Two weeks into the World Cup season, Sadie Bjornsen is positioning herself as an Olympic medal contender in the individual classic sprint.
For the second straight week, the Anchorage skier made the podium in a classic sprint race, one of the events that will be contested at the Winter Olympics in February.
Bjornsen, 28, grabbed third place in Saturday's race in Lillehammer, Norway, a week after her second-place finish in Kuusamo, Finland.
No other woman made the podium in both races.
"After last weekend's podium, I tried to keep the momentum and confidence going, and see what I could do today," Bjornsen said by email. "I managed to have a great qualifier, qualifying first, for the second year in a row here in Lillehammer.
"Last year I made some mistakes jumping in behind people, so today I decided I needed to use my strengths, and that was to just go as fast as I could over the entire course, and try to 'tire out' the sprinters."
Until this season, Bjornsen had one World Cup podium individual finish to her credit, a third-place finish in a 5-kilometer freestyle. Though most of her success has come in distance events, she showed her prowess at sprint distances last season at the World Championships, where she and Jessie Diggins captured the bronze medal in the team sprint.
In Saturday's finals, Bjornsen fought through the pain that comes with a long day of racing to edge Stina Nilsson of Sweden – last week's winner – for the third-place spot.
"As soon as I started, I could feel it was going to truly hurt," Bjornsen wrote. "I kept my head fighting the entire way, giving an extra push over the final climb despite barely being able to stand on my legs full of lactic acid. Then in the finishing stretch, thanks to an amazing pair of skis, I got a nice draft and was able to outsprint Stina."
Norway's Maiken Caspersen Falla won the race and Finland's Krista Parmakoski was second.
Bjornsen was among two Americans who made the finals. Diggins, of Afton, Minnesota, finished sixth, a result that clinched her a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. A third American, Vermont's Sophie Caldwell, finished ninth, a week after placing eighth in Finland.
"It feels pretty special to have 3 girls in the top 10," Bjornsen wrote. "That is darn exciting for a big season to come."
Bjornsen, Diggins and Caldwell have all secured berths on the Olympic team by virtue of their World Cup performances.
Two of Bjornsen's teammates on the Alaska Pacific University nordic team failed to advance from the women's preliminaries to the quarterfinals. Rosie Brennan finished 33rd and Kikkan Randall was 42nd.
In the men's race, APU's Erik Bjornsen, Sadie's brother, led the Americans in 35th place. APU's Scott Patterson was 74th. Claiming victory for the second straight week was Norway's Johannes Klaebo....Read more