Kris Free­man

First U.S. Skier in World Cup Red Group

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Chris Hat­ton

Leg­endary Kris Free­man, 37, is hang­ing up the skis fol­low­ing an amaz­ing 18-year ca­reer and a legacy that in­cludes five Olympic Games, 17 U.S. cross-coun­try-ski Na­tional ti­tles, mul­ti­ple top-10 re­sults on the World Cup, a fourth at the FIS Nordic Worlds and gold in the 30km at the in­au­gu­ral U23 Nordic World Cham­pi­onships in 2003.

Di­ag­nosed with Type 1 di­a­betes at the age of 19, Free­man, a New Hamp­shire na­tive, spent his ca­reer in­spir­ing oth­ers while ed­u­cat­ing the rest of the world on the pos­si­bil­i­ties for those suf­fer­ing with this dis­ease.

At an early age, he was al­ready look­ing to fol­low in the foot­steps of his brother, for­mer U.S. Olympian Justin Free­man, and showed un­be­liev­able po­ten­tial in his ini­tial few sea­sons of cross-coun­try rac­ing. He won his first Na­tional Cham­pi­onship ti­tle in the men’s 30km Clas­sic in 2000 and raced on the U.S. Ski Team (USST) from 2002 to 2013.

It was prior to the 2002 Olympics, while un­der­go­ing reg­u­lar blood work for the USST, that he tested pos­i­tive for Type 1 di­a­betes. When the team doc­tor told him that it would not be pos­si­ble for him to com­pete, he took it upon him­self to find new doc­tors, learn ev­ery­thing he could about the dis­ease and con­tin­ued to race at the high­est in­ter­na­tional level.

Free­man un­der­stood that it would take an enor­mous amount of work to even com­pete at that level and so col­lab­o­rated with Zack Cald­well from Cald­well Sport, whom he’d met dur­ing his for­ma­tive ski years while at­tend­ing the Univer­sity of Ver­mont. The duo painstak­ingly reg­u­lated and mon­i­tored Free­man’s blood-su­gar lev­els and de­vel­oped spe­cific train­ing pro­grams and a reg­i­men to help him re­al­ize his dreams.

In such a high-stress en­vi­ron­ment, Free­man would of­ten times re­quire mul­ti­ple Om­nipods (an in­sulin-de­liv­ery sys­tem) to regulate his in­sulin lev­els, and he held him­self to an un­be­liev­ably strict diet prior to com­pe­ti­tion.

He was able to man­age and over­come the chal­lenges and was the dom­i­nant U.S. dis­tance skier at the se­nior level for 16 years, playing a piv­otal role in the suc­cess of the USST. He achieved in his ca­reer what oth­ers could only dream of, be­ing the first Amer­i­can to qual­ify for the “Red Group,” and so be­com­ing one of the top 30 ath­letes on the World Cup cir­cuit.

His mar­quee race was the 15km Clas­sic, and he fin­ished just off the podium in fourth at the 2003 Worlds in Val di Fiemme, Italy and again in 2009 at Liberec, Czech Repub­lic, which re­mains one of his most mem­o­rable re­sults, as Team USA took home mul­ti­ple podi­ums in Nordic-com­bined, ski jump­ing and cross-coun­try ski­ing at those World Cham­pi­onships.

To this day, Free­man’s goal is to over­turn mis­in­for­ma­tion on Type 1 di­a­betes, and he con­tin­u­ally works with mul­ti­ple di­a­betes’ foun­da­tions to raise aware­ness and fund­ing for the dis­ease. While step­ping away from the Pro­fes­sional cross-coun­try-ski scene, he now takes on the role of fa­ther with his wife, Am­ber, to per­haps foster the next gen­er­a­tion of Free­mans in the sport.

A Type 1 di­a­betic, Kris Free­man earned 17 cross-coun­try-ski Na­tional ti­tles and was the dom­i­nant U.S. dis­tance skier at the se­nior level for 16 years.

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