SOCHI, Russia — No one had to tell Kikkan Randall that a historic opportunity had slipped away.
The cross-country skier entered Tuesday's sprint free event as a heavy favorite and was hoping to end a 38-year medal drought for the U.S. in the sport.
Instead, she faltered in the quarterfinals and was left behind on a sunny, slushy day at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center.
"It's a bummer," she said. "I've been waiting for this race for a long time."
Randall wasn't the only top name to stumble. Marit Bjoergen of Norway failed to advance past the semifinals, leaving the room on the podium for some less-heralded names.
Two Norwegians, Maiken Caspersen Falla and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg, finished first and second respectively, with Vesna Fabjan of Slovenia in third.
"There are so many people who believe in me and have faith in me to do well," Falla said. "This season hasn't been my best so far, it's just so good to have the best day of the season today."
Falla dominated her early races but fell behind Fabjan at the start of the final. She soon retook the lead as the front three opened a gap on the rest of the field.
Oestberg used a late sprint to win the silver.
"It's unbelievable that I got a medal," she said. "And silver — that's like gold for me."
At least one American had reason to smile on Tuesday. Though Sophie Caldwell fell and finished last, she was content with her performance.
"To make the final was really exciting," she said. "I definitely wasn't expecting that."
A bright sky and warming temperatures might have helped the underdogs. Officials salted an uphill portion of the course to provide traction but the racers talked about struggling in the turns.
Randall, in particular, seemed to lose steam coming around to the homestretch.
"It was feeling really good," she said. "I just didn't have that power in the last corner."
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