Updated with pictures from Holly Brooks!
I get it now – why people work so hard, train for so many years, push themselves right to the edge in races. It’s just so exciting to be a part of the World Cup! Because when thousands of people are screaming, waving flags, cheering, singing, and even camping on the side of the race trail, it’s impossible not to get psyched up and want to do your very best.
Today, I got to experience the excitement and energy of the World Cup for the first time – in Drammen, Norway, of all places! It was a beautiful, sunny day and not too cold; pretty much ideal, in fact. I was very excited and more than a little nervous. My stomach was in such a tight knot I’m surprised I was able to breathe at all. The sprint course was fast and short, but I loved it and soaked up the noise of the crowd for my entire race – all 2:26.35 seconds of it! I ended up finishing 46th, Sadie finished 42nd, Holly finished 57th…..and Kikkan?
KIKKAN WON THE WORLD CUP!!! She qualified in 6th and went on to impress the world as she skied smoothly with a blistering finishing kick that propelled her right past the other girls. Which other girls? Only a bunch of Olympians and Norwegian favorites. And yes, Kikkan kicked their ass. Alex Harvey from Canada got the silver in the Men’s sprint, and it was awesome to watch since he also had a good finishing stretch that made the race very exciting. It was simply amazing to be out on the side of the trail, watching it live (and on the huge screen behind us when the girls went over the hill). Being at a World Cup is such an incredible experience – the noise, the signs and flags, the people running around half naked, the live band….I could go on for a long time. There was a snowmobile that kept pace with the racers and filmed it for Eurosport, and the part of the US team that wasn’t racing watched the TV at the hotel. And they provided excellent coverage! That’s something I love about Europe. They follow Nordic skiing more religiously than deranged football fans at the superbowl back home.
Another cool thing going on in Drammen this weekend was the fact that the World Cup races were on the ski trails for the first time. Usually, the sprints are held in the city around this sweet church, and they’d move the distance races to the venue in Oslo. But this year is the big 200th anniversary celebration for the city of Drammen, and the World Cup races were part of the celebration (which might help explain the 15,000 fans that showed up this weekend).
After the race we packed our things for the short 40 minute drive to Oslo, where we’re staying at a Radisson Blu hotel for the World Championships. I’m really excited to be back in Oslo and tomorrow I will get to train on the Holmenkollen venue for the first time.