Dan Cnossen Among The Stars At Sit Ski Nationals In Utah
by Alex Abrams
Aaron Pike, Dan Cnossen and Josh Sweeney on the podium at the 2022 U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Sit Ski Nationals.
Dan Cnossen, a three-time Paralympian, has had to make some changes to his training plan as he has gotten older.
He has also decided to no longer compete in the biathlon. Cnossen, 42, instead wants to focus all of his energy on getting faster at cross-country skiing.
The seven-time Paralympic medalist has been dominant in both disciplines over the past decade. He has won a Paralympic gold and two silver medals in the biathlon and another gold, two more silvers and a bronze in cross-country skiing.
The focus on cross-country training helped Cnossen this week at the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Sit Ski Nationals in Midway, Utah. He won both cross-country races he competed in on back-to-back days at Soldier Hollow, which unveiled several new trails.
“I came here fresh this year, and I think it probably showed a little bit in the races,” said Cnossen, a native of Topeka, Kansas. “As I get into my 40s, I’m doing a little bit of a different approach to training, which is a bit more recovery and rest than I had done in the past. And so we’re just seeing how it goes. This is always a work in progress.”
Cnossen opened the five-day competition on Monday with a win in the cross-country sprint, cruising to the finish line in 4 minutes, 12.07 seconds.
Aaron Pike, a six-time Paralympian and Cnossen’s teammate on the U.S. national team, finished in second place at 4:21.94. Two-time Paralympian Josh Sweeney took third at 4:40.94.
A day later, Cnossen again edged Pike and Sweeney to win the men’s 5-kilometer cross-country skiing race. He finished in 16:52.9, followed by Pike in second at 18:10.9 and Sweeney in third at 19:03.8.
“A 5K is a tough race because it’s short enough that you have to go really hard but long enough that it hurts to go really hard,” Cnossen said, laughing. “The sprint is something I’d had mixed success in, so always getting the chance to work on sprinting is great.”
This week’s sit ski nationals featured a range of athletes, from members of the U.S. national and development teams to promising newcomers who took up the sport a few months ago. The week of racing also included an FIS Para Nordic Continental Cup.
“For almost half the field it was an opportunity to get some race experience, and we don’t have many events where we have this many sit skiers together in one place racing,” said BethAnn Chamberlain, a development coach with U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing.
“And so having a bigger field, a deeper field of sit skiers is fun for us and for the athletes. They learn a lot. It’s fun to have a bigger race, too. I feel like it’s also a community builder for our sport.”
Canadian skier Lyne-Marie Bilodeau won the women’s 5K race in 23:30.9, beating Erin Martin by less than 12 seconds (23:42.0). Martin is a Seattle native who was named to the development team in June.
Lera Doederlein, who made her Paralympic debut in Beijing last year along with Martin, took third at 24:38.9.
Six-time Paralympic medalist Kendall Gretsch capped nationals on Thursday with a win in the women’s 7.5K biathlon sprint. Doederlein finished second, followed by Martin.
Gretsch needed to make a quick turnaround to compete at the sit ski nationals.
In late November, Gretsch, a Paralympic gold medalist in both Nordic skiing and triathlon, earned a silver medal at the 2022 paratriathlon world championships in Abu Dhabi.
No Americans are traveling to world cup events prior to the world championships later this month in Ostersund, Sweden. The competition runs Jan. 21-29.
As a result, the sit ski nationals served as a tune-up for those top American athletes who’ll compete at the world championships. It was also an opportunity for newcomers to the sport to get on snow and race in a big competition.
“Everybody learns so much from each other, and I think it’s exciting for our more experienced athletes,” Chamberlain said. “I think they are very much motivated to see these new people come into this sport, and they’re excited to share and help them learn. So it’s a really cool atmosphere.”
At the same time, the top skiers will return to Soldier Hollow in early March to wrap up their world cup season.
The sit ski nationals gave athletes a chance to familiarize themselves even more with the course and try out the new trails that have been built over the past few months before the world cup event in March.
“I think right now I’m in a good spot, and the main thing is to stay fresh (and) keep away from any kind of sickness or overtraining,” Cnossen said. “This is a really good preparation for the upcoming world championships we have at the end of this month as well as the world cup that’s going to be here at Soldier Hollow in March.”
For full results from the competition, please click here. For media requests and photo inquiries, please contact Kristen Gowdy at Kristen.Gowdy@usopc.org.