Kikkan Randall

Norway’s Bjoergen wins ladies’ 10km at Toblach; USA’s Randall finishes 15th

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Norway’s Marit Bjoergen claimed victory in the ladies’ 10km classic during today’s FIS World Cup cross-country skiing event at Toblach, Italy, while Olympic medal threat Kikkan Randall (pictured) of the U.S. finished 15th as she tuned up for Sochi.

Elizabeth Stephen was the top American finisher in the race, coming home just outside the Top 10 in 11th place. Two more Americans finished in the Top 20, with Sadie Bjornsen in 17th and Ida Sargent in 20th.

The U.S. cross-country team has just completed a week-long training session in Italy, and Randall said in a U.S. team release that the session “went exactly as we had planned.”

“It was great to get back to racing today after another training break,” she said about today’s proceedings. “I haven’t done so much distance racing since Christmas, so it’s taking a little bit to get the feeling back…Today’s race was a great effort to kick my body back into race gear and I’m looking forward to another skate sprint tomorrow.”

Those sprint events on Sunday will serve as the final races for the team before heading off to Sochi for the Olympics.

Randall leads the way for the team, as she aims to become the first U.S. woman to win a cross-country medal and the first American, man or woman, to win cross-country gold.

To do that, she may have to go through Bjoergen, who is the defending Olympic champion in the individual sprint and is a seven-time Olympic medalist overall.

Bjoergen is also aiming for big things in Sochi, as she looks to close in on fellow Norwegian and 12-time Olympic medalist Bjorn Daehlie in her bid to become the most decorated Winter Olympian ever.

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Mikaela Shiffrin wrestles with doubt in seconds before World Cup downhill debut

Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States, skis during the third training run for the World Cup women's downhill ski race in Lake Louise, Alberta, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP)
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After a momentary panic in the start house, Mikaela Shiffrin raced to a tie for 18th in the first downhill of her World Cup career in Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion who has also won a World Cup giant slalom, has been slowly adding the speed events of super-G and downhill to her repertoire the last two seasons.

“It wasn’t bad,” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com. “I certainly didn’t risk anything crazy.”

Her result Friday, 1.99 seconds behind Slovenian winner Ilka Stuhec, came after Shiffrin was 18th, 24th and 30th fastest in downhill training runs the previous three days. Shiffrin also had to wait several minutes in the start house as the racer before her crashed (video here).

“That was just a bummer,” Shiffrin said, according to the Denver Post. “I was like, ‘Just don’t let it affect you,’ but being up there for 10 minutes, like, ‘What happened? What’s taking them so long? What’s going on? Is she hurt?’

“Then I started doubting myself, like my technique going off the jumps, which is actually pretty good. I was going back and forth between, ‘Should I even be doing this? Maybe I just should pull out because I don’t want to kill myself.’ Then I’m like, ‘You’re absolutely fine, you haven’t felt sketched out a single time on this track in the past three days, so stick with that. You don’t have to go crazy.'”

“To be fast in speed there certainly needs to be a certain level of risk, and I know that, but now, if [giant slalom] and slalom are my main priority this season, I don’t need to be going crazy in a downhill with flat light and after I got iced [waiting so long],” Shiffrin said, according to SkiRacing.com.

Stuhec won Friday’s race by .22 of a second over Italian Sofia Goggia. Swede Kajsa Kling was third.

A race replay can be seen here. Full results are here.

Lindsey Vonn, owner of a record 18 wins at Lake Louise, is missing the annual World Cup stop in Alberta due to a broken arm from a November crash. Vonn had raced at Lake Louise each of the previous 15 seasons.

Last season, Shiffrin made her World Cup debut in the super-G at Lake Louise and finished 15th.

The women have another downhill Saturday and a super-G on Sunday in Lake Louise, both streaming live on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app (schedule here).

MORE: Vonn eyes January return from her most painful injury

High-speed crash at World Cup downhill in Lake Louise (video)

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Swiss Joana Haehlen crashed into netting at high speed during a World Cup downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta, on Friday.

Haehlen, 24, lost her right ski after landing from a jump and sped uncontrollably off course. She braced for impact, slammed into red netting and was turned around before landing with neither of her skis still attached.

She lay on the snow while being attended to and eventually skied down the mountain on her own.

It caused a 10-minute delay before the next skier, American Mikaela Shiffrin, could take her run.

VIDEO: Vonn details the most painful injury of her career