Rosie Brennan ready for another season of racing
Park City native scores two top-10 finishes to start World Cup circuit
After spending much of the offseason training alone, Rosie Brennan wasn’t sure how she would measure up against the top cross-country skiers in the world to start the year in Ruka, Finland.
It turns out she had what it took to hang with her elite competition. Brennan shook off a 32nd-place finish in Friday’s classic sprint and responded with two top-10 finishes the next two days. The Park City cross-country skier came in seventh in Saturday’s 10K classic and sixth in Sunday’s 20K skate pursuit.
“I was disappointed with my race on Friday, so it’s always hard to start the first race bummed,” Brennan said. “You start to question everything. So, I was really happy that was able to turn things around for Saturday and Sunday and find more of what I was looking for and kind of be in the fight. I’m happy with how the weekend turned out, and I think it’s a great place to start for a very long season.”
Brennan is coming off a 2021-22 season where she finished 14th in the overall World Cup standings, 10th in distance and 12th in sprint events. Brennan also represented the United States at the Olympics for the second time in Beijing, and while she didn’t medal, she had four top-six finishes at the Games.
Between teammates opting to train on the country’s eastern side and retirements, Brennan said she was training “mostly alone” this summer.
“I’m just old,” she said with a laugh. “I’m the only one still racing, and all my friends have retired.”
But it gave her time to focus on herself, even if there were times when it would have been nice to have some teammates around.
“It does allow you to do exactly what you need to do on that day and not be influenced by anyone else around you, which that’s definitely a plus,” Brennan said. “It also allowed me a lot of one-on-one time with my coach, which was huge for technique and stuff. But it is lonely at times, and it’s really nice to have people around and sometimes there are definitely workouts that you want that competitiveness to push you a little harder and stuff like that.”
While Brennan and the rest of the cross-country skiing world entered the season without the Olympics looming this time around, this season will offer its own challenges. For one, there are more events on the World Cup circuit this year, and there are still the FIS Nordic World Championships, held in Planica, Slovenia, from Feb. 21 through March 5, to worry about. Brennan’s focused on doing as well as possible for both. On the World Cup front, Brennan’s in eighth place in the overall standings ahead of this weekend’s races in Lillehammer, Norway.
“(World championships will) definitely be a focus for this year, and one of my other goals is just to be fighting in the overall (standings),” Brennan said. “I’ll be racing basically every race the whole season, so that’s kind of a challenge in and of itself just to manage that and get to the start and finish all those races and hopefully have some good ones.”
However, the women’s World Cup events will be the same distances as the men’s events this year. The women’s races used to be shorter than the men’s, but that is changing this season. Brennan’s all for the change to equal distances.
“I’m a big proponent of the equal distance,” she said. “I definitely feel that it was, whether it was intentional or not, it was subconsciously sending us a message that females weren’t capable of racing the same distances as males.”
The change in distances actually played to Brennan’s advantage this weekend. Since she raced a 20K before at the national championships, she believes she was one of the few women in the field who recently did a 20K race.
“If anything, it was an opportunity,” she said. “Especially as an athlete, my base is really strong. I wasn’t so stressed about the distance, so I definitely feel like it is a potential opportunity for me, or at least I’m trying to see it that way because it’s new for everyone. Something we’re all going through together, men included. It’s definitely just a weird distance that we don’t traditionally do. I think it’ll be a cool opportunity this year to learn a new distance and hopefully use some of my strength and base training to my advantage.”
Heading into Sunday’s 20K skate pursuit, Brennan wasn’t sure what to expect when it came to pacing in a World Cup event. It ended up that it was much more tactically demanding than she thought it would be on her way to a sixth-place finish.
“I kind of had to shift my focus into tactical skiing and figuring out how to get into a position to be able to fight at the end,” she said. “That traditionally hasn’t been a strong suit of mine, so I was really happy to get myself into that position and to be in the sprint for third.”
As her season shifts into gear, Brennan is ready for the challenges and the gauntlet that lies ahead.
“After the beginning of a new cycle and training alone, I didn’t really know where I would measure up, so I think it’s a great place to start,” she said. “I feel optimistic for the season ahead. Not only did we go to equal distance, this added a lot more World Cups, so we have just a crazy amount of racing this year. It’s a super long season, so I think it was a very good place to start, and now it’s about just figuring out how to make those small improvements, but also make it sustainable so I can make it through the whole year.”
The Salt Lake City-Utah Committee for the Games by late January had reached what are known as venue-use agreements with two-thirds of the potential competition venues to host sporting events if a Games is awarded.
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