2018 Winter Olympics (PyeongChang, South Korea): Women’s 15 k skiathlon
The 2018 Winter Games kicked off Saturday with the women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon, which saw Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla take her second-career individual Olympic gold (third including relays) and first individual gold in eight years. Not far behind her, American Jessie Diggins achieved the best Olympic result for an American woman in cross-country skiing.
After Kalla established herself as a leader early in the opening 7.5 k classic leg, the Swede spent much of the race working with her teammate Ebba Andersson to counter any type of attack from the Norwegians, specifically Marit Bjørgen.
On rock-solid classic conditions in PyeongChang, Bjørgen led the second half of the classic leg up until the ski exchange, where she entered the “pit stop” first, just ahead of Kalla in second. Norway’s Heidi Weng was in third at the time and swapped into her skate gear fastest, leaving the exchange about 28 seconds later in first. Her Norwegian teammate Ingvild Flugstad Østberg followed her in second and Bjørgen emerged in third, just ahead of Kalla in fourth.
Meanwhile, Diggins skied consistently in the top 10 and within about four seconds of the lead throughout the classic leg, entering the exchange in 13th and leaving in ninth, 5.4 seconds after Weng.
While Kalla took the lead early in that first skate lap, Switzerland’s Nathalie von Siebenthal made a move into first on a climb just before 9.75 k, while Bjørgen kept her close. Andersson continued to keep herself in the mix, skiing in third, just ahead of Kalla in fourth and Finland’s Krista Pärmäkoski in fifth. Diggins slotted behind two Norwegians, Østberg and Weng, while Austria’s Teresa Stadlober followed. At 9.75 k, 11 women were within 6 seconds of first.
Bjørgen reclaimed the lead shortly thereafter, but Kalla made her game-changing move on a climb about 34 minutes into the race, just before the 12.5 k checkpoint. There, the Swede had begun to gap the pack and was 5.5 seconds ahead of Bjørgen in second. Andersson remained in third, 5.9 seconds back, just ahead of von Siebenthal, Pärmäkoski, and Stadlober. Diggins in seventh pushed to keep herself in the chase group and was able to with about 2.5 to go.
One kilometer later, Kalla was nearly 10 seconds clear of Bjørgen, as well as Andersson and Pärmäkoski. The Finn moved ahead of Andersson on one of the last climbs to put herself in third as they headed down and back toward the stadium.
All alone, Kalla skied to the win in 40:44.9 minutes, what Bjørgen distanced herself from third place and claimed second, 7.8 seconds later. Pärmäkoski took the bronze medal in third (+10.1), less than a second ahead of Andersson in fourth (+10.9). Kalla’s previous Olympic gold medals came individually in the 10 k freestyle at the 2010 Games in Whistler, British Columbia, and with her team in 2014 in the women’s 4 x 5 k relay in Sochi, Russia.
Diggins finished fifth (+14.7) for a new all-time best for a female American cross-country skier at the Olympics (after Sophie Caldwell placed sixth in the sprint at the 2014 Games), about three seconds ahead of von Siebenthal in sixth (+17.6). Stadlober placed seventh (+26.6), Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva was eighth (+33.0), Weng was ninth (+40.7), Sweden’s Stina Nilsson 10th (+48.9), and Østberg 11th (+58.3).
In her first Olympics, Canada’s Cendrine Browne (Canadian U25 Team) led her team in 33rd (+3:17.0), ahead of American Caitlin Patterson (also in her first Olympics) in 34th (+3:30.0).
U.S. Ski Team member Kikkan Randall placed 40th (+4:02.3), Canadian World Cup Team member Emily Nishikawa finished 44th (
+4:31.7), Canada’s Anne-Marie Comeau was 48th (+4:57.9), Australia’s Jessica Yeaton (who trains with Alaska Pacific University) was 50th (+4:59.9), Canada’s Dahria Beatty 52nd (+5:32.4), and American Rosie Brennan 58th (+6:51.1).
The men’s 30 k skiathlon is the next cross-country event on the schedule in PyeongChang, set for Sunday at 1:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
2018 Winter Olympics (PyeongChang, South Korea): Biathlon women’s 7.5 k sprint
While most others struggled on the range in the first biathlon race of the 2018 Olympics, Germany’s Laura Dahlmeier held steady and shot clean, then posted the winning time in the women’s 7.5 k sprint on a windy Saturday evening in PyeongChang.
The 23rd starter (out of 87 finishers), Dahlmeier had to wait a long time for her gold medal to be confirmed, but she had done it, winning with a time of 21:06.2 minutes for her first Olympic medal. She has seven gold medals from World Championships but this was her first at her second Olympics. And on Saturday, she was one of just two women in the top 20 to hit all 10 targets in the two-stage race. Russia’s Tatiana Akimova was the other and she finished 20th.
The 24-year-old Dahlmeier bested the time of Norway’s Marte Olsbu, who started 11th and had a single miss in prone (1+0), by 24.2 seconds. Olsbu’s time was good enough for second, just ahead of the Czech Republic’s Veronika Vítková, who started right behind her in bib 12, in third place (+25.8). Vítková also had to ski one penalty lap after a standing miss (0+1). For Olsbu, 27, this is her first Olympics. For Vítková, 29, it was her first individual medal in three Olympic Games.
France’s Marie Dorin Habert missed the podium by 7.3 seconds in fourth (+33.1), after one prone penalty (1+0). Germany had two in the top five with Vanessa Hinz in fifth (+40.3) with one miss, Italy’s Lisa Vittozzi was sixth (+40.5) with one miss, Sweden’s Hanna Öberg seventh (+40.8) with one miss, Switzerland’s Irene Cadurisch eighth (+45.5) with one miss, Belarus’s Darya Domracheva ninth (+46.2) with two penalties, and France’s Justine Braisaz 10th (+47.9) with two penalties as well.
Canada’s Julia Ransom was the top North American in 40th (+2:08.8) with one standing penalty (0+1). Canada had all four women finish in the top 60 (thus qualifying for Monday’s pursuit) with Rosanna Crawford in 53rd (+2:23.0) with three misses (1+2), Emma Lunder in 54th (+2:24.2) with two standing misses (0+2), and Megan Tandy in 57th (+2:36.6) with a penalty in each stage (1+1).
One American finished in the top 60 to qualify for the pursuit: Emily Dreissigacker, in her first Olympics, in 51st (+2:21.0), after shooting 9-for-10 (0+1). Clare Egan just missed the cutoff in 61st (+2:45.4) with three misses (1+2), Susan Dunklee fell out of contention with five misses (1+4) to finish 66th (+3:06.9), and Joanne Reid finished 86th (+5:12.6) with seven penalties (+3:06.9).
Estonia’s Johanna Talihärm, a Montana State University student who lives in Bozeman, finished 22nd (+1:20.8) with one miss (0+1) for her best individual result at her second Olympics.
The men’s 10 k sprint takes place Sunday in PyeongChang at 6:15 a.m. EST.