Simi Hamilton picked an opportune time, one month before the Olympics, to accomplish something no U.S. men’s cross-country skier had ever done.
Hamilton, a 2010 Olympian, notched the first Tour de Ski stage victory for an American man, a sprint in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, on Tuesday.
It was a World Cup “stage” race rather than a regular World Cup, and the field was lacking Olympic medal threats, but it marked a breakthrough for a program that owns one Olympic medal — Bill Koch‘s silver in 1976.
“I didn’t think I had it until I was, like, five feet across the line,” Hamilton said, according to Faster Skier. “I just focused on skiing through the finish and sticking to my guns.”
Hamilton, 26, has never finished better than seventh in a World Cup race. Koch was the last American man to win a World Cup race, 30 years ago.
The U.S. women’s cross-country team, led by Kikkan Randall, has so far garnered all of the headlines in pursuit of the first American Olympic cross-country skiing medal since Koch. Randall, a 2013 world champion in the team sprint, has won two World Cup silver medals this season.
Randall has also won two Tour de Ski stages in her career.
“I’m in very good company for sure; Kikkan is a hero to us as U.S. skiers,” Hamilton said, according to Faster Skier. “This hasn’t really sunk in yet so I don’t know what to say.”