Swenson, Dussault each win third events at U.S. Nationals

Swenson, Dussault each win third events at U.S. Nationals{mosimage}USSA — Olympian Carl Swenson and Rebecca Dussault completed their individual “hat tricks” Tuesday at the Chevrolet U.S. Cross-Country Championships as each cruised to a third gold medal on another record-setting day.

Swenson earned his 11th U.S. title his fifth straight at Black Mountain with a two-lap time of 22:58.2 for the 10K freestyle. Two of his 2002 Olympic teammates completed the podium: Andrew Johnson, coming back from oral surgery, as silver medalist in 23:37.0 and Lars Flora taking the bronze in 24:04.6.

“This place has been good to me,” said Swenson, who has skied and raced these trails for about two decades after growing up about 90 minutes away in North Conway, New Hampshire.

Overnight cold drove temperatures into the teens, allowing the courses to become harder. But, with all the traffic of three races in four days, the snow is turning to sand-like granular, which is slow for racers.

“It’s still challenging because there’s loose, sugary stuff on top and then ice below that,” Swenson said. Johnson added, “It’s tough with the hills and the granular.”

Swenson, who swept all three freestyle (skating) races a year ago in Rumford, said he looked forward to the change from classic technique for the first two craces to skating. “I certainly didn’t expect to run away with it, and I didn’t … I couldn’t mail it in.”

Earlier, Dussault covered the sunny 5K course at Black Mountain in 12:49.2; it’s the fourth U.S. title of her young career and her ninth SuperTour victory in the last month. All championships races double as SuperTour events; she won four at Soldier Hollow, two at Fort Kent, Maine, last week and all three in Rumford.

Silver medalist was Sarah Konrad in a time of 13:24.9 with Wendy Wagner also taking her third medal of the championships, which are being run by the Chisholm Ski Club.

“They were nice conditions, more like what I ski at home,” Dussault said after leading all the way. “It was less hilly than [Monday’s 5km classic course] … a different course but still good.”

Konrad said the hard conditions as the women began their race at 9:30 a.m. made for a quick course. “It was so fast. I think it was over before I knew what to do with it,” she said. “Five Ks are not a lot to work with; I wouldn’t have minded another five out there.

“It went so fast the conditions were so good and I just tried to go fast because everyone’s moving. You’ve got to be going.”

Dussult feels very confident in skating, she said, but there wasn’t the fire she felt Monday before the 5km classic. “[Monday] I had an absolute hunger to win and today I just kinda woke up and thought, ‘I think I’ll win.’ I wasn’t as hungry and I was disappointed.

“I wanted to be more hungry to win…but it kinda picked up as I got my [timing] splits, and it ended in a win, so that was good.”

Monday, a one-day record of 453 skiers raced. Tuesday, the record was re-set at 478 with 187 women and 291 men. The championships continue Thursday with freestyle sprints and conclude Sunday with distance races, the men’s 50km classic and women’s 30km CL.

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