GeneralNewsOlympicsRacingWorld CupHellner Leads Swedes to Relay Gold

Avatar Topher SabotFebruary 24, 201030
Gold for Sweden

Whistler, British Columbia – The heavy snow had stopped, and as Marcus Hellner made his way around the stadium, the clouds broke. For the first time in two days, the sun shown down on Whistler Olympic Park, revealing a golden afternoon for the Swedish men’s cross-country team.

It took 22 years and a return to Canadian soil for Sweden to regain the top step of the podium in the 4x10km relay.  And for the Anders Soedergren, the veteran of five World Championships and two Olympics, the wait after his third leg was nerve-wracking.  Sweden was deadlocked with France and the Czech Republic, with pursuit gold medalist Hellner on course.  And while Martin Koukal for the Czechs and Emmanuel Jonnier for the French were both strong skiers, the real danger was lurking 30 seconds back, in the form of Petter Northug (NOR).

Hellner brings it home

The gap seemed too large at the last tag, but upon exiting the stadium after the first of three 3.3km laps, Northug put the hammer down.  Over the next 1.7 kilometers he shaved 10 seconds off the lead, appearing poised to pull off the impossible yet again.

This is what Soedergren feared—the Olympic gold torn from his grasp by the unstoppable force of Northug in the final kilometers of a race.  He needed more faith in the quiet champion carrying Swedish hopes through the last ten kilometers.

“I never lose 35 seconds in such a short while…I knew it would be enough,” said Hellner.  Soon the rest of the world would as well.  He had been skiing controlled for the first two laps, and exiting the stadium with just 3.3km to victory, he accelerated to a new level.  Koukal and Jonnier tried to respond, but the day would not belong to them.

Northug still managed a comeback of epic proportions, closing the final meters on the podium spot halfway up the final climb before throwing down his patented finish sprint—bringing Norway a silver that seemed impossible 45 minutes earlier.

Koukal held on for the upset bronze, while Jonnier, so close to bringing France the desperately-sought-after medal, covered his face with his bib as he crossed the line and collapsed, head in hands, as the medalists celebrated around him.

How it Unfolded

The day started with the weather that has been hyped—but not yet witnessed—thus far during these Olympic Games.

It was raining in Whistler, with heavy, wet snow at the venue, the flakes outrageously large. Low-hanging fog was an indicator of the dripping humidity.

32 degrees Fahrenheit, new snow, and a classic race to be run.  The waxers would finally earn their keep.

The pace was fast but manageable out of the start, and the 14 skiers stayed together through the first lap.  Two times through, the only casualty was the Estonian Algo Karp, struggling mightily on the steep climbs.

Out of the stadium and up the big climbs for the final time, Jean-Marc Gaillard (FRA) finally succeeded in stringing out the pack.  Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, USA, and Kazakhstan struggled to stay in contact over the steepest pitch of the largest hill.  And Canada, as Devon Kershaw, desperately trying to keep the home skiers’ medal hopes alive, slipped off the pace.

Olsson at the front in the 2nd classic leg

Back to the stadium for the first handoff, Finland had rallied, while Italy lost ground.  Kershaw was done, unable to produce the first leg he has become known for.

While he had sat out the 15k freestyle during the first week of the Games in order to stay fresh for the latter half, the relay was still Kershaw’s third race in five days. He said that he felt “terrible” out on the course.

“I’m obviously not recovered from [Monday’s] team sprint,” he said.

So, just 10km into the race, the lead group was already down to five: Finland, France, Sweden, Germany and Norway.

Behind, Harvey had gotten the tag from Kershaw with a thirty-second deficit, and with his country’s hopes for a cross country medal in the balance, he took off in a desperate bid to pull back the front group. With the five teams in front all working together ahead, the Canadian had his work cut out for him.

Harvey pinned it for the first of his three laps, cutting the gap to the leaders in half, to just over 12 seconds. But that was as close as he could get. Spent from the effort, Harvey faded fast, losing forty seconds over the last six kilometers of his leg.

“I started really hard,” he said. “That ended up being too much for me…But if we do the same race tomorrow, and I’m in the same position, I’d do exactly the same. I don’t regret that, because we’re not racing for fifth today—we’re racing for the podium.”

In his effort to bring back the leaders, Harvey had been dragging a number of skiers behind him, including one wily Czech, Lukas Bauer.

Seeing that Harvey was on a mission and jazzed by the home crowd, Bauer said that he let the Canadian pull him along for their first lap, before turning on the jets and bridging up to the leaders.

“It’s like I launched him,” Harvey said.

At the front, Vincent Vittoz had taken over for France. A veteran of four Olympics, a World Champion, and one of the top skiers of his era, Vittoz had yet to lay claim to an Olympic medal.  He focused exclusively on the Olympics this season, designing his racing and training with the sole purpose of a top performance in Whistler. But thus far, he had still been shut out, compromised by bad skis in the pursuit and a crash by his teammate in the team sprint.

France ran Vittoz second, an unexpected move, but one that immediately paid dividends.  He drove the pace from his first lap, before temporarily giving way to Sweden’s Johan Olsson.  But he was back at the front again for the final loop.

Vittoz’s efforts were not in vain.  The pack continued to splinter, as Norway’s Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset, Germany’s Axel Teichmann, and Finland’s Matti Heikinen began losing ground.

By the end of his leg, Hjelmeset had lost thirty seconds. He was contrite in the press conference, telling journalists that he had “f—ed up.”

With heavy snow falling at the start of his leg, the 39-year-old classic specialist had opted for hairies (skis with bases that can be sanded to bring up hairs that stick to the snow). When he got them, the skis weren’t kicking well, so Hjelmeset said he sanded them a little more, which caused them to ice up during his leg in the dry snow on the top of the course. Even though he had the legs to stay with the leaders, the skis ruined Hjelmeset’s day.

Only Bauer and an impressive Alexey Poltaranin (KAZ) could make up ground on Vittoz.  The Kazakhs were too far out, though Poltaranin was able to catch the chase pack. But Bauer was on fire.  Two thirds of the way through his leg, he had reached the leaders, posting the fastest leg time by 8.8 seconds.

Soedergren Sets the Table

With the skaters ready to go, the lead group of Bauer, Vittoz, and Olsson held a commanding 30-second lead over the chasers Germany, Norway, and Kazakhstan.  Russia and Canada remained in striking distance, another 15 seconds behind.

Soedergren, who worked hard to help his teammates to gold and bronze in the pursuit, took over for Sweden.  Maurice Magnificat followed for France, and Jiri Magal for the Czech Republic.

Soedergren

Norway could only hope that biathlete Lars Berger could bring them close enough for Northug to work his magic.

The 24-year-old Magnificat reached the World Cup podium for the first time this season, and was a strong 6th in the 15km.  He quickly took the lead from Soedergren, and the two did the heavy lifting for the rest of the leg.

At one point, the two could be seen slowing and gesturing for Magal to do his share, but the Czech veteran knew his limits.  He has never been on a World Cup podium, and before a 9th in this year’s Tour de Ski Final Climb, he had not been in the top-10 since March of 2007.

He was hanging on, pushing the pace would mean disaster.  He continued to ride the draft, aided by good skis.

Manificat and Magal

The chase group could do nothing, and as the kilometers ticked by, the gap went up.  At the final exchange, Germany, Finland and Norway were 37 seconds down. The Swedes and French had accomplished their goal: get well clear of Norway and Northug.

Behind them, Ivan Babikov (CAN) fought hard to bring Canada back into medal contention.  He dropped Pietro Piller Cottrer (ITA) like a ton of Pecorino, putting 17 seconds on the 15km silver medalist in the last 1.8 kilometers.  He moved the Canadians into 7th, closing to within 13 seconds of the chase pack.

Taking the tag from Soedergren, Hellner controlled the pace, taking it easy for the first 3.3 k. That allowed Northug to make up ground, as the Norwegian shaved ten seconds off  the lead.

On the last lap, Hellner finally attacked—making his move decisive and devastating.

Northug stopped gaining for a time, but that was likely due to the fact that Jonnier and Koukal tried to hang with Hellner.  Once they lost them, Northug again began to close, a specter stalking the fading pair through the fog.  The crowd was glued to the video board in the stadium, and each time the racers passed a new camera, Northug could be seen creeping closer.  The crowd roared, demanding an epic finish that would place this event forever in the annals of Olympic cross-country skiing.

Northug on the hunt.

And as Hellner cruised into the stadium, taking a Swedish flag for the homestretch, Northug did not disappoint.

Catching Koukal and Jonnier on the final climb, he immediately moved into the lead over the top and dropped the pace.  Down around the sweeping curve into the stadium, and sprint was on.  Northug immediately accelerated, high in his V2.  Koukal fought to stay on him, but the Frenchman, Jonnier, was lost.

Throughout his leg, Jonnier was between a rock and a hard place. He could have attacked and pushed the pace, most likely dropping Koukal. But Hellner would have had no problems staying behind him.

Jonnier, crushed.

“I didn’t want to take the lead, because I knew Hellner was strong,” a dejected Jonnier said afterwards.

But with a poor sprint, Jonnier also knew that Northug and Koukal were faster finishers, and if he left it until the line, he’d be out of the medals. When he couldn’t match Hellner’s acceleration on the last lap, Jonnier upped the pace himself, doing his best to shake Koukal. But the Czech hung tough.

“I knew that the way to the medal was to beat the French guy,” Koukal said.

Powerless to do anything about the hard-charging Northug, Koukal just sat in, until the top of the final hill.

When Northug came by, Koukal hopped in behind, following the Norwegian’s sprint to boost himself to third—the Czech Republic’s first relay medal since it also won bronze in Calgary in 1988.

“I can’t catch [Northug], but actually, he pulled me from the French guy,” Koukal said.

At the line, Northug crossed clear of his two chasers, avoiding the pile of Swedes already celebrating as he collapsed to the snow.

Bauer was the first Czech to Koukal, hugging his teammate on the ground, before lifting him to his feet.

Another relay come and gone.  Sweden has now won Olympic gold five times in the event—a record, breaking a tie with Norway and Finland. With the silver, Northug added another line to his ever-growing list of legendary finishes.

The Czech Republic’s bronze was the surprise of the day, as they upset Germany, France, Italy, and Canada.

The Canadians crossed in 7th, George Grey holding his position, and skiing away from Maxim Vylegzhanin (RUS) and Christian Zorzi (ITA) in the stadium. Simi Hamilton (USA) dropped Estonia’s fourth skier on his last lap to take 13th.

Ivan Babikov

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Topher Sabot

Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.

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30 comments

  • Avatar
    teamepokeedsbyn

    February 24, 2010 at 9:32 pm

    It is so tiring watching this sport flounder in mediocracy in the US under USSA ownership.

    The US atheletes trained hard, tried their best, but they just are not “best in the world” (ok, other than sometimes in the boring “sprint” event).

    A team cannot hang its hat on a signle athelte (Kris Freeman) capable of placing decently beyond 5km. A team must have 2 or three men and women capable of skiing top 10 pace/km in any event on any day.

    It is not the fault of our USST coaches or current WC athlets. USSA has failed to recruit new skers to the sport in proportion the the US population growth over the last 25 years. Our team depends upon recruitment and finding the best athletes who are genetically gisted – Bill Koch League in “ski twons” just has nor and will not produce a large talent pool.

    US X-C needs to run itself and divest of handouts from Alpine skiing and Snowboarding. With all the nerds and geeks this sport has, I am confident the communiuty can manage its own destiny (and IOC, NGB funds)!

  • Avatar
    sailguy

    February 24, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    This was a fun race to watch, lots of people showing off their talents. By the second leg, it seemed to be mostly zeroes chosen.

    I thought Devon’s skis stopped gliding when the big flakes hit, but he seemed happy with them (check the graphics, those skis are about six years old?). Quite a few people had icing trouble, but the group of five that got free in the first leg had better glide than the rest who didn’t. No one was gliding well in the classic legs, the tuck sections from the pursuit were double pole today.

    Hellner, like the other swedes, had good skis and great legs. Dario Cologna looked amazingly smooth, probably because he wasn’t pushing to his limit to close a huge gap to 9th. Alex Harvey managed the sixth fastest leg 2, despite blowing up. Ivan Babikov got the second fastest leg 3, looking great all the way. Lukas Bauer was brilliant in winning his leg and putting his team on the podium. All the French were strong, don’t know how they missed the podium.

    Most of the skiers had pretty much equal skis, but a few teams had exceptional skis. Only the first Estonian had brutal skis, with Devon and Hjelmeset looking worse than the majority.

    Great fun to watch, but a terrible day to be a racer or a wax tech.

  • Avatar
    ianharvey

    February 24, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    teamepokeedsbyn – Dude, talk about kicking people when they are down…why don’t you wait until the season is over and then actually do something constructive? Maybe rob a bank or hijack a bunch of talented kids or something.

  • Avatar
    Lars

    February 24, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    Northug is the only Norwegian distance skier able to preform at a high enoff lvl, The rest of the team well i wanna say a massive disappointment but that has more to do with unrealistic expectation. Cause non of them have preformed well in the last few years.

  • Avatar
    Patrick Stinson

    February 25, 2010 at 3:32 am

    teampokemon: Get a life. You are neither constructive nor compassionate. Plus, all that crap has been said and said and said, and we all now the US can’t enter a Norway, Germany, or Swedish team, so go blow hot air up someone else’s ass, and there are plenty of people trying as hard as they can to do better, which includes shooting for goals like “best in the world”. Go start a ski club and then come back and start bitching.

    **And that goes for anyone else that feels the need to sit around and blow hot air up everyone’s asses. ** It’s time to stop bitching and start CONTRIBUTING!

    Lars – Check out the record for the day’s most disappointing skier, specifically the 2007 and 2008 seasons:

    http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/613.html?sector=CC&listid=&competitorid=25057&type=result&rec_start=0&limit=100

    Now look at Leg 3:

    http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/613.html?sector=CC&listid=&competitorid=73895&type=result

    Sundby doesn’t have the resume of his team mates, and Northug is a phenomenon, but I would say you are overstating yourself a bit. The Snawsage skied comparatively well as an alternate in the sprint.

  • Avatar
    BRB Skiing

    February 25, 2010 at 6:40 am

    The Swedes has the most solid team atm, no surprise there. Still, they’re not at a scary level either. I believe Norway was just a decent leg from Hjelmeset away from a gold – even with a weak team. Norway has one – one! – good distance skier right now. Luckily, he’s the best in the world. It’s a good thing we had several jr world champs this season, we’re gonna need them as soon as possible.

    Congrats to Sweden. Sadly, their old xc-king Gunde Svan har done a great job in removing the last remaining respect I had for him. (Which was at a decent level once, after I was at Holmenkollen and saw him finish the 50k with a broken arm). Gunde is obsessed with Petter. This time he was extremely critical that Northug “played with the rats before killing them”, in other words didn’t do a max sprint when securing the silver. In Gundes disturbed and obsessed head Northug decided to humiliate his opponents as much as possible cause he was dissapointed that Norway lost.

    Also, congrats to Slovakias hockey team! (Yeah, I’m not above that).

  • Avatar
    BRB Skiing

    February 25, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Btw, those who lived under the illusion that Northug can only ski well with a back in front of him found out that is not the case.

    …nah, who am I kidding. They’ll be ignorants again next week.

  • Avatar
    Big Joe

    February 25, 2010 at 8:11 am

    In Response to Mr. Harvey: How did Mr. Epokeedsbyn kick someone? He did not insult any individual or make any factually incorrect statements. He simply voiced frustration with the USST. One would need to be quite insular not to share his frustration.

    While i enjoy reading the news on this website, many readers’ inability to tolerate differences of opinion is both humorous and revealing. Critics are usually referred to as “haters” even when factually correct. Isn’t there a line…something about patriotism (read unquestioned loyalty) being last refuge of a scoundrel????

    Isn’t his point well taken? Does anyone honestly believe similar performance over a period of twenty years would be tolerated without significant structural change in any other organization either business or sport?

    What do you think Mr. Ian?

  • Avatar
    delltodd

    February 25, 2010 at 9:05 am

    epoke sets the tone: “flounder in mediocrity” which is insulting.

    Then he cleverly states the blatantly obvious: we need more fast skiers.

    Then he solves the mystery of funding. (not really)

    None of which is actually helpful or productive or new thinking.

  • Avatar
    skipow

    February 25, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Big Joe has a point – Nordic skiers are insular.
    The comments section here really shows what a bunch of social neophytes xc skiers are. People take this stuff way to personal for some reason. I’m no shrink but my hunch is that it stems from too much home schooling, going to bed early, and alone time in the woods…
    We gotta get over it when somebody talks a little trash. Otherwise how are we gonna separate ourselves from the video gaming community?
    (…probably a bigger talent pool there though.)

  • Avatar
    Aubrey Smith

    February 25, 2010 at 9:49 am

    I’d like to know more about the skis the racers were using – on the TV Salmela mentioned “harries” and it says in this article Hjelmeset was on harries – were these really harries, or waxless (multis/zeros)? Or were some on harries and some on waxless? anyone on klister?

  • Avatar
    birkieturkey

    February 25, 2010 at 11:32 am

    stinson, get a clue. there is nothing “compasionate” about pro sports. it’s about winning, and winning only.

    why don’t you read this article that your fs compatriot wrote. do you see where the US is mentioned? only once, in the absolute last sentence. not too “compassionate”, eh? brutual, no “compassion” for the US, but it is reality.

    the olympics relay shows where a country stands as far as a team in the world of xc skiing. it’s a simple metric. why can’t people understand this. the US is at the bottom. the US can only claim to be better than estonia, and maybe japan, spain or china that couldn’t field a team. because our top distance skiers didn’t even show up for the race – that speaks volumes too.

    hopefully some day the US is “best in the world”. but you can’t get to be best if you have delusions of where you are now. we have to hold the hype-machine vordenberg USSA types accountable, get rid of them and start over. they failed. brutal yes, but this is pro sports and it is about winning, not about babbling: “all-in”, “best in the world”, etc. and magically expecting to be the best.

  • Avatar
    OldManWinter

    February 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    BRB – Disagreeing with your point of view does not equate with ignorance.

    Nothing that transpired yesterday changes the public perception of Northug. PN’s rap is that he isn’t a real nordic ski racer, he is a short-distance flyer that does his best with ‘a back in front of him’. Well, he did have three medal-contending backs in front of him yesterday, they just weren’t draftable this time. The Olympics are the sport’s biggest stage and most powerful motivator. He had to really race in order to win a medal, any medal, but we all know that this isn’t his typical ‘hide in the weeds’ style.

  • Avatar
    freeheels

    February 25, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    We got our asses kicked all Olympics. The only thing insulting about the past week is everyone’s defense of the beatings that have been taking place. These guys are full grown men and women and they know damn well the sucked the past ten days. You think they wanna hear all the hyperbole about trying their best and giving their all. I don’t think so.
    I’m just thankful that Nat and Topher have been there on the ground, providing a level of insight and reporting never seen in this country during the Olympics. Thanks.
    Stinson. When was the last time you contributed anything besides babbling away on your blog. Try coaching or stacking V-boards after a Besh cup. Then we’ll give a shit.
    With that being said, let’s go back to the drawing board and figure out a way to make our skiers faster. Or a way to retain the best talent coming out of our Junior programs, of which we have many.

  • Avatar
    skierout

    February 25, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Here’s hoping for the women to provide a bright spot on this Olympics today in the relay. For the athletes sake, I hope it goes well.

  • Avatar
    cpella

    February 25, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    I’m not sure how cross-country skiers can be considered professionals in the same sense as pro ball players… they barely make a living in North America. Even on the WC circuit only a few at the top are making good money, and many of them are supported by “working” at nominal jobs for various police forces (e.g. caribinieri) or the army. If I was making real money I could take any abuse you could throw at me with alacrity, knowing I am richer than you.
    I once naively thought that perhaps cross-country attracted a more civilized following than other sports, but I guess I am being proven wrong.
    If it is insulting to offer words of support to the athletes in their hour of disappointment, than how is it less insulting to offer mindless carping if they supposedly already know they have had not performed? Can’t quite follow the logic there.

  • Avatar
    BRB Skiing

    February 25, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    OldManWinter

    Obviously losing the relay to the Swedes grants me a free semi-rant. At least the women won, so I’ll play it down.

    Not agreeing with me doesn’t make people ignorants. But stating that Northug can’t ski alone does. His strength is masstart skating, but he has won in the world cup with interval starts in classic style. He caught Teichmann like nothing in the worlds relay. He ate seconds like candy yesterday.

    He’s not a real nordic ski racer? He’s the most complete xc skier in the world. He can win classic, freestyle, intervals, mass-starts, sprints, 50k-s. And he has. Does he have to be the best in the world at every aspect of xc skiing to be “a real nordic ski racer”?.

    We all know it’s not his style to go in front – cause he don’t have to. Why on earth would he do his competitors any favors? Did you see Hellner stop and wait for Northug when he stepped on his pole and broke it in the pursuit? Of course he didn’t, nor should he. The others have to drop Northug to win, Petter only needs to stay with them. That’s his competitors’ problem.

    Thank god Northug is about winning, not about pleasing his competitors, foreign media and fans – who would without a trace of a doubt praise him if he was their countryman.

    If he had a mentality where he was concerned about non-excisting style points he wouldn’t be a world champ, olympic champ and soon world cup winner anyway. As long as you follow the rules, it’s a about one thing – getting the WIN. The public perception? The public be damned.

    (Ooops, that was another semi-rant anyway. Oh well).

  • Avatar
    teamepokeedsbyn

    February 25, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    As a ski fan, I want the USST to win a lot of races. I want a team I can sceam at holding my Old Mill as they challenge for the win. I drink way too much booze, eat way too much, and jog 3 days a week (if it is not too cold) . I purchased 3 pair of skis this season for me and my Old Lady (I only skied 3 times because I am too fat and tired from a lame job), but I paid full retail price as I do not no any “deal” makers.

    I have no vested interest in the ski industry. I have no friends racing, or trying to race at an elite level, I have no friends involved in the USSA, I am not an industry rep nor am I a coach (volunteer or paid), who ofthen feel an obligation to a team, friends or organization. I do not live in a cool ski/mountain town. In short, I am John-Q Ski Fan. I want my team to be the best.

    Take a step back, remove yourself from personal and finacial relationships with the USSA or the meager US x-c ski industry, and look at the facts of this team, its owners, and its players. We need new onwerhip as the outcome under the current one has failed after 25 years, by any measure.

    The current coaching staff is excellent, its wax team top notch, and its atheletes achieving at their highest levels. But we have made little to no progress in 6 Olys. Where we have failed is development and finding more, elite endurance young kids to turn onto x-c ski racing. That means spending money to find those outside of limited “ski towns”. That is where our money should be spent for a decade, not in funding athletes year-round who do not have the gift to be the best.

    No insult to any individual, just a failed ownership/funding team who care little about the sport and not willing to invest in long term development without annual return.

  • Avatar
    D. Diehl

    February 25, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    It’s easy to get drawn off topic here because there is lots of interesting comments. Don’t worry if that guy up in Alaska starts calling us all “Nordie Nerds spewing out babble” I say this is an open forum to share ideas and opinions regardless how important the guy up in AK thinks he is. Northug showed us he is perhaps the most brilliant xc skier ever today in the relay. If you get caught up in the international banter one may really start to think Petter is a punk ass kid who is a wheel sucker. However when Petter is in shape he feels he’s unstoppable. NBC showed a mini clip on Northug during the relay last night and spoke of the Alpha Male persona of Northug and promptly showed what looked like Giorgio DiCenta mouthing off to Northug and than Petter hitting Giorgio in chest. Holly sh.t he really is a bad ass and I respect that in a certain way becasue he has conviction in his talent.

  • Avatar
    OldManWinter

    February 25, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    BRB – Rant if it helps you feel better, but PN could stand to learn a thing or two from Gunde Svan. That was a guy that could hammer wire-to-wire in either discipline, at any distance and really give it a go. He had to…back then all the racing (less the relay) was interval-start. All they had to go on were splits from coaches on the trail; they didn’t have the benefit of being able to tail someone until the last 500 meters then fly past, acting all heroic. Gunde could also show him a thing or two about being a gracious winner and good loser too, lessons both lost on PN.

  • Avatar
    teamepokeedsbyn

    February 25, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Gunde, BJ, Alssgard, Ulvang, Waasberg, Wiik, Koch, Harvey (1), Braa all let their skiing do the talking. PN proved he could be on a poduim at age 21 and win WCs at age 22, so he was pretty cocky. The “old guys” made most of their money after retiring I suspect, but in this era of mass media exposure, the ability for a top Norge x-c ski racer to make multi – 7 figure income makes it attractive for a guy like PN to attract sponosrs – as it should be. He deserves many mil.$ as he is so gifted. I suspect in the next 2-4 years, as the “kid” matures, and gets humbed some, he will quiet down and let his skis do the talking too.

    On this note, I belive, if the sport was marketed, promoted to the masses well by a slick PR outfit, the top 20 men and women in the world would all easily break 7 figures. (This means reality cable shows of course) There is a ton of money “out there” – just goota make average people interested to wanna watch on TV from human interst angle and physical challenge side, and maybe a few guys and gals like PN, maybe even coming to blows after a race, would be just the ticket???????Couldn’t hurt.

  • Avatar
    Lars

    February 26, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Well Stinson first i was talking about the distance skiers. The sprinters did well. all 4 been in the top 10 and 3 in the final. Unfortunately Northug and Hattestad was killed by haveing a much short break befor the final then the Russians in the Second final. And Pettersen could`t keep on his feet.

    I is also possible that i in my disappointed with the result have been treating the Norwegian team to harshly. Not unlike what some Us fans seem to do to there team. But i do not think so.

    Fact is that without Northug there is no Norwegian podium chance. If i remember correctly Sundby is the only other Norwegian who has been on the podium this year.
    Even with the help of a biathlete the Norwegian men was 40s behind befor the last leg. Now silver isn`t bad but without Northug the Norwegian team are not even medal contenders. That is shameful.
    Given the recruitment and result of the younger classes i believe it is a system error. Were the management is unable to refine talented young skiers in to world cup contenders.

    Now to my opinion on the US ski teams performance. Copy pasted from another thread.

    Personally i don`t think the US have been that bad. I mean the US team had 3 main medal contenders Freeman Newell and Randall.
    Randall had her best results in freestyle and the Olympic sprint was in classic. So it would be unfair expect her to medal and she did have her best classic sprint ever.
    Freeman have had his best result in the 15k classic unfortunately the Olympic competition was 15k freestyle. And he had difficulties with his skis. That is disappointing but it does happen to everybody.
    Newell have been a top sprinter in both styles all year and i my opnion he was the US teams beast shot at a medal. He fell and well that was kinda it. The men`s team is so tight that falling down there is kinda noway to come back from it. But he was hardly the only one who did so the conditions in the sprint prologue were difficult.
    So i`d say the US have had more bad luck then bad performances.

    Now i realize i don`T know the US athletes as well as US fan`s do but this atleast is how i see it and unlike US fans i do have the advantage of not been as emotionally involved and can view the results from a more neutral stand point.

  • Avatar
    BRB Skiing

    February 26, 2010 at 4:11 am

    OMW

    Like all sports xc is evolving and changing. Svan was good at his thing, now the game has changed. The modern skier needs a different skillset to be successfull. My point is Northug is a winner, he’ll use his skills to his advantage as any athlete should. Strangely, in the past most his competitors have let him do just that pretty much unchallenged. It’s gonna change with more attacks, like the Swedish break away in the pursuit. Drafting your opponents is far less of an advantage in a xc skate competition than in cycling. But you don’t see cyclists letting the sprinters cruise to a mass sprint without anyone trying an attack. You don’t see the sprinters spending their energy ahead of the field either. It’ll be a sad day for xc skiing when the level of competition is so poor that it’s unfair that a skier tries his best to win.

    As for Svan being gracious in victory I disagree. After the pursuit where the Swedes got a great result he was quick to gloat in the media and tell everyone how happy he was about Northugs failure. Fair enough in itself, but when his failure was caused by a broken pole after Hellner stepped on it a gracious winner would keep his mouth shut.
    After Sweden won the Olympic relay for the first time in 20+ years, Svan was busy criticizing PN for “humiliating his opponents”. Obviously Petter was obliged to do an unneccessary all out sprint after taking 20 secs on Hellner.

    Svan isn’t that in touch with the world in general though. A full week after the earthquake on Haiti Swedish media called around to ask celebs what they had done for Haiti. The convo with ol’ Gunde:
    G: “What earthquake?”
    “On Haiti”
    G: “There’s been an earthquake?”
    “Yeah, they suspect that 150.000 people died!”.
    G: “150.000! That sounds unbelievable. When did this happen?”.
    “Last Wednesday”.
    G: “But that’s a week ago?”.

    I wish I was making that up.

    As for Petters persona it’s the best thing that has happened to xc skiing for years. He’s the most marketable skier in the history of the sport. Sure, I understand that people don’t like him, but it’s better than indifference. Personally I find him hilarious. Some people have a serious outlook on a lot of things I guess, when it comes to athletes I don’t. Even the Swedish skiers will tell you that PN is a nice guy until someone sticks a camera in his face.

  • Avatar
    Big Joe

    February 26, 2010 at 11:36 am

    Forgive my ignorance but who the f*** is this Stinson guy and who made him arbiter of XC knowledge? And if he has the knowledge where is he using it? It must be doing good somewhere as he is VERY confident.

  • Avatar
    ADS

    February 26, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    @ PatrickStinson Last time I checked sport is a brutal arena, while 1% wins, 99% loses. That’s life, it sucks. The US team has talked about wanting to be on the podium and they simply haven’t delivered. Sure some of it’s bad luck (ie. Newell’s fall) but some of it is bad performances and that has to be remedied somehow if the athletes expect to be on the podium.

    As for checking out Hjelmeset’s FIS resume, we all realize he was a good skier in his day, but x-c skiing isn’t about resting on your laurels. The simple fact is that he hasn’t performed at all this season and for Norway to still take him to ski the second leg shows the lack of depth in the men’s distance team right now. I’m actually surprised they didn’t opt for Svartedal who has skied decently in the races since Christmas.

    How do you suspect people contribute if you don’t want them to bitch? Say nice things about how the US team tried their best in hopes of padding their ego so they don’t get hurt feelings…?

  • FasterSkier
    FasterSkier

    February 26, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Regardless of what you think of Patrick Stinson’s opinions and his authority on the subject at hand, when he makes strong statements, he puts his name on it.

    That is worthy of respect.

    Most people commenting on this site, and ALL of the ones who rant about the disaster that is US skiing, do so behind the cloak of anonymity.

    In my mind, you can criticize Patrick when you are willing to stand behind your comments with your own identity.

    (And to head off the expected response to this, my name is Topher Sabot and I am the editor of FasterSkier.com)

  • Avatar
    Big Joe

    February 26, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    To Mr. Sabot: I did not criticize any of his opinions — only his proclivity to criticize everyone with whom he disagrees.

  • Avatar
    Big Joe

    February 26, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    And as for Mr. Sabot — whoa you are certainly a cutting edge journalist. Really going out on some limbs to question authority. Good work.

  • Avatar
    davidf2d

    March 1, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    If finding better skiers and coaches was as easy as the arm chair experts say it is, they would have been found. Never see anyone who already coaches or competes at a high level crapping on a bad performance. Hmm. That means the forum “experts” are the same ones who never coached or competed. Still, it’s a free country. Feel free to offer pretty useless opinions and hide behind anonymous names.
    Dave

  • Avatar
    teamepokeedsbyn

    March 1, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Anom. names allow free discussion w/o consequenses – what is so bad about that?

    FYI pretty sure several of the anom. posters skied Olys and amny years USST, but not 100% sure, not that it really matters, as any intersted parties opinions are important in my book.

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