Play By Play of the Men's World Championship Relay

FasterSkierFebruary 25, 2003

As some of you might know, the official website of the 2003 Nordic World Championships
has a page that posts live results during the races. You open up a page with
the start list on it, then you can select any checkpoint along the course, such
as 1.6K, 6.4K , etc to see live results at that point once the racers come through.
As a North American fan, this is as close as we can come to the action from
this side of the pond. Over the course of these championships, I have been following
most of the races this way. Right now I am in Alaska to help coach at Masters
Nationals so most of the races start around midnight local time (10:00 am in
Val di Fiemme). It has made for some pretty groggy days after, but the action is worth
it. It is surprising how exciting a race can be when all you see is updated
results every minute or so.

So tonight I go an idea, why not do a running dialogue of my night watching
the race. Let the rest of you who are too smart to stay up late see what you
are missing. So I invite you to join me for the Men's World Championship Relay…

11:52 PM – I fire up my computer and log on to
– the results page of the World Championships. I click on the "live"
link next to the Men's 4×10 Relay. The race starts at midnight, which is 10
AM in Italy. I open the live results page in two separate browser windows, side
by side. This way I can have the most recent checkpoint results open in one
window, while I wait for results at the next checkpoint in the other window.

11:55 PM – I have a couple minutes to spare so I go to the kitchen and get
myself a tall glass of orange juice. I also make a stop at the bathroom before
settling in. I am going to be here a while.

11:59 – I reload the page to see if they have started – they haven't.

12:02 AM – Still haven't started.

12:03 – All teams have an asterisk next to their name – this means they have
started. I check the 1.4K standings, but no one has come through yet.

12:04 – I open up a PDF of the start list from the official website so that
I can see who is skiing which leg for each team (the live results only say Nation
name). For the USA, Freeman is starting, with Andrew Johnson on the second …

12:07 – …whoops wait a minute – they came through 1.4K – Sweden first (Anders
Seder), then Finland (Timor Topper), USA (Kris Freeman) in third. Everyone is
right together except for Denmark who is 26 seconds back. Poor Jonas Olsen –
going to be a long day buddy.

12:08 – and now they have come through 1.6K. What good does it do to have checkpoints
so close? Not surprisingly, the line up is exactly the same as it was 0.2K ago.
Norway (Anders Auckland) is right behind the US. As I was saying before the
race interrupted me, the rest of the US team: Justin Wadsworth skating third,
Carl Swenson is anchor man.
I just counted the number of checkpoints along the course that I can watch on
the internet – 32. In a 40K race, I can get live times from 32 different points.
Isn't technology amazing? Maybe I won't update you on every single checkpoint…but
maybe I will.

12:12 – At 3.7K Switzerland has the lead, followed by Sweden, Germany, Finland,
US, Russia, Norway. Everyone is still close, although the Canadian Team (George
Grey) is now 17 seconds back. Come on George, hang in there.

12:15 – The Swiss have busted out a 12 second lead at 5K! Reto Burgermeister
is going for all the glory only 5k into a 40K race. I doubt the big gun are
worried, but at least this makes it more interesting. All the teams come through
5K under 12 minutes! Is this course all downhill?!?

12:19 – Swiss now with a 9 second lead, but Freeman is in second and leading
the charge to close the gap. This kid can ski with anybody. I remember at the
Olympics how excited everyone was when John Bauer was skiing near the front
on the first leg. This year, with Freeman there, we all expect it. This country
is making lots of progress.

12:21 – Whoa – completely missed the 6.6K times, they are coming too fast!
I really need to learn to type faster. Looks like Freeman still in second, only
5.4 seconds back now. The most interesting thing right now isn't who is leading
– it is who is behind. Italy's Fabio Maj has the Olympic silver medallist home
country 50 seconds behind! Did he break a pole or something?

12:24 8.7K – USA in the Lead!!! Wahoo! The Swiss are right behind, but Freeman
has opened a 16 second gap on everyone else. Maybe they are content to let him
go, but still this is great. Who would expect the USA to control the first leg
of the World Championship relay. Until about 4 days ago, no one would have.

12:27 USA comes through the exchange with the lead. Great work by Freeman,
Now it is up to Johnson to hang on.
Top Ten through 1st leg:
1  United States of America   USA     23:20.3 
 2  Switzerland   SUI     23:23.4  +3.1 
 3 Germany   GER     23:41.6  +21.3 
 4  Sweden   SWE     23:42.0  +21.7 
 5  Kazakhstan   KAZ     23:44.4  +24.1 
 6  Russia   RUS     23:47.7  +27.4 
 7  Czech Republic   CZE     23:49.0  +28.7 
 8  Japan   JPN     23:49.4  +29.1 
 9  Ukraine   UKR     24:00.4  +40.1 
 10  Norway   NOR     24:02.6  +42.3 
11    France   FRA     24:15.0  +54.7 
 12     Finland   FIN     24:17.3 
 13  Estonia   EST     24:17.6  +57.3 
 14    Italy   ITA     24:52.0  +1:31.7 
 15   Austria   AUT     25:27.9  +2:07.6 
 16   Canada   CAN     25:36.5  +2:16.2 

12:31 At 1.4K of the second leg – Here are some words I never thought I would
say: "Andrew Johnson has increased his lead over the field in the second
leg of the World Championship Relay." Do you like apples? How 'bout them
apples! Swiss are 5.7 back, the pack is 24 seconds back. Either Andrew is about
to have the race of his life, or he was a little too excited out of the start.

Wow – did you see how far back Austria and Italy were after one leg? That is
a big deficit to make up.

12:32 – 1.6K – Sweden (World Cup Leader Mathias Fredericksson) is starting
to close back in, just made up 7 seconds in 0.2K. I just turned on my internet
radio station – for a little mood music to pump me up. This is getting
exciting. I promised myself that I would go to bed if it was boring. But I am
on the edge of my seat.

12:36 – 3.7K second leg – The USA has been reeled back in. The top five teams
are now together: Switzerland, Sweden, USA, Germany, Russia. Come on Johnson
stay with them. You da man. Norway is 30 seconds back in 7th.

12:39 at 5K Sweden, Germany and Switzerland have dropped the USA and Russia
who are both about 10 seconds back. I am starting to get nervous that this could
be the end of the ride for Team USA. Keep the dream alive!

12:43 Aaarrgghh!!!! When I just reloaded the page I got a "page not found"
error! Have I lost the results for good? Did the server overload from me pressing
refresh 10 times a second? Oh no, wait, its back. Crisis averted. Whew.
The Canadians (Drew Goldsack) are at the bottom of the page, but they are in
good company: Finland, Italy and Austria are all over a minute behind. Will
any of them recover? The Italians could do it in the skating, but we'll have
to wait and find out. Its great to see the Canadians with a relay team, since
they only had one man at the Olympics last year. They have a strong group of
young skiers who need to compete in more World Cup races as a team to get the
experience. They are in the same spot their women's team was in 5-6 years ago.

12:46 Lost the results there for a minute. Couldn't get the 6.4K checkpoint
to come through. When it finally did, I saw that the top three are now 24 seconds
ahead, but Johnson looks to be hanging on to the Russian. Pages are getting
very slow to load. This is a big problem.

12:52 Damn – major problems. My internet connection just slowed way down, and
I hit refresh too many times causing Internet Explorer to crash. I lost about
three minutes getting it to boot back up and find the right page. While I was
gone, the US dropped. Where was I when they needed me? I was cursing at Microsoft.
At 8.7K of the second leg, Andrew was in 9th place, 1:05 out. He is now 30 seconds
from 6th place.

12:55 Standings after 2 legs:
1  Sweden   SWE     47:04.3  0.0   
 2  Switzerland   SUI     47:04.7  +0.4 
 3   Norway   NOR     47:29.8  +25.5 
 4   Estonia   EST     47:39.4  +35.1 
 5  Germany   GER     47:39.8  +35.5 
 6  Russia   RUS     47:41.1  +36.8 
 7  France   FRA     47:59.5  +55.2 
 8   Japan   JPN     48:03.4  +59.1 
 9   United States of America   USA     48:22.0 
 10   Kazakhstan   KAZ     48:22.7 
 11    Ukraine   UKR     48:28.3  +1:24.0 
 12  Czech Republic   CZE     48:41.0  +1:36.7 
 13    Italy   ITA     48:46.7  +1:42.4 
 14    Finland   FIN     48:58.0  +1:53.7 
 15   Austria   AUT     49:21.3  +2:17.0 
 16   Canada   CAN     51:38.9  +4:34.6 

Norway (Frode Estil) and Estonia (Andrus Veerpalu) managed to move up quite
a bit on that leg. Andrew Johnson might have started too hard, but he went for
it and tried to hang with them as long as possible. I respect that. A great
effort and you can't ask for more than that. Johnson is the only USA relay team
member who did not race the Olympic relay last year.

1:00 AM – At 2.2K of the third leg, Italy's Pietro Piller Cottrer is making
a move up from the bottom. He is now with Justin Wadsworth. Can Justin catch
a ride? It would be huge if he could…Pages are now getting harder to load,
only one of every three or four actually shows up. Must be a lot of people overloading
the server. I hope I don't lose the connection completely.

1:05 – Well, no ride for Justin. Italy is now ten seconds up on us and Justin
is in 12th place. At the front a man by the name of Per Elofsson has given Sweden
a 20 second lead. Switzerland is still second,with Germany (rene Sommerfeldt),
Norway(Tor Ruud Hofstad), Estonia (Jaak Mae), and Russia (Serguei Novikov) right

1:10 6.8K of Third leg – Wow. Justin just dropped 50 seconds to the leaders
in only 1.8K. We are now in 15th place. Something must be very wrong. He had
been sick a week or so ago and he must just not be healthy yet. This of course
is just speculation.

1:14 AM – At 8.7K of the third leg Sweden still has a lead but Russia is closing.
They are only 12 seconds back. Norway, Germany and Estonia continue to linger
23 seconds back.

1:16 Standings at 3rd exchange:

 1  Sweden   SWE     1:09:25.8  0.0 
 2  Russia   RUS     1:09:36.7  +10.9 
 3  Norway   NOR     1:09:48.7  +22.9 
 4  Germany   GER     1:09:49.1  +23.3 
 5  Estonia   EST     1:09:49.5  +23.7 
 6   Switzerland   SUI     1:10:33.7 
 7   Japan   JPN     1:10:47.1  +1:21.3 
 8   France   FRA     1:10:51.5  +1:25.7 
 9  Italy   ITA     1:11:09.1  +1:43.3 
 10  Czech Republic   CZE     1:11:21.3 
 11   Finland   FIN     1:11:23.4  +1:57.6 
 12  Kazakhstan   KAZ     1:11:45.3  +2:19.5 
 13   Ukraine   UKR     1:12:05.1  +2:39.3 
 14   Austria   AUT     1:12:16.5  +2:50.7 
 15  United States of America   USA     1:12:27.6 
16 Canada CAN

Carl might get a chance to sprint with the Austrians again, but it won't be
for 4th place.

1:17 AM – So here are the anchors who will fight for the win: Sweden- Joergen
Brink, Russia-Andrei Noutrikhine, Germany – Axel Teichmann, Norway – Thomas
Alsgaard. Normally no one would beat Alsgaard, but he missed the pursuit with
illness. Is he recovered? Can he make up the time and still have energy for
a sprint? What about Teichmann – he already has a Gold Medal from these games,
can he get another? Will the Germans sweep the relays?

1:21 The 3.7K checkpoint of leg 4 keeps saying No Results, but they should
have gone by there already. What's going on?

1:22 Here we go – at 3.7K Sweden still has a 13 second lead over Russia and
24 second lead over Norway, Germany and Estonia. Oh yeah, I forgot about Estonia
for a minute. They have Indrek Toreluts on the anchor leg. Jorgen Brink of Sweden
is no slacker. He already has a medal this week as well.

1:25 AM – 6.8K – This is crunch time, if Norway and Germany haven't closed
in yet, they might not be sprinting for Gold in this race. What?!? A relay race
where Norway is NOT in a sprint for Gold? When was the last time that happened?
1987? Could it really happen? Just noticed that at 5K Carl had passed the Austria
team. He is in 13th, but only 11 seconds could mean 7th place. Oh no wait, that
is a minute and 11 seconds. I must be getting nervous for the finish, I can't
even add.
Sweden still has its lead at 6.8K (that's why I have two windows open, so I
can monitor two checkpoints). Russia is now 19 seconds back and Norway and Germany
are at 25. Sweden is looking like they could hold on, after coming in 13th in
the Olympics last year! Amazing.

1:32 AM – Whoa, now hold everything. Germany and Norway might be closing. At
7.2K they are 22 seconds out. Waiting for the 8.7K splits….

1:33 AM Still waiting…

1:34 AM WOW!!!!! Germany and Norway have caught Sweden. They just made up 20
seconds in 1.5K! They are all together with Russia 15 seconds back. (I knew
Norway would be in a sprint, I knew it all along). Now on to the finish…

1:35 Awaiting the final times…..

1:35 Norway Wins!! by 0.2 over Germany. If there is one thing everyone should
know about Thomas Alsgaard, it is NEVER count him out. He seems to thrive when
others have given up on him. Even after seeing his comeback tricks many times,
I still counted him out of this race. Never again. Sweden takes third 16 seconds
back. Russia fourth 25 seconds back.
Now we see how Carl is doing. At 8.7K he is still in 13th, but even with Austria
in 12th. Roland Deithard is Carl's Austrian competition.

1:42 Carl outsprints Austria for 12th, exacting a bit of revenge from last
year's sprint with Christian Hoffman. USA finishes 2:56 behind Norway. I think
the US team will be disappointed with their 12th place. But Freeman skied extremely
well again (that first leg seems like ages ago now) and Andrew and Carl also
skied solidly. It is to bad that Justin seems to get sick for these big events.
If all the guys were healthy, they could do a lot of damage as a team.

1:54 Now I am off to bed. I have to be up in five hours to help coach at the
Masters Nationals Race…

Relay Results




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