Veerpalu Repeats As Olympic 15K Classic Champion

FasterSkierFebruary 17, 2006

Veerpalu repeats, Freeman finishes 22nd as top North American

Andrus Veerpalu of Estonia successfully defended his Olympic Gold Medal from 2002 in the 15K classic race. The race was held in a heavy snowfall at about 30 degrees F, which made waxing extremely difficult. Even the teams with many wax technicians, such as the Norwegians, did not fair well in the driving snow.

Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic earned silver, edging out current World Cup leader Tobias Angerer of Germany who took bronze.

Kris Freeman earned top North American honors in 22nd place. He started conservatively and was in 50th place at 2.6K. After 4.6K, he was in 30th and he continued to move up throughout the race. The rest of the American men, Lars Flora, Andrew Johnson, and Justin Freeman, ended up together on the results list in places 51, 52, and 53 respectively. As did Freeman, they all started conservatively (in the 70s after 2.6K, and moved up throughout the race to finish in the middle of the 99 person field.

George Grey was the top Canadian in 32nd place. Devon Kershaw was 47th, while Drew Goldsack was 53rd and Dan Roycroft 57th.

Kazakhstan's Alexey Poltaranin was one of the first starters on the course, and he set the pace early. Surprisingly, his time through the first checkpoint at 2.6K held up even after all of the best classic skiers in the world had come through. His cinderella story did not last long though, as the later, faster starters began reeling him in quickly after 3K.

At 6K, Angerer had moved into the top spot, and he had a 10 second lead over Bauer, Veerpalu and Russia's Vassili Rotchev. Those four would battle, through their split times, for the rest of the race. The Nowegians, who are usually among the favorites in classic races, were no where to be found.

By the end of the first 7.5K lap, Veerpalu had moved into the lead. Angerer's time was very close to Veerpalu's for most of the second lap, but the German could not seem to overcome the Estonian. With about 3K to go, Angerer finally began to breakdown, while Veerpalu kept churning towards the finish and his second Olympic gold medal. Lukas Bauer was able to close the race out in strong fashion to beat out Angerer for silver. Rotchev missed out on Angerer's bronze by 0.3 seconds.

With the victory, Veerpalu continued Estonia's amazing run at these games. Estonia has now won three out of six Olympic cross country ski races, more than any other nation.

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