Kikkan Randall celebrates her win in Lahti and with it a second straight FIS Cross Country World Cup sprint title. (Getty Images/AFP-Markku Ulander)
LAHTI, Finland (March 9) - Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) outskied World Champion Marit Bjoergen, winning a photo finish by a boot length, to take the win in a freestyle sprint in Lahti clinching her second straight FIS Cross Country World Cup sprint title. Sweden's Emil Joensson won for the men and also clinched the sprint crown with two classical sprints remaining in the season.
Kikkan Randall (Anchorage) won all three heats including a photo finish over World Champion Marit Bjoergen to win a freestyle sprint in Lahti and clinch the FIS Cross Country World Cup sprint title.
The win gives Randall a 488-280 lead over Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk with two classical sprints remaining. It also boosted her into third in the overall standings.
Randall qualified 11th and powered through her heats.
In the final matchup, Finland's Riikka Lilja-Sarasoja took an early lead before Bjoergen took command on the primary hill with Randall right on her tail. On a short hill just a few hundred meters to the finish, Randall made her move to pass Bjoergen. It was a fierce battle to the wire with Bjoergen coming on strong. But Randall executed a picture perfect finish line lunge to win in a photo finish by about a boot length.
It was Randall's sixth World Cup or Stage World Cup win of the season. It was also her 100th career World Cup start.
Sadie Bjornsen (Winthrop, WA) had a career best ninth. Bjornsen made it through the quarter finals as a lucky loser and was just three tenths away from a spot in the finals, going out in Randall's semi.
Jessie Diggins (Afton, MN) was 25th.
Andy Newell (Shaftsbury, VT) was 16th in qualifying but went out in a super fast opening heat.
The Lahti Ski games continue Sunday with the men's 15k and women's 10k classic.
QUOTES Kikkan Randall
Today was my 100th World Cup start so I was really hoping to make it a special one. It turned out to be a great day. I felt strong and was able to make good tactical moves in all my heats. I was really psyched to be going up against Bjoergen in the final. She hadn't raced any of the other skate sprints this season and it's always fun to be able to go head to head with one of our sport's greatest athletes.
I knew I wanted to be leading coming off the final turn as it's really fast and short finish stretch. I could feel Marit coming up beside me in those final meters and knew I needed to be prepared for the lunge. Timed it just right today and am super happy to win the final skate sprint of the season.
It's a really good feeling to have locked up the overall World Cup sprint title today. When I was injured this fall I thought I might have to take the sprint title off my goals list. But then the season started so strong for me and it was great feeling to be back in the red bib again. I was really anxious to see if I could hold my shape all the way to the end of the season. Now, I can really enjoy the final two classic sprints in Drammen and Stockholm.
The best part of winning these races is seeing the cheer and enthusiasm in the faces of our awesome staff and my teammates who are work so hard to help us be competitive. My skis were awesome today and it's really cool to see what a well oiled machine we have become. It feels good to be contributing more Cross Country hardware to the awesome haul of awards that the USSA teams have been collecting this year!
Matt Whitcomb, Cross Country Coach Today's course was short, twisty, and wild. A course like today opens up many opportunities to get tangled up or boxed out. Kikkan took advantage of her ability to start quickly and got ahead of the mess in each of her heats. In the end, the win was decided by the lunge in a photo finish.
The path Kikkan is blazing for our country is becoming really well lit. Today you saw Sadie march right down it with her first World Cup top ten.
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