Simi Hamilton and Jessie Diggins, both of whom finished on the podium in the first stage at Ski Tour Canada last season, will lead the U.S. Team at the 2017 Nordic World Ski Championships next month. (USSA)
PARK CITY, UT (Jan. 18, 2017) - The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association has named 17 athletes to the cross country team that will compete in the International Ski Federation's 2017 Nordic World Ski Championships next month in Lahti, Finland. The biennial World Championships brings together the best athletes in the sport for the Feb. 22-March 5 event which will be live streamed in its entirely on NBCsports.com.
"This is undoubtedly the strongest team that the USA has ever fielded at a major championships," said Head Coach Chris Grover. "We have many veterans with World Cup podium experience in this group - athletes that are at the heights of their careers and their racing abilities. We have an experienced staff that knows how to manage the challenges of the major events and a world-class service team that has been making great skis all season long. Lahti will be the perfect setting for the USA to showcase our newfound strength in cross country ski racing."
The team includes three medalists from past championships including Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN), Caitlin Gregg (Minneapolis) and Kikkan Randall (Anchorage). Diggins and Randall teamed up to win gold in the 2013 World Championships team sprint in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Diggins and Gregg went silver-bronze two years ago in the 10 km individual freestyle event in Falun, Sweden. Randall also won silver in the freestyle sprint at Liberec, Czech Republic in 2009. Only four Americans have won a cross country medal at World Championships.
They will be joined by Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA), making her fourth team appearance, coming on heels of her first World Cup podium during the Tour de Ski. It will be the fifth worlds for Liz Stephen (E. Montpelier, VT), who was second fastest in the Tour de Ski hill climb. Other World Championships veterans will include Sophie Caldwell (Peru, VT), Ida Sargent (Orleans, VT) and Rosie Brennan (Park City, UT). New to the team this year is Chelsea Holmes (Girdwood, AK) who was on the podium at the recent L.L.Bean U.S. Championships at the Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Utah.
Leading the men will be Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO), who was on the podium in a freestyle sprint in January, along with veterans Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT), Noah Hoffman (Aspen, CO) and Erik Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA). Among a host of first time team members are Kyle Bratrud (Eden Prairie, MN) and Ben Lustgarten (Burlington, VT), who each won gold at the recent L.L.Bean U.S. Championships at Soldier Hollow. They will be joined by Tad Elliott (Durango, CO), on his third worlds team, and Cole Morgan (Bozeman, MT), making his first appearance.
It will mark the ninth appearance on a World Championships team for Randall and eighth for Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT).
Lahti is a regular stop on the World Cup tour and will be holding the Championships for a record seventh time, with the first dating back to 1926 (1926, 1938, 1958, 1978, 1989, 2001, 2017). Over 700 athletes from more than 60 nations will take part in cross country, nordic combined and ski jumping. A quarter-million spectators are expected over the 12 days of the Championships.
"Lahti is an iconic cross country venue with a proud tradition of ski racing and a massive fanbase," added Grover. "The trails have been redesigned to provide more technical and aerobic challenges for the athletes and more opportunities to place the racers in front of the fans. The atmosphere will be loud and electric."
Competition opens on Thursday, February 23 with the freestyle sprint - the strongest event of the Championships for the USA. Randall, Diggins, Caldwell, Newell and Hamilton have all been on the podium in World Cup sprints in the past. Action continues Saturday, February 25 with the multi-technique skiathlon. Diggins was second in the Tour de Ski skiathlon.
The mid-distance events this year are classic, with 10 km for women and 15 km for men. The women will be eyeing a medal in the 4x5 km relay event on Thursday, March 2, with the men running the following day in a 4x10 km relay. The Championships conclude March 4-5 with a 30 km women's and 50 km men's freestyle mass start.
2017 USA NORDIC WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS CROSS COUNTRY TEAM (Name, hometown, USSA club, birthdate, age at start of championships)
Men Kyle Bratrud, Eden Prairie, MN (Central Cross Country) 2/9/1993 (23) Erik Bjornsen, Winthrop, WA (Alaska Pacific University) 7/15/1991 (25) * ** Tad Elliott, Durango, CO (Ski and Snowboard Club Vail) 7/2/1988 (28) * Simi Hamilton, Aspen, CO (Stratton T2) 5/14/1987 (29) * ** Noah Hoffman, Aspen, CO (Ski and Snowboard Club Vail) 8/1/89 (27) * ** Ben Lustgarten, Burlington, VT (Craftsbury Green) 4/17/1992 (24) Cole Morgan, Bozeman, MT (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation) 3/10/1994 (22) Andy Newell, Shaftsbury, VT (Stratton T2) 11/30/1983 (33) * **
Women Sadie Bjornsen, Winthrop, WA (Alaska Pacific University) 11/21/1989 (27) * ** Rosie Brennan, Park City, UT (Alaska Pacific University) 12/2/1988 (28) * ** Sophie Caldwell, Peru, VT (Stratton T2) 3/22/1990 (26) * ** Jessie Diggins, Afton, MN (Stratton T2) 8/26/1991 (25) * ** Caitlin Gregg, Minneapolis (Loppet Nordic Racing) 11/7/1980 (36) * ** Chelsea Holmes, Girdwood, AK (Alaska Pacific University) 1/20/1987 (30) Kikkan Randall, Anchorage (Alaska Pacific University) 12/31/1982 (34) * ** Ida Sargent, Orleans, VT (Craftsbury Nordic) 1/25/1988 (29) * ** Liz Stephen, E. Montpelier, VT (Burke Mountain Academy) 1/12/1987 (30) * **
* Past World Championship team member ** Olympian
MOST WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS TEAMS (3 or more teams) Kikkan Randall - 9 (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017) Andy Newell - 8 (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017) Liz Stephen - 5 (2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017) Sadie Bjornsen - 4 (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017) Jessie Diggins - 4 (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017) Caitlin Gregg - 4 (2007, 2009, 2015, 2017) Simi Hamilton - 4 (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017) Noah Hoffman - 4 (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017) Ida Sargent - 4 (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017) Sophie Caldwell - 3 (2013, 2015, 2017) Erik Bjornsen - 3 (2013, 2015, 2017)
2017 FIS NORDIC WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS Lahti, Finland Cross Country Schedule (Finnish times; seven hours ahead of EST)
Sunday, Feb. 26 11:30 a.m. - Classic team sprint semi finals and finals
Tuesday, Feb. 28 1:45 p.m. - Women's 10k classic
Wednesday, Mar. 1 1:45 p.m. - Men's 15k classic
Thursday, Mar. 2 3:00 p.m. - Women's 4x5k relay
Friday, Mar. 3 1:30 p.m. - Men's 4x10k relay
Saturday, Mar. 4 2:30 p.m. - Women's 30k freestyle mass start
Sunday, Mar. 5 2:30 p.m. - Men's 50k freestyle mass start 5:35 p.m. - Closing Ceremony
PAST USA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS MEDALISTS 1 - Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall, freestyle team sprint - 2013, Val di Fiemme 2 - Jessie Diggins, 10 km freestyle - 2015, Falun 2 - Kikkan Randall, freestyle sprint - 2009, Liberec 2 - Bill Koch, 15k - 1976, Seefeld (Olympics doubling as World Championships) 3 - Caitlin Gregg, 10 km freestyle - 2015, Falun 3 - Bill Koch, 30k - 1982, Oslo