To a nation of critics, she answered with gold.
Marit Bjoergen of Norway won gold in the women’s individual sprint on Wednesday, relieving her nation’s fears that its cross-country medal hopes were melting with the Vancouver snow.
“I saw in that end that nobody was behind me and I thought ‘this is my chance.’ I had a very good day today,” Bjoergen told CTV.
Norway’s famed cross-country ski team, affectionately known as the “Red Army” had only a single bronze medal to its credit heading into the individual sprint.
Canadian Chandra Crawford, who won gold in 2006,was eliminated in her quarterfinal heat.
“I get a little down at this classical thing. I look at my fans and wish I’d been able to defend my gold in skate(freestyle) technique,” Crawford told the Globe and Mail.
Sara Renner of Canmore, AB placed 33rd.
Ironically, Renner’s difficulties came not only from the speed of her competitors, but from the slow pace of one in particular.
“I caught the girl in front of me coming into the stadium and there’s only one track and she wouldn’t get out of the track,” she told the Globe and Mail. “It was a race of seconds and if you have to go out of the track, it’s really difficult.”
Dasha Gaiazova of Montreal, Que., was eliminated in the quarterfinals.
Justyna Kowalchyk of Poland won silver, but perhaps the highlight of the event was bronze medallist Petra Majdic’s pure perseverance.
In a scary incident, the Slovenian gold-medal favourite fell off the track and plunged more than ten feet.
In true Olympic spirit, Majdic climbed back on track, and pushed through pain to the finish.
Russians race to photo finish
Nikita Kriukov of Russia narrowly defeated countrymen Alexander Panzhinskiy to claim the men’s cross-country individual sprint at the Vancouver Winter Games on Wednesday.
While Panzhinskiy led for most of the race, Kruikov made a late surge to win the gold by a toe-length in 3:36.3.
“I wanted to be first, but this gives me something to shoot for,” stated Panzhinskiy, who is ranked 49th in World Cup standings.
Petter Northug, well behind Panzhinskiy, took the bronze.
Stefan Kuhn was the top Canadian, placing 15th.
Devon Kershaw, who has had difficulty with the classic style this season, finished 23rd.
Drew Goldsack and Brent McMurtry placed 40th and 41st, respectively.