Cologna two-for-two in cross-country
Warm weather and soft snow continued to be the big story at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center on Friday, as temperatures reached 50 degrees during the men’s 15km classic race. That, and Dario Cologna, the Swiss skier who made it two gold medals in two events.
Cologna powered through the slush in 38 minutes, 29.7 seconds in a modified cross-country suit – the arms of his bright red suit had been hacked off at the biceps – to add the 15km classic gold to his win on Febuary 9 in the skiathlon (15km classic, 15km free). Two Swedish skiers picked up the silver and bronze medals: Johan Olsson was second in 38:58.2, and Daniel Richardsson was third in 39:08.5.
The gold was the third in Cologna’s career. He won the 15km freestyle race at Vancouver. “I knew it would be a tough race but for everybody it was the same,” he said in the finish. “I was prepared for it. I was very, very tired at the end but it’s always easier if you’re fighting for a gold medal. You have some extra power.”
For the U.S., Noah Hoffman was the top finisher in 31st. He also led the U.S. team in the skiathlon, the Olympic opener for men’s cross-country. Erik Bjornsen finished 38th, Brian Gregg 47th and Kris Freeman 52nd.
“It was just a really tough course and obviously there are some guys that skied really fast,” said Hoffman. “I had really great opportunities for great rides. I had (Eldar) Roenning, (Johan) Olsson and (Dario) Cologna all ski through me and I couldn’t stay with any of them, unfortunately. We definitely try to develop classic techniques that work in all conditions, and we see these warm conditions fairly often on the World Cup. I think it’s coming along even though the results aren’t showing it, and I’m looking forward to more opportunities.”
Kris Freeman called the course one of the hardest he’s ever raced on. “It was really slow and had tons of elevation with a three-minute sustained climb. It’s hard. It’s the Olympics, it’s the way it should be.”
Five-time Olympian from Belarus gets gold
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia — Competing in her fifth and final Olympic Games, veteran a of Belarus was able to cleanly land a back full, full, full jump to score 98.01 and take gold in the Sochi 2014 ladies aerials competition on Friday night.
China’s Xu Mengtao was the last woman to jump, needing only to land cleanly to take gold, but a hand drag in her landing meant she would have to settle for silver with a score of 83.50, while Vancouver 2010 gold medalist Lydia Lassila attempted the most difficult jump of the evening but crashed in her landing. Still, the Australian’s performance was good enough for a score of 72.12 and the bronze medal.
The United States recorded two top-10 finishes. Emily Cook was eighth after failing to advance out of the second final, receiving a score of 64.50 in that round. She had earned a score of 80.01 in the qualification round earlier in the day. Cook is expected to retire at the end of this season. She has competed in three Olympic Winter Games (2006, 2010, 2012); Friday was her best Olympic result.
“I’m definitely (feeling) a whole lot of emotions,” said Cook after the event. “But the biggest emotion is definitely happiness. It’s been an incredible career. It’s been so many ups and downs, and honestly, it’s been no stone left unturned. I don’t think there’s anything else I could have done and I’m proud of my career and happy to move on to a new adventure.
“This is definitely the last Olympics, for sure,” the 34-year-old confirmed. “We still have nationals, so I’ll probably jump there. But I’ll have to assess the body, see how I feel and go from there.”
Competing in her second Olympics, Ashley Caldwell, 20, rounded out the American representation in the event. She was eliminated in the first final and finished the competition in 10th place with a score of 72.80. She posted the highest score of the day, 101.25, in qualifying, making her ultimate result a very tough pill to swallow.
“The Olympics is like the capstone of our careers, but it’s not our entire career,” said Caldwell. “At the end of the day, we’re training every day, and you have to love it for that reason. Right now, I’m not super stoked, but I come out there every day and I’m happy to be jumping.”
“She’ll be around,” said Caldwell of her retiring teammate, Cook. “She’s not going to disappear off the face of the earth. She loves aerials and she’s going to fight for us and hopefully support our sport and make sure we get what we need not from an athletic standpoint but an organizational and a managerial standpoint. … She’s going to make the sport better.”
Fairall, Alexander, Johnson through to large hill comp
On Friday night at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center, U.S. skiers Nicholas Alexander, Nicholas Fairall and Anders Johnson all qualified for Saturday night’s large hill jumping competition. American jumper Peter Frenette didn’t make it through qualifying.
Alexander and Fairall both flew 120 meters in their qualifying jumps, while Johnson had a 112-meter jump.
Austria’s Michael Hayboeck had the longest qualifying jump, at 131 meters, followed by Japan’s Daiki Ito and Rerukhi Shimizu, both at 130.5. Several jumpers were pre-qualified based on World Cup results, including normal hill gold medalist Kamil Stoch of Poland, who flew 136 meters in a trial jump before the qualifiers.
The large hill medals will be awarded at Saturday night’s session, which gets under way at 9:30 p.m., Sochi time.
Also coming up on Saturday:
(all times for Sochi; subtract nine hours for EST)
Cross-country. The women’s 4x5km relay takes place at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center. For the U.S., the four-person team will be Kikkan Randall, Jessie Diggins, Liz Stephen and Sadie Bjornsen.
Alpine. The women’s super G at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center begins at 11 a.m. For the U.S., the four competitors are Leanne Smith (starting second tomorrow), Laurenne Ross (seventh), Julia Mancuso (14th) and Stacey Cook (29th).