Tallinn City Sprints: Notes and Quotes From the American Skiers


You have by this point likely digested the result highlights from yesterday evening’s city sprint up and down an amphitheater in Estonia’s capital city. Klæbo won for the men, which is completely unsurprising, while Skistad prevailed over Sundling for the women, which would have been totally surprising at the start of this World Cup season, but is suddenly unsurprising as we approach its close. (Okay, if you are Swedish also Skistad unfairly knocked into Sundling and robbed her of her momentum coming into the finish in the women’s final; if you are Norwegian, rubbing is racing. The race jury seemed unconcerned.)

So those are the results. What did (some of) the Americans think about their night under the lights? Read on for more.

Jessie Diggins (fourth in her quarterfinal, 18th overall on the day)

“Wow. I gotta say that was super, super cool,” said Diggins in transcribed audio provided by USSS. “They had a full-on rock concert in between the qualifier and the heats. There were tons of fans, there were people in a hot tub on the side of the course. The whole thing — having it be a night sprint in a city, on a weekday — the course was lined with fans, it was an incredible atmosphere. So well done to them. That was really amazing and pretty awesome, so it was very fun to be a part of.

“We didn’t have our best day, I don’t think, as a team. But there were a lot of highlights, including Sammy Smith getting in there in 30th, making the heats. It was really fun to do a heat with her. Personally, I was hoping my heat number one would end up being super fast to try to get pulled to a lucky loser time. I didn’t get that time, so I didn’t move on.

“But I am actually really pleased with how my energy has come back. It was quite a lot doing a 50km, two sprints, and a 10km, all in the span of seven days. So I had been pretty tired yesterday, and I was really pleased to see that my energy bounced back. And you know, I’m missing power right now; I don’t feel incredibly strong. But I do feel like my energy came back, so that was really nice.”

Rosie Brennan (sixth in her quarterfinal, 29th overall on the day)

“I can’t wait to get my classic skis back on,” as Brennan summed up her Instagram post on last night’s race, while also taking pride in the fact that she is skate skiing in soft conditions far better than she would have just a few years ago.

Expanding on some of these themes in post-race audio comments from USSS, Brennan observed, “Today was a challenging city sprint. These types of events have never really been my forte, but today the conditions were quite challenging with temperatures very much above freezing, and some very deep but also icy conditions with a lot of tricky corners. So it was kind of a battle just to stay on your feet and to be comfortable on your skis. And I did my best to keep myself in there and fight for every point that I could get out there.

“Definitely it wasn’t my dream day, but also in the big picture, honestly, I would never even have qualified for a sprint like this a few years back. So there are some bigger-picture, perspective things to take away and certainly things that I’ll continue to work on moving forward. But in the meantime, I’m pretty excited to get back to some classic skiing and one last weekend.”

Hailey Swirbul (34th in qualifying, four places and 3.43 seconds out of the heats)

“It can sure be frustrating to be on the emotional roller coaster that is ski racing,” Swirbul wrote to Nordic Insights. “It’s impossible not to get frustrated eventually when races aren’t going the way I’d like them to! I am still finding lots of reasons to appreciate being here that go far beyond the racing aspects, but it is definitely nice to race for more than 3 minutes if you dedicate a whole day to a race. I’ve enjoyed being in Tallinn, and they did a wonderful job with the event! 

“One more weekend to go, and I’m holding out hope that it will be a rewarding celebration to finish out the year.”

JC Schoonmaker (also 34th in qualifying, four places and 0.36 seconds out of the heats)

I wrote to JC, in part, “It feels silly to say, ‘were you looking for more time out there’ when you missed the heats by literally 0.36 seconds over 1.4km… that said, is there anything you wish you’d done differently, or was that just how your day went today?”

Here’s Schoonmaker in response to these questions, in writing to Nordic Insights:

“Yea I was definitely looking to go faster than I did out there. When I look back at the qualifier I don’t see any big mistake or anything where I certainly lost time, I think it was more of a slowly bleeding out situation. My body just didn’t quite want to go the speed that I needed and it showed in the splits that I was behind from the start of the race. Just not my day today but all things considered when I had to make the call on whether or not to race on the morning of, I’ll take it.

“This has been a long season and at the end of a winter like this one you can only get what your body will give you. Definitely hoping I can end the season on a better note in Lahti but we’ll just have to see. Either way it’ll be a good time.”

*   *   *

The 2022/2023 World Cup season wraps up in Lahti this weekend with three more races: a skate team sprint on Friday, a classic sprint on Saturday, and a 20km mass start classic race on Sunday to close things out.

More details on this tomorrow in a viewing guide preview post, but Diggins is mathematically still in contention for the overall crystal globe, albeit also 110 points out with scant points still on the table and Tiril Udnes Weng skiing well ahead of her. Diggins trails Kerttu Niskanen by just 22 points for the distance globe with a single distance race remaining; on paper the classic race likely favors Niskanen, but a lot can happen over a 20km mass start race, and Jessie Diggins is, to put it mildly, skilled at digging deep in competition.

Results: women | men

— Gavin Kentch

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