After finishing on the sprint podium once already this season, U.S. cross-country skier Sophie Caldwell looked well-positioned to notch another top three finish in Dresden, Germany.
After qualifying with the second-best time, Caldwell was surrounded by Swedes on the leaderboard. Caldwell sat just .49 hundredths of a second behind the leader, Sweden’s Hanna Falk, and .80 hundredths ahead of Falk’s countrywoman, Stina Nilsson. Behind Nilsson in fourth was Sweden’s Evelina Settlin.
In a stacked quarterfinal heat, Caldwell, Falk and Settlin were forced to battle it out to advance to the semifinals. Caldwell claimed her spot, finishing second in the heat, but Settlin and Falk, with third and fourth place finishes respectively, were forced to sweat it out. But what may have been a strategy to save their legs for the final, Falk and Settlin did eventually earn the two lucky loser spots to advance to the semis.
Racing in the first semifinal heat, Caldwell finished her first lap by bringing up the rear. But what a difference one more trip around the course can make. Caldwell stuck to her race plan, ultimately finishing second behind Nilsson.
In the second lap of the final, Caldwell attempted to make her move on the outside, but was passed on the turn for home on the inside. Unable to catch the lead pack, and running out of snow before the finish, Caldwell crossed the line in fifth. A trio of Swedes, Nilsson, Maja Dahlqvist and Jonna Sundling raced to the top three spots in the final. Full results are here.
Caldwell’s sprint podium finish this year came during the Tour de Ski, when she raced into the two spot at Val Muestair. The U.S.’ Jessie Diggins joined Caldwell on that same podium in third. Diggins, who finished sixth overall in Tour de Ski last week did not race in the sprint in Dresden.
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