OBERSTDORF, GERMANY >> Sophie Caldwell, from Peru, Vermont, scored a career first World Cup win Tuesday in a 1.2k classic sprint, out lunging Norway's Heidi Weng in the finals of the Tour de Ski stage in Oberstdorf. 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.
"Wow. Today was an incredible day. I definitely did not expect this when I woke up this morning!" she said.
The key to Caldwell's success was staying in control on the first long downhill. The hill became problematic throughout the women's heats causing several crashes, including an opening round incident when Jessie Diggins was taken out. Caldwell handled the hill cautiously but with intense speed in each heat advancing her all the way to the finals.
"I knew I had great skis and I am confident in my downhill skills, I tried to let it rip on the downhills," said Caldwell. After qualifying third, 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, executing a picture perfect lunge to beat Weng at the finish line.
"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," said Caldwell. "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!"
With her win, Caldwell became the third American woman to win a World Cup including Alison Owen Spencer, who won a race in Telemark, Wisc. in the early days of the World Cup, as well as Kikkan Randall, who has 14 World Cup wins.
"I'm really psyched with today and feel extremely lucky to be a part of this team," said Caldwell, who comes from a Vermont family with a great legacy in the sport going back to grandfather John Caldwell. "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. 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."
In the men's competition, Norway's Emil Iversen also claimed his first ever World Cup victory over Russia's Sergey Ustiugov who finished second. Iversen hung back in the final heat until the last rolling hill leading into the finish where he had the last boost of energy to out sprint Ustiugov. The U.S. qualified one out of three men with Andy Newell leading, qualifying ninth and finishing 17th overall.