name, same old Sadie.
Anchorage skier Sadie Maubet Bjornsen — who added the “Maubet” after getting married last summer — fought her way onto the podium Friday in the first World Cup cross-country ski race of the season.
Bjornsen, a two-time Olympian who has ranked in the top 16 of the World Cup overall standings in each of the last four seasons, came from behind to claim third place in a classic sprint race in Ruka, Finland.
She got caught up in a tangle of skiers and equipment on a tight corner during the six-woman finals and was in fifth place by the time she got out of the jam.
She worked her way into fourth place and secured third place with a finish-line lunge that edged Norway’s Ane Appelkvist Stenseth for the final podium spot. Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla won the race and Sweden’s Jonna Sundling was second.
“Wow, what a way to start the season,” Bjornsen said by email. “… As I lunged, I knew I had given it all.”
Bjornsen got off to a good start by posting the second-fastest qualifying time on the 1.4-kilometer course. She led a group of four Americans into the quarterfinals, including Anchorage’s Rosie Brennan, who was 29th, but Bjornsen was the only one to make it to the finals.
She sailed through the quarterfinals and semifinals but found trouble halfway through the finals.
“Some tangling at the corner left me kind of stuck,” she said. “I’m not sure if my ski or my pole was stuck under someone but I tried to just be patient and let them get off without breaking any equipment.
“… In a perfect world, I would have loved to fight for the win without the tangle, but the season is very young, and there are tons more races to come!”
Matt Whitcomb, the head women’s cross-country coach for the U.S. Ski Team, said getting a podium-finish in the first race of the season is special — and the way Bjornsen battled made it even more special.
“The fight required of Sadie, to ski her way back to the podium, is really the gift she has as a racer,” he said in a press release from U.S. Skiing and Snowboarding. “She was locked in on that last climb — determined not to let that tangle define her day — and that made the difference. Sadie doesn’t quit.”
Bjornsen and Brennan are among several skiers from the Alaska Pacific University nordic program who are in Finland for the World Cup openers.
None of the American men advanced to the quarterfinals; Anchorage’s Erik Bjornsen, Sadie’s brother, was the second-fastest American and the top Alaskan in qualifying, placing 47th. Norway’s Johannes Klaebo won the men’s race.