World Class

How U.S. Women Cre­ated the Per­fect XC Ski Team

SkiTrax - - News -

World Class: The Mak­ing of the U.S. Women’s Cross-coun­try Ski Team, writ­ten by Peggy Shinn, a long­time con­trib­u­tor to TEAMUSA.ORG, is an amaz­ing story of how Kikkan Ran­dall, Liz Stephen, Holly Brooks, Jessie Dig­gins, Ida Sar­gent, Sadie Bjornsen, So­phie Cald­well, Rosie Bren­nan and coach Matt Whit­comb cre­ated the per­fect team. What a mar­vel with so many hero­ines

This book ex­plains the team’s evo­lu­tion from way back through un­til 2017 and how eight ath­letes have used team­work, re­spect and af­fec­tion to com­pen­sate for not grow­ing up in coun­tries where Nordic ski­ing is a way of life.

Don’t think of this as a quick page-turner like some nov­els on The New York Times Best Sell­ers list. In­stead, take your time, read the whole dang thing, sen­tence by sen­tence. It’s au­thor­i­ta­tive, fun, per­cep­tive, well-re­searched and very well-writ­ten – draw­ing you in by telling sto­ries and paint­ing pic­tures of peo­ple and their times.

There are many in­trigu­ing facts con­tained within (im­por­tant be­cause they pro­vide con­text and con­nec­tiv­ity to the rise of the team, not just names and dates) and great dabs of his­tory, in­clud­ing in­ter­views with iconic fig­ures such as John Cald­well, Ali­son Owen (now Bradley), Marty Hall and Trina Hos­mer (still go­ing strong at World Mas­ters races), but, most of all, there is a se­ries of fas­ci­nat­ing in­sights into re­mark­able, en­dear­ing peo­ple, skiers and coaches, whose pas­sion for their sport has cre­ated a unique rap­port. They’re car­ry­ing this strength into the 2018 Olympics.

Like most long­time Nordic skiers in the U.S. and Canada, I could of­fer up a litany of vi­tal in­no­va­tions that have helped to pop­u­lar­ize our sport and cre­ate a small-but-vig­or­ous in­dus­try: track-set trails, fi­bre­glass skis, wax­less bases, stretch fab­rics, skate tech­nique and equip­ment, and so on.

For Amer­i­can skiers’ ac­com­plish­ments, I’d put Bill Koch’s 1976 Olympic sil­ver medal on this same level as a gal­vanic event, as in­flu­en­tial as any of those tech­no­log­i­cal in­tro­duc­tions. And right now, we may be at a new tip­ping point that can pro­pel the sport – par­tic­u­larly in­spir­ing women to try it – to a new level of recog­ni­tion in North Amer­ica.

I’m hop­ing – mil­lions of us are hop­ing! – that the tim­ing can’t get bet­ter than this: the re­lease of an in­tense, ab­sorb­ing book about ex­tra­or­di­nary peo­ple and their ski­ing at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. (The book’s pub­li­ca­tion date, Feb. 6, is, of course, mighty smart busi­ness.)

I keep men­tion­ing “peo­ple.” Many in the Nordic world now think of them by their first names: Kikkan (five-foot, four-inch trail­blazer, cat­a­lyst, team leader, icon­o­clast . . .), Jessie, Liz, Holly, Rosie, Ida, Sadie and So­phie. They’re all re­mark­able ath­letes, while also be­ing just fan­tas­tic peo­ple.

Coaches are a big part of the pic­ture, par­tic­u­larly par­tic­u­larly Whit­comb, the women’s team coach – build­ing team­work, car­ing, and not just eval­u­at­ing tech­nique and do­ing lo­gis­ti­cal work.

World Class doesn’t sim­ply give you rare in­sight into how the team works – it’s like be­ing adopted into a par­tic­u­larly close-knit fam­ily. JW

An amaz­ing and in­spir­ing story about how eight ex­tra­or­di­nary women ath­letes used team­work, re­spect and af­fec­tion to build a world-class team, com­pete at the high­est level and win.

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