Something happened in these last few weeks and I just went deep down the cross country skiing rabbit hole. I’ve never even been cross country skiing but fuck have I fallen in love with the sport. There is no reason why I stopped writing blogs, I just did. That said the world cup heading to Ulricehamn, Sweden has me fully torqued, I’m throwing back a few beers (not that great), and I have my friend group’s skiing (alpine not nordic) playlist bumping. So in my best Harry Mac voice – I’M SO BACH.
Sophie Caldwell Hamilton appreciation
Sophie is the key player in everything I type after this so I’m starting here. Sophie’s rad. She’s a third generation Olympian. The Caldwell clan has been representing this beautiful country in cross country skiing since the 1950’s. That’s 70 years (quick math). She also has a psychology degree from Dartmouth (that’s Ivy League you idiots), not a big deal.
Quick explanation time… The sport of cross country skiing encompasses a number different races, similar to swimming. The different strokes are classic (more of a running motion) and freestyle (commonly known as skate because it’s a skating motion). There are races of various lengths within those two styles, relays, and a few specific races that are somewhere in between which I’m not going to explain. This weekend in Ulricehamn there are two races: skate sprint and team sprint.
The US is noticeably better at freestyle. Of the 13 podiums the US women have reached this world cup season, 11 of them have been freestyle races. Sophie, specifically, is the US’s freestyle sprint secret weapon. She’s an absolute savage. She is so good at the sprint that casually mixed in with her ten sprint podiums she won a classic sprint in 2016, becoming the first American woman to win a classical race. Like I said, savage.
In the previous 5 seasons Sophie has finished 7, 11, 3, 4 , and 6 in the world cup sprint standings. The curse of being so good at the sprint is that she doesn’t get the start in every race, but instead gets to rest. Sophie has not competed in a race longer than 10k this season. She is largely kept as the American Sprint Specialist. So I hereby dub this weekend the weekend of Sophie Caldwell Hamilton. She will get the start in the freestyle sprint on Friday, and barring injury, she will be Jessie Diggins’ (also an absolute savage) partner in the team sprint on Sunday.
Drinking a different “beer” (much better but not beer) and CoCo just came, so you know I’m vibin’. I genuinely believe The United States of America Women’s Cross Country Skiing Team can and should win both races this weekend.
As I mentioned, Sophie Caldwell Hamilton is the ace in the hole for the US team when it comes to sprints. She isn’t alone.
Sadie Bjornsen will hopefully get a start Saturday as well. With the surname of Bjornsen it should come as no surprise that the woman can ski! She made her world cup debut last weekend and finished 10 and 15 in the first two events of the weekend, not bad for your first two starts of the year! She’s fresh and can contend for a podium.
Rosie Brennan looked at the calendar this year and said “This is my year.” Rosie has been competing in the world cup since 2009, but has never reached a solo podium until this season… Where she has reached five including two wins (one win being a freestyle sprint). Normally you don’t think of an athlete peaking at 32 but Rosie has found a whole new level.
If were talking savages then we can’t forget Jessie Diggins (Sophie’s partner in the team sprint(at least the one team sprint they did this year)). She is most likely going to win the world cup this year, she’s quite far ahead. She is the greatest American Cross Country Skier ever and in her book (HIGHLY recommend) she admits she isn’t the fastest skier nor does she have the best technique but she has the unique ability to endure excessive amounts of pain. It was an extremely eloquent way of saying she is the grittiest skier there is. Jessie isn’t alone in this but at the end of damn near every race she collapses in pain as she crosses the finish line. Literally leaves it all on the course.
I could have made my reasoning short. Season almost over. USA good at freestyle. Only freestyle sprints this weekend. Jessie, Rosie, and Sophie are ranked 5th, 6th, and 7th in the world cup sprint standings. BUT you never skip the opportunity to gas your team up.
Also team sprint is relay which means the US team is breaking out the relay socks and face paint. It’s one of the many reasons to love the US Team but can you imagine being a powerhouse nordic country, inventors of the sport, and getting beaten by some incredibly cheerful Americans in face paint and fun socks? In this house we never bet against face paint and relay socks.
That’s why I think the US Women’s Cross Country Skiing Team should win this weekend. That is also why I’m willing to put my body on the line. If the US Women’s Cross Country Skiing Team wins gold in the sprint and team sprint this weekend, I will get a cross country skiing themed tattoo. I know, tattoos are usually a punishment but I’m using it to celebrate here. I’m open to suggestions. The current front runner is Jessie’s stretch for gold at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. Let me know!
Now to the degeneracy.
I’ve delayed this 24 hours because the only place I can bet cross country skiing is Bovada and they currently have all the info about Saturday’s skate sprint wrong except the date and time. The race is a skate sprint in Ulricehamn. It is listed as a classic sprint in Oberstdorf (home of the world championships at the end of this month) and the odds reflect it being a classic sprint.
WE ADAPT AND OVERCOME! Mainly because I’ll get fired if I don’t include my plays. After scouring the internet for the odds on Saturday’s race, Inter Wetten (you know, the world renowned sportsbook Inter Wetten!) has come to our rescue. Lets assume Bovada will add similar odds.
If you went through this list (It’s ok I know you didn’t. I got you.) you’ll notice that the grittiest skier on planet earth, ruler of the pain dome (READ THE BOOK!), and team dance choreographer Jessie Diggins is not listed. Starters have not yet been released but I have no reason to believe she isn’t starting. Once again, we adapt and overcome.
Take Rosie Brennan +6900 and Sadie Bjornsen +10900 for 0.25u. You read those odds correctly. Sadie is well rested and has four sprint podiums, those odds are insulting. Rosie has already won a freestyle sprint this season, once again the odds are insulting. Whatever Jessie’s odds end up being, also take her for 0.25u.
Sophie Caldwell Hamilton. Her family basically started cross country skiing in this beautiful country! Ace in the hole for the US Team! FREESTYLE SPRINT QUEEN! She’s had two top 5 finishes in the three freestyle sprints so far this season. I fully expect her to be contending for the win and should reach the podium. Yet her odds are +3400!?!?! The implied probability on those odds is 2.9%! AM I GOING CRAZY!?!?! 0.5u Sophie Caldwell Hamilton +3400.
If you stuck with me this long, I appreciate it it’s good to be back. These races are usually early as hell in the morning but I promise you they’re awesome (except interval starts. They Intervals can be tough to follow). It’s either going to be on Peacock or Olympic Channel. Follow the US Ski and Snowboard team on Twitter, they always tell you when and how to watch.
As I sit here Friday morning, Bovada has added the Freestyle sprint in Ulricehamn except the date is wrong (at least they’re trying). I simply don’t have the time to update all of that this morning. They also don’t list some of the women at the top of the overall world cup leader board such as Jessie Diggins, Yulia Stupak, Ebba Andersson, and more. I haven’t seen starters announced anywhere but maybe some of the top skiers are sitting out for the team sprint on Sunday, don’t know. Most of the reporting for cross country isn’t in English so much like Bovada, I’m trying.