American Best Performances By Randall, Newell
It was a banner day for North America at the Olympic Individual Sprint races. Canadian Chandra Crawford shocked the world by winning the gold medal in the event, besting the top sprinters in the World. Beckie Scott, just missed out on her second medal of these games finishing fourth in the A Final.
Kikkan Randall finished 9th, the first Olympic top ten finish ever for an American female cross country skier. And on the men's side, Andrew Newell and Chris Cook both qualified for the heats, Newell qualified in second, and Cook in 16th. Both were eliminated in the quarterfinals, but Newell's 16th place finish is the top North American individual result at these games, and one of the top US Olympic men's results in a long time (we are still checking the history books on that…).
In the quarterfinals, each heat consisted of 5 skiers, with two moving on.
The first womens quarterfinal included Beckie Scott, Kikkan Randall, Aino Kaisa Saarinen, Olga Moskalenko-Rotcheva, Emelie Oehrstig and Stefanie Boehler. Beckie jumped out front with Kikkan battling for second with Rotcheva. Kikkan moved to the outside and did extremely well on the final straight to grab the second place behind Beckie. By advancing from a very tough quarterfinal heat, Kikkan was guaranteed a top-10 finish, which is the highest finish for any female U.S. cross country skier at the Olympic Winter Games, besting Nina Kemppel's 15th-place finish in the 30km classical from Salt Lake City in 2002.
In the second quarterfinal, Claudia Kuenzel won first place while Virpii Kuitunen held off a sprinting Manuela Henkel for second place. Marit Bjoergen was a very disappointed with fourth place.
In the fourth quarterfinal, Sara Renner had a tough task, going up against Team Sprint Gold Medalist Anna Dahlberg, 2002 Sprint Gold Medalist Julia Tchepalova, along with Norgren and Arianna Follis. Dahlberg grabbed first place and Arianna held her nerve to claim second and a place in the semis. Renner did not advance.
In the fifth quarterfinal, Chandra Crawford made an early break on the group and put the pressure on Ella Gjoemle who followed in second and Lina Andersson fell back in third. Crawford had an incredible race to claim the first spot and Norway's Ella Gjomle bursts down the final straight for second.
In the first semifinal, Claudia Kuenzel took the lead and Scott chased in second. Kuenzel took an easy win, and Scott held off Finland's Kuitunen to advance.
Alena Sidko (RUS) attacked the climb in the second semifinal, taking the lead with Crawford in second, Gjomle in third and Dahlberg and Follis bring up the rear. Crawford stormed away across the line for first place and Sidko comfortably took second.
Two canadian skiers in the A finals meant that they were guaranteed at least one medal.
In the women's Final, Chandra Crawford took off in the lead, as she did in her heats. Kuenzel, Sidko, and Scott followed. Crawford attacked on an backstretch uphill as she had done in all of her heats, and the others try to keep pace. But Crawford got a 5 meter gap and no one could match it. She came home in first to shock the world become Canada's second Olympic Gold Medalist ever in xc skiing! Kuenzel took silver, Sidko bronze. Beckie Scott just missed out on Canada's second medal in the event, finishing fourth.
A huge congratulations to Chandra Crawford and the Canadian team! Also congratulations to Kikkan Randall for her top American finish ever. A great day for the North American women.
Women's Heat Results: http://www.torino2006.org/ENG/IDF/CC/C75D_CCW601000.html
US skiers Andy Newell and Chris Cook were both in very tough quarter final heats and were unable to advance. Cook was in the 3rd quarterfinal, where Tor Arne Hetland (NOR) and Cristian Zorzi (ITA) went to the front and advanced. Cook finished 5th.
Newell had to contend with Swedes Peter Larsson and Thobias Fredriksson, as well as the Norwegian, Hattestad. Newell took the early lead, but was eventually passed by Hattestad. Larsson was determined to push to the front and nearly took down himself and Hattestad. An amazing final stretch from Fredriksson as he overtook Larsson for the second place after Hattestad skied clear for the first spot. Newell had to settle for fourth.
Newell ended up in 16th spot, the highest individual finish for a US skier at these Olympics.
In the men's final, Bjoern Lind jumped to the front as he did all day. Towards the top of the first hill he tried to slow down the pace and it became a very tactical race. Eventually Zorzi reluctantantly took the lead. Lind came out from behind Zorzi to take the lead heading into the final uphill, and as they entered the stadium the Swede simply powered away from the rest to win gold. France's Darragon came on strong at the end to pass Fredriksson and Zorzi for the silver. Fredriksson took bronze.
Men's Heat Results:
More to come later today on these amazing races!