Randall can’t advance | SteamboatToday.com

Randall can’t advance

Luke Graham

— Alaskan skier Kikkan Randall had spent the better part of the past eight years focused on Tuesday's cross-country sprint final event.

And in about five minutes, it was all over.

Randall, a heavy medal favorite coming in, was eliminated in the quarterfinals of Tuesday's event.

Norway's Maiken Caspersen Falla was first, with countrywoman Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg second. Slovenia's Vesna Fabjan took bronze.

After qualifying, Randall landed in one of the deepest quarterfinals, pitting her against Marit Bjorgen, of Norway, and Sprint Cup leader Denise Herrman, of Germany.

Initially, Randall looked well on her way to advancing.

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Midway through the race, she took the lead and led into the stadium ahead of Bjorgen.

But once she got to the flats in the stadium, it was over.

Herrmann passed Randall and Bjorgen. Finally, Italian Gaia Vuerich nudged Randall at the finish line.

"That was not the race I wanted to have today," Randall said. "Sprints are really difficult. You have to make it through all four rounds to get to the medals. I'm really disappointed to be so close, even without winning the heats. It's a bummer, I've been waiting for this race for a long time."

Randall has had her eye on this race for nearly a decade. Every four years, the Olympic sprint events alternate between classic and skating. Randall's specialty is skating, which last took place in 2006 in Italy.

As a favorite Tuesday, Randall was gunning to become the first American cross-country skier to win a medal since 1976 when Bill Koch skied to a silver.

Randall had spent the past year training on courses set up like the ones in Russia.

Last year at a race in Russia, U.S. coaches used GPS to plot coordinates from the Russian course. Those coordinates were used to get Randall fully ready for Tuesday's competition.

"It was feeling really good," Randall said. "I just didn't have that power in the last corner."

American Sophie Caldwell made the final and was sixth.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham