Women's cross-country skiers earn sprint medals
American cross-country skier Kikkan Randall fell well short in her attempt to make Olympic history on Tuesday, exiting the individual sprint after the quarterfinals.
Instead, it was teammate Sophie Caldwell who had a shot in the finals of becoming the first American female cross-country skier to win an Olympic medal. In the end, she fell short too, literally falling in the final and finishing sixth out of six skiers.
Norwegians swept the top two spots in the race, with Maiken Caspersen Falla winning gold and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg winning silver. Slovenian Vesna Fabjan finished third to win bronze.
Despite the disappointing finish, Caldwell's sixth-place overall performance ranks as the best-ever Olympics finish for a U.S. female cross-country skier.
Caldwell, a 23-year-old Vermont native, is skiing in her first Olympics. She made her World Cup debut in December 2012, with 14th place in the individual competition, which is also her best World Cup results so far. She also finished 20th in the traditional style sprint at the 2013 World Ski Championships.
Only one skier has ever won cross-country gold at the Olympics, with Bill Koch taking silver in 1976.
Randall, a 31-year-old Alaska native competing in her fourth Olympics, finished fourth of six skiers in a quarterfinal heat that featured defending champion Marit Bjoergen of Norway and German sprint specialist Denise Herrmann. She ended up in 18th place overall.
While she hasn't reached the podium at the Olympics, she had come closer each year, going from 44th in the individual sprint in 2002 to ninth in 2006 to eighth in 2010. In Vancouver she was also part of the U.S. team that finished sixth in the team sprint.
She had also found success in other competitions, taking home silver in the individual sprint at the 2009 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, becoming the first American woman to win a medal in cross-country skiing at the event. She also teamed up with fellow American Jessie Diggins in 2013 to win the first ever world championship gold medal in the team sprint.
In 2012, Randall became the first American woman to win a World Cup discipline title in cross-country by topping the overall sprint standings.
The other American who competed in the event were Jessica Diggins, who finished 13th, and Ida Sargent, who came in 19th.