Long Day for Cross Country Skiers

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Today at the Alpensia Biathlon Center home of the Cross Country (XC) skiing venue, the Women’s and Men’s Standing and Visually Impaired Classifications skied the XC skiing technique known as freestyle or skate skiing for their longest races held during the competition. The women skated 3 loops of 5km for a total of 15km and the men skate skied the same loop 4 times to complete their 20km distance. This day would prove to be the warmest yet with several competitors racing in short sleeves and shorts on this spectator friendly course.

Jake Adicoff and Guide Sawyer Kesselheim on the 20km course. PHOTO CREDIT: Ken King

Team USA fielded 3 athletes, in today’s 4 events, Jake Adicoff, having raced in Sochi, this, his second Winter Paralympic Games and Mia Zutter and Grace Miller who are both first-time competitors on the Paralympic stage. Each of these athletes mentioned how fast their skis were and the warm weather, but Jake, a visually impaired skier who skis with his guide, Sawyer Kesselheim, summed it up the best, “Yeah, actually it’s really pretty warm out, I’m in a short sleeve shirt, but the skiing stayed fast it was awesome out there”.

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Mia Zutter and Guide Kristina Trygstad-Saari on course during Women’s Visually Impaired 15km race. PHOTO CREDIT: Ken King

Speaking of fast, Jake’s first two laps on this undulating course had him in the second spot, “At first I felt pretty good, we were right in it and then I just got a little bit tired, I started to slow down a bit, I ended up getting bumped from the podium, but I got another race in a couple of days so”. He said his 5th place finish will inspire him to “rest, eat a lot the next couple of days – I’m competing in the sprint race – to try and reset mentally to get ready for another hard day”.
The Paralympic newbies Mia Zutter and Grace Miller were thrilled with their debut in the “Big Show”. Mia, a B3 skier in the visually impaired class, skis with her guide Kristina Trygstad-Saari, finished 8th today and with a beaming smile declared, “Oh my gosh it was so much fun I was here last year so I kind of had an idea of what to expect. But defiantly the Games title made it a lot more nerve-racking but also really fun”.

This was a first in 2 ways for Grace Miller. Not only was this her first Winter Paralympic Games, but her first 15km race, ever! Grace wore her smile a mile wide when responding to, how was your day? “It was really good, I’m really glad I finished. I left everything out there, which is what I wanted to do”. Grace, who has an LW8 classification and finished 10th in the women’s standing 15km. March 14th is the sprint races next up for the Cross Country racing.

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