Nov. 27, 3:40 p.m.
The lede: Klaebo swept all three Ruka events for the second time (2017 was the other and he came close in 2019 and 2020) on the men’s side and Frida Karlsson destroyed Ebba Andersson on the sixth lap to win her fourth career World Cup race.
The good, the bad, and the Ustiugov
The good was that Diggins fought back and made a move into third near the end of the race. The bad was
that she finished off the front of said group. The Ustiugov was that I missed a golden chance, as the broadcaster to say something like, “Are you kidding me with this skiing Jessie!!” ala Paul Allen, when she made her Prefontaine-esque bid for the podium. We’ll save it for when Diggins rounds into sharper form, which I predict will be right around TDS time.
Some other good: Obviously, we need to give Scott Patterson some credit for his magnificent Ruka Rally (we WILL NOT stop with the word-play), as he hopped on the Kruger train to go from bib No. ‘who cares’ to relevancy. Also, Novie McCabe had a quietly nice race I thought, although, I will forever be biased because she shares my daughter’s first name. Some other bad – Halfvy getting the podium ripped out from him was crazy….and me kinda sorta noticing it on the replay — working on exactly 2.1356 minutes of sleep — albeit with some undefined and unsure haze… was pure Ustiugov.
Another guy who deserves some props
I was so hoping to see Logan Diekmann make it into the rounds on Friday. He was 34th in the Lahti sprint last spring and was 32nd in this weekend’s sprint. To use Chris Collinsworth’s verbiage: “here’s a guy” who has done everything he can with his talent in pursuit of a World Cup dream. He worked his way through the NCAA ranks and, at an age where some people would be tempted to see an athletic enterprise as being the less fruitless option of starting a business career or a family, is grinding and chipping away at the gap between him and the best in the world.
I love that.
Far too often, if someone isn’t a total stud at 19, or if they’ve had a rough patch at 23, we — and the athlete themselves — just give up. Even though there is some physiological data pointing to a specific ‘peak’ for men … I honestly might throw that in the pile of hogwash I wrote about last week. There’s no reason Diekmann can’t be a solid World Cup contributor and even Olympian come 2026 …people are quick to point out that an athlete’s weight is just “a number.” Well, so is age. And, it’s not like Logan is a month away from receiving social security, but Even Northug is 27 and the way we talk about his career, you’d think he grew up racing with Jack Rabbit Johannsen. By Norwegian standards, Diemann being a 25-year-old World Cup rookie is old, but I think it’s perfectly fine.
Another thing: If the club-based development model ends up thriving the way U.S. Ski and Snowboard thinks it will, then people like Diekmann are the trailblazers athletes competing 10-20 years from now should — but probably won’t — thank. Presumably, a perfect future for the U.S. Ski Team is one filled with vibrant, excelling clubs like BSF, chock full of talent at all ages, each being served with exceptional coaching. But, that’s a dream for a reason.
Right now, our club system isn’t as robust as Scandinavian ones, so the work Newell and his athletes (and those at other newly formed clubs around the country) are doing is that much harder. It’s pretty incredible what he’s done in such a short time — building a team that’s talented, fun, markets themselves well, and is just pure class….and is already earning World Cup starts. Sure, I have some bias from getting a chance to see it from the inside … .but that kind of proves my point.
I’ve reached out to athletes and coaches with far less stature than Newell for interviews, stories, etc., and many don’t think I’m worth their time. The BSF leader always replies and I’ve heard other stories that convince me he truly cares about growing skiing in this country. I know some citizens/master blasters who have had longer phone conversations with Newell —where the 4x Olympian shares his knowledge on training and technique — than they probably have had with their own parents.
His team made themselves available for my own master’s thesis research — which isn’t just an act of kindness. It’s a very significant step forward in the synergy between science and sport. Look at Norway — they pride themselves on their vast amount of scientific research, which, because it utilizes the elite/pro populations, can provide those populations with beneficial knowledge!
Those kinds of humble interactions and in-the-trenches work are refreshing, and they’re adding positivity to the U.S. cross-country ski narrative. Finally, they’re laying the future foundation for a country where, just maybe, everyone spends Sunday afternoons skiing in the woods.
Speaking of which, it’s time for Ajee and I to get out for a ski. If there are typos on this column, or if I said something inaccurate, I apologize — it’s a blog.