KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – The host country won its first gold medal in cross-country skiing in the very last event of the Sochi Olympics, the men’s 50km mass start freestyle race on Sunday at Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center.
For good measure, the Russians took the silver and bronze as well. Alexander Legkov led teammates Maxim Vylegzhanin and Ilia Chernousov for an emphatic medal sweep for the home country.
Legkov won in 1 hour, 46 minutes, 55.2 seconds. Vylegzhanin won a photo finish for the silver medal, holding off a late charge from Chernousov, who overtook Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway late in the race. “I can’t realize what I’m feeling,” Chernousov said in the finish. “It’s not so often in one race you get three Russians on the podium. The last day in our home Games and three on the podium. It’s such a great atmosphere here. Every lap more and more, I felt they were screaming for us. For every athlete but more for us.”
The hard luck story for the last cross-country event of the Games belonged to two-time gold medalist Dario Cologna of Switzerland, who was in fourth with less than two kilometers to go when he broke a ski. He was aiming to become the first Swiss athlete to win three gold medals in a single Winter Games.
For the U.S., Noah Hoffman was the top finisher in 26th, after spending much of the race in the lead pack. Hoffman finished in 1:48:04.3, 1:09.1 behind Legkov. Also for the U.S., Brian Gregg was 51st with a time of 1:55:02.3. Kris Freeman jumped in on short notice, due to illness by other skiers, and finished 57th, in 1:59:46.7.
“It was challenging for sure,” Hoffman said. “My skis were awesome, so I owe a ton to my wax techs. I was right where I wanted to be for 45K and definitely started to suffer when we all went into the ski exchange. That’s when the pace seemed to heat up and things strung out. That was at 30K, but I stayed in there and got back right where I wanted to be. I just didn’t have it in the last three or four kilometers, especially up the last hill.”
Hoffman said, “I feel like I’m getting closer. … I’m certainly looking forward to the next four years. … Most of (the attention) before the race was just focusing on getting my sugar levels right. I really wanted to be hydrated. I’ve just been pounding Gatorades and Powerades the last few days.”
The sweep of the medals assured Russia of the top position in the medal count at the Sochi Games, with a total of 32 medals to 27 for the U.S. Russia also had the most gold medals, with 12. Norway had 11, and the U.S. and Canada had nine each.
It’s the second time that Russia has won the medal race in the Winter Olympics; they also had the top spot 20 years ago at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway. It’s the fourth time that the host nation has been on top of the medal count. It also happened at Lake Placid in 1932, Oslo in 1952 and Vancouver in 2010.
Russia claimed its first ever medal sweep at the Sochi Games, and added to the event’s record for sweeps, with eight. The previous record was five at Innsbruck in 1964.
Legkov’s victory was just the second for Russia in the 50km. Mikhail Ivanov won at Salt Lake City 2002.
Appeals against French ski cross winners’ suits are dismissed
SOCHI, Russia – The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced Sunday that it had dismissed the appeals of Canada and Slovenia, who had asked to have the three French men’s ski cross medalists disqualified for wearing modified race suits.
An overnight hearing held by the CAS ad-hoc division dismissed the protests filed against the outfits worn by Jean Frederic Chapuis, Arnaud Bovolenta and Jonathan Midol, who won gold, silver and bronze respectively.
The first application to CAS came from the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association (CFSA) and Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the second from the Slovenian Olympic Committee (SOC).
Each had made official protests to the International Ski Federation (FIS) about the legs of the ski suits worn by the French skiers.
However, FIS ruled that the protests could not be entertained because they were not “filed on time after the race.”
The CFSA, COC and SOC alleged that the French athletes changed their attire just before the big final to gain an aerodynamic effect created by the shaping of the lower section of the ski pants, contrary to the International Freestyle Skiing Competition Rules.
Brady Leman of Canada finished fourth behind the French trio.