FILE UNDER -- Nordic

TORINO: XC: Estonian Veerpalu wins 15 km; Kris Freeman 22nd

TORINO: XC: Estonian Veerpalu wins 15 km; Kris Freeman 22nd{mosimage}PRAGELATO, Italy – Kris Freeman of Andover, N.H., was the top U.S. finisher in Friday’s cross-country 15-kilometer classical race in Pragelato, finishing 22nd. Lars Flora, Andrew Johnson and Justin Freeman placed 51-52-53, respectively.

Estonian Andrus Veerpalu won the race and the gold medal with a time of 38 minutes, 1.3 seconds. Czech Lukas Bauer won silver in 38:15.8 and German Tobias Angerer took bronze in 38:20.5.

Freeman was 22nd in 39:57.4, while Flora was 51st in 41:53.1, Johnson was 52nd in 41:53.9 and Justin Freeman, Kris’ brother, was 53rd in 42:00.9.

Overnight snow made the course sticky and slow.

“It was really rugged out there, it was a hard day,” said Freeman. “The snow’s really tricky, the skiing’s really tricky.”

Freeman, competing in his second Olympics, finished 15th in the 2002 Olympics pursuit and was part of the 4×10 km relay squad that placed fifth, the best all-time Olympic finish for the U.S.

“I think I came through with a decent race,” said Freeman. “I’m not thrilled with it, but I think it was a good effort. It was representative of where I am today. I was a little sick last week and this is a good first race back.”

Freeman stayed at a strong pace throughout the course, despite the slow conditions.

“I was skiing everything about the same,” he said. “I went out at a steady pace and I just tried to hold it all the way around. It was so slow today that you can’t afford to blow up out there.”

In January, Freeman won the U.S. championships pursuit and was second in the 15 km at Soldier Hollow in Utah.

“It’s very similar skiing (to the Soldier Hollow course),” said Freeman. “Some of the hills here are actually even harder. Any time you have snow like this, it just makes everything harder.”

Freeman is slated to start in Sunday’s relay event and will then get a week off before the 50 km race.

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