Kristina Smigun continued her golden week with a 20 second win over a trio of Norwegians in Thursday's Olympic 10K classic race. Sara Renner was extremely strong, leading the first half of the individual start race. Even though she faded towards the end, she still finished 8th. Wendy Wagner was the top US skier in 50th place.
As expected a couple inches of new snow fell overnight. Heavy wet snow continued to fall during the race in the upper elevations, while rain fell below, with temperatures above freezing, making for very trick waxing conditions. The course was very challenging, with a brutal last 3K, including 2 major climbs.
At the 2.6K checkpoint, Sara Renner was flying. She had the lead by 6 seconds over Marit Bjoergen (Norway), Katerina Neumanova (Czech Republic) and Brita Norgren of Sweden. Pre-race favorite Virpi Kuitunen was in 5th. Beckie Scott was 14th, 15 seconds off her teammate's pace.
At 6K, Renner was still in the lead, but the other big names were closing in. Olympic pursuit champion Kristina Smigun was 0.2 seconds back, and Bjoergen was 0.8 seconds back. Kristin Stormer Steira (NOR) also made a big move up to 4th.
Things got more interesting as rain began to mix with snow during the race. Many skiers were slipping as they struggled to get there wax to work.
At 7.7 K, Renner relinquished her lead and fell to fifth place. Smigun took over the top spot but Norwegians Bjoergen and Steira, as well as Nuemannova, were keeping the pressure on, staying within 6 seconds of the Estonian.
Going up the final hills Smigun showed the same finishing kick that she used to win the pursuit race. In the final 2K she crushed the competition and opened up a lead of 20 seconds to earn her second Olympic gold medal of the week. Marit Bjoergen took silver to earn her first Olympic individual medal, while Hilde G. Pedersen stormed to the finish to beat out teammate Steira for the bronze.
Renner hung tough to earn an excellent 8th place finish. Beckie Scott, who was clearly struggling – possibly with her wax, finished 30th but was soon disqualified. At the time of this writing we don't know exactly why, except that it was a violation of rule ICR 340.1.1 – “The competitor is responsible for arriving at the start and starting at the correct time. Competitors must follow the marked course from start to finish and must pass all controllers and behave in a fair manner towards other competitors. They have to cover the whole distance on their marked skis using only their own means of propulsion. Help from pacemakers or pushing is not allowed.” That could mean any number of things.
For the Americans, Wendy Wagner skied a consistent race to earn top US honors in 50th place. Kikkan Randall started conservatively and moved up throughout the race to finish 53rd. Abigail Larson was 57th and Lindsey Weier was 59th.
Milaine Theriault started fast (31st at the first checkpoint) and ended up 46th, while Amanda Ammar was 54th, just behind Randall.