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U.S.’ Sophie Caldwell fifth in World Cup cross-country sprint final

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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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Jessie Diggins reaches third podium in five races at Tour de Ski

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When the multi-stage Tour de Ski cross-country skiing competition got underway last week, Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins had yet to stand on a World Cup podium during the 2018-19 season. Six days and five races later, the Minnesota native has now notched three podium finishes and is third in the women’s Tour de Ski standings.

Diggins finished third in the opening race of the Tour de Ski (a freestyle sprint in Toblach, Italy) and then secured another podium finish at the third stop, placing third behind American teammate Sophie Caldwell in a freestyle sprint in Val Muestair, Switzerland. The U.S. team dealt with wax problems and icing skis during yesterday’s 10km classic in Oberstdorf, Germany, with Diggins finishing 11th. She rebounded in today’s 10km freestyle pursuit in Oberstdorf, edging out Russia’s Yulia Belorukova by one-tenth of a second for the third and final spot on the podium.

Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg won today’s race for her second victory in as many days. The three-time Olympic medalist now leads both the Tour de Ski standings and the overall World Cup rankings. Full results from today’s race are here.

Competitors have a rest day tomorrow before the Tour de Ski concludes with two final races in Val di Fiemme, Italy, on Saturday and Sunday. In addition to earning World Cup points at each stop, the overall winner of the Tour de Ski will also gain an additional 400 World Cup points.

A number of top international athletes are not participating in the grueling multi-stage competition this year, including Norway’s Therese Johaug, who was leading the women’s overall World Cup standings until yesterday. Several other competitors, including Sweden’s Stina Nilsson, only competed in the first few stages of the Tour de Ski in order to focus on the remainder of the World Cup season, as well as the World Championships, which begin on February 20 in Austria.

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Photo finish: Sophie Caldwell ties for first U.S. World Cup XC win of season

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Sophie Caldwell will take the momentum of a photo-finish World Cup shared win into the Olympics, where she and a deep women’s team look to get U.S. cross-country skiing on the podium for the first time since 1976.

The 27-year-old Caldwell and Swiss Laurien van der Graaff couldn’t be separated after several minutes reviewing their ski-for-ski tie in Austria on Saturday.

“At first I was second in the finish, and then 10 minutes later I learn that I have won the race in a tie with Laurien,” Caldwell said, according to the International Ski Federation.

Caldwell, who is going to her second Olympics, notched the first U.S. World Cup win of the season. She and Jessie Diggins have combined to win five World Cup races over the last three seasons.

Caldwell’s win Saturday came in the freestyle sprint. The Olympic sprint will be contest in the classic skiing format, hurting the U.S. chances to make the podium.

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