Saturday’s Sochi roundup: Sweden surprises with relay gold
Kalla anchors Sweden to upset win in women’s relay
Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla came from well off the pace to catch the leaders, Finland and Germany, and win a thrilling gold medal sprint to the finish in the women’s 4x5km cross-country relay on Saturday at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center.
On another sunny, hot day in the mountains, Kalla never gave up despite starting her anchor leg with a 25.7-second deficit. She had closed the gap to less than 10 seconds with less than a kilometer to go, and first made contact with the two leaders as they entered the stadium for the final 300 meters. Kalla skated by on the final straight to win in 53 minutes, 2.7 seconds, half a second ahead of Finland’s Kristine Lahteenmaki, who had led for nearly the entire final leg. Lahteenmaki held on for the silver medal, finishing four tenths ahead of Germany’s Denise Herrmann.
Perhaps the biggest news of the day was Norway’s fifth-place finish. The Norwegian team has been dominant in women’s relays for years; the last time Norway lost a major women’s 4x5km relay race was to Sweden at a World Cup at Beitostolen in November 2009.
The United States team of Kikkan Randall, Sadie Bjornsen, Liz Stephen and Jessica Diggins finished ninth in the race. Their time of 55:33.4 was 2:30.7 behind Sweden’s winning time. Things started going downhill for the U.S. from the opening leg, skied by sprint World Cup champion Randall. She had the slowest time of the four U.S. skiers, and the U.S. was in 12th place out of 14 teams by the time she finished her leg. “Something’s not quite right,” she said. “I need to figure out what that is.”
Of her team, she said, “We were looking forward to being in the hunt today, so it’s tough to feel it slip away. … Shoot, that’s not what I wanted to do today.”
Polish jumper adds large hill title for his second gold
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Kamil Stoch of Poland has become just the third ski jumper to win the normal and large hill titles in one Olympic Winter Games, joining Finland’s Matti Nykanen (Calgary 1988) and Simon Amman of Switzerland (Salt Lake City 2002 and Vancouver 2010).
On Saturday at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center, Stoch completed his historic double, winning the large hill contest on a cool, sometimes breezy night before an enthusiastic if not quite capacity crowd. The competition took place despite some wind holds along the way that caused delays in the action.
Stoch had two strong jumps of 139 and 132.5 meters for a total of 278.7 points. Right behind him, by just 1.3 points, was Noriaki Kasai of Japan, the silver medalist, who actually jumped one more meter than Stoch, (139, 133.5) but couldn’t match the Polish jumper’s style points. Peter Prevc of Slovenia took the bronze medal
Kasai became the oldest man to ever medal in ski jumping – at 41 years, 254 days he obliterated the record that had been held by Birger Ruud of Norway, who was 36 years, 168 days old when he took the silver medal in normal hill at St. Moritz in 1948. Kasai is also competing in his record seventh Winter Olympics, tying him with luger Albert Demchenko of Russia, who has also won a silver medal at the Sochi Games.
Kasai felt he had let a medal get away in the normal hill competition. “I took the medal [today] that I didn’t take in the normal hill,” he said. “Then I felt regret, and now I feel happy.”
For bronze medalist Peter Prevc of Slovenia, it was the second medal of the Sochi Games. He also took the silver medal in the normal hill event.
The three Americans in the event had short nights, failing to quality for the final round. Nicholas Fairall came the closest, finishing in 35th place; only the top 30 moved on to the final jump. Nicholas Alexander finished 48th, and Anders Johnson was disqualified for a suit violation.
“Amazing, it’s like a dream for me right now,” Stoch said of winning his second gold. “I still don’t believe it.” He said he got away with a mistake on his second jump. “I was too aggressive,” he said. “That’s why I flew so far, but hey, what the heck? That’s why I won.”
With the other Polish jumpers, Stoch will try to win a third gold medal on February 17 in the team event. “It will be difficult, really difficult,” he said, “because the level is really high right now. A lot of teams are jumping really well. We are going to do our best and see what happens. I think we can do it, but it’s ski jumping. You can never be sure.”
Coming up on Sunday:
(all times for Sochi; subtract nine hours for EST)
Alpine. The men’s super G takes place at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center. Because of the warm weather, the start has been moved up to 10 a.m., from 11. The U.S. skiers are Ted Ligety (starting ninth), Bode Miller (13th), Travis Ganong (25th) and Andrew Weibrecht (29th). The Canadian racers are Pridy Morgan (sixth), Jan Hudec (22nd), Erik Guay (23rd) and Manuel Osborne-Paradis (30th).
Cross-country. The men’s 4x10km relay starts at 2 p.m. at the Laura Cross-County Ski and Biathlon Center. The U.S. team lead-off skier is Andrew Newell, followed by Erik Bjornsen, Noah Hoffman and anchor Simeon Hamilton.
Snowboard. Women’s snowboard cross at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park starts with seeding runs at 11 a.m. The quarters are at 1:15 p.m., semis at 1:31 and finals at 1:45.