Vermonter Sophie Caldwell Rips The Downhills for a World Cup Win. Video at end.
“Wow. Today was an incredible day,” said Peru, Vermont’s Sophie Caldwell after she crossed the finish line in first place to score a career first World Cup win Tuesday in a 1.2k classic sprint in Obertsdorf, Germany. “I definitely did not expect this when I woke up this morning!” It was only the second time a U.S. woman has won a World Cup race.
While her teammate Jessie Diggins had a spectacular wipeout as she was taken out on one of the long downhills on the course, Caldwell, 25, held it together. “I knew I had great skis and I tried to let it rip on the downhills,” said Caldwell.
After qualifying third (one of three Americans to do so), Caldwell won her opening heat with the fastest time of the round. She was second in the semifinals. In the finals, Caldwell gradually moved her way up to the front of the pack, avoiding getting caught up in Sweden’s Stina Nilsson’s fall, and fought until the end, executing a picture perfect lunge at the finish line to win by a nose. She edged out Norway’s Heidi Weng and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg by 0.10 and 0.80 seconds, respectively.
Caldwell grew up at the Stratton Mountain School where her father, Sverre was headmaster and coached the elite cross country team. Her grandfather, John Caldwell, a former Olympian, also wrote the first authoritative book on the sport The Cross Country Ski Book.
Caldwell, who went on to race for Dartmouth, was at home on the hills. “I really like courses with sketchy downhills, so my goal in the final was to stay as close to Ingvild (Flugstad Østberg) as possible on the ups and then to send it on the downhills. I kept expecting a Norwegian or Swede to come flying by me in the finishing lanes, but I didn’t see anyone until the end and then threw in the best lunge I could. It was funny because (Head Women’s Coach) Matt Whitcomb was giving me lunge advice between each round in case I had to use it, and I guess I did!”
Last season, Caldwell earned her first World Cup Podium placing 3rd in the Lahti, Finland skate sprint. She also qualified for the Olympic Team for the first time and finished sixth in the sprint in Sochi and finished last season ranked 8th in the world for sprinting.
It was the first time a U.S. skier has won a classic sprint and left Caldwell in third position in the Tour de Ski sprint standings and put the U.S. women’s team in fourth overall. On the men’s team, neighboring southern Vermont and Stratton Mountain School skier Andy Newell was the only American to qualify and finished 17th, making a great day for cross country skiers from our little state.
“Everyone works so hard and I think the cool thing about it all is that we wake up each day and know it could be any one of us battling for that podium,” said Caldwell. “Maybe today was my day, but tomorrow can be someone else’s. At the end of the day, we’re all going to be there supporting each other because it’s the team behind each one of us that gets us here.”
Produced with reporting courtesy USSA.