If U.S. cross-country skiers didn't ply their trade in a vacuum, Kikkan Randall would be adorning magazine covers and selling shoes, watches and electronics. The Olympian from Alaska won her second straight sprint World Cup race last weekend, holding off two Norwegians on their home snow in Drammen, Norway. That's like beating the old Celtics on the parquet. One of the skiers Randall outsprinted was Marit Bjoergen, who won five medals, including three golds, at the Vancouver Olympics and now has seven for her career.
Randall's stunning victory vaulted her to the top of the World Cup sprint standings on the eve of the world Nordic championships in Oslo, where Randall's first race, the 1.4-kilometer skate sprint, will take place Thursday morning. She was eighth in the Olympic sprint at the Vancouver Games.
The result in Drammen also validated her unusual decision to take a break from training and competing in Europe in order to return to Anchorage and be on familiar soil. The return briefly cost her the World Cup lead, although she did get to attend her induction into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame. During the speech, she thanked her husband, Jeff, a Canadian skier, for allowing her to bring her roller skis on their honeymoon in 2008.
In what they insist will serve as a retirement race, Shauna Rohbock and Valerie Fleming won a silver medal at the world bobsled and skeleton championships last weekend. Cathleen Martini and Romy Logsch of Germany took first. Rohbock, who tweaked a hamstring on the first day, posted the fastest second-day times to pull to within .22 seconds of the lead.
Oh, no, we're done, insisted Rohbock, a 33-year-old specialist in the U.S. Army National Guard. "My body needs a break. I'm not so young anymore."
The medal marked the seventh in world and Olympic competition for Rohbock, a former pro soccer player, though none have been golds. She and Fleming won silver at the 2006 Olympics in Turin.
Steven Holcomb and Steve Langton finished sixth in the men's two-man competition, with Holcomb's signature four-man event set for Saturday.
With the world championships in short-track skating around the corner, Katherine Reutter set herself up as a favorite in the 1,500 meters by clinching the overall World Cup title for that event. Reutter, 22, won silver and bronze medals at the Vancouver Olympics and will compete in each individual event at the upcoming worlds in Sheffield, U.K. The effervescent Illinois native gained recognition before the Olympics last year when she appeared on the Colbert Report and asked Colbert to autograph her thigh.
As expected, Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the ice dance competition at the Four Continents figure skating championships in Taipei. The event is a sort of companion competition to the European championships in that it essentially includes skaters from everywhere else. Davis and White handily took first place, repeating the title they earned in 2009, with teammates Maia and Alex Shibutani in second place. Olympic champs Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada withdrew midway through the free dance after Virtue felt tightness in her left quad. She had undergone a second surgery in October for problems relating to chronic exertional compartment syndrome and recurrent ankle pain.
Last week, a touching documentary premiered across the country titled Rise. The film revisits the plane crash over Brussels that took the lives of the entire U.S. figure skating team in 1961, and it also chronicles the program's rebirth after the crash. All 19 living U.S. Olympic gold medalists were present at the premier, and many spoke on the film itself. U.S. ladies' champ Laurence (low-RANZ) Owen appeared on the cover of SI days before the crash.
"There isn't a skater alive today in the United States who doesn't feel their legacy," said Kristi Yamaguchi. "We owe them a great deal."
Defending Olympic champ Evan Lysacek also watched from the theater. Maribel Vinson Owen, Laurence's mother, who also died in the crash, mentored his coach, Frank Carroll.
"Everything Frank learned from Maribel Owen he passed on to me," Lysacek said. "I understand a lot more now about where that teaching came from and the thread that pulls us all together."
Rise was initially announced as a one-day only screening. There will be a second showing on March 7 and it is worth a look.