Dario Cologna of Switzerland outlasted the field in the grueling cross-country skiing 15-kilometer classical to win his second gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The time-based event features the competitors starting in 30-second intervals, but Cologna was able to beat his competition with a time of 38 minutes and 29.7 seconds, which was 28.5 seconds better than second place.
Great effort: Dario Cologna, Swiss sportsmen of 2013 (ahead of Wawrinka) wins 2nd gold in Sochi, 4th gold for Switzerland— rene stauffer (@staffsky) February 14, 2014
Cologna also won the 30-kilometer skiathlon earlier in the week, but this is his third career gold medal after winning 15-kilometer freestyle in 2010.
Sweden rounded out the podium with Johan Olsson winning silver while Daniel Richardsson will leave with the bronze. Here is a look at the top 10, courtesy of Sochi2014.com:
|5||Lukas Bauer||Czech Republic||39:28.6|
|6||Chris Andre Jespersen||Norway||39:30.6|
Although the 15-kilometer race is one of the shortest in the men's competition, the classical style is what makes it difficult. Olivia Wittels of NBC Olympics discusses the effect of the soft snow:
The classical technique is the more traditional form of cross-country skiing. The soft snow makes it more of an endurance test #Sochi2014— Olivia Wittels (@owittels) February 14, 2014
Instead of gliding for much of the competition, the skiers are moving basically the entire time. This is why the athletes can do nothing besides collapse at the finish line.
At least one positive from the day is that the athletes were able to compete in relatively warm conditions:
Nordic redefined: Men's 15km cross-country has begun with competitors in short sleeves.— Richard Demak (@rdemak) February 14, 2014
The weather and the exciting competition brought out some interesting fans in attendance:
I am 10 feet from the King of Sweden. Who is behind Bjorn Daehli of Norway, the most decorated Winter Olympian ever. pic.twitter.com/ZyU9MpEEgY— Al Trautwig (@AlTrautwig) February 14, 2014
Still, the true action occurred on the course as each of the competitors should be thrilled with just finishing, let alone earning a medal.
This was seen with Roberto Carcelen of Peru, who was the last to start and the last to finish, almost 30 minutes behind the leaders. However, it was a great moment at the end:
A spectator gives Carcelen a Peruvian flag to carry to the finish. And champion @dariocologna comes over to congratulate him. What a moment!— Olivia Wittels (@owittels) February 14, 2014
Another person who should be proud of his effort is Erik Bjornsen, who finished in 38th place. The 22-year-old skier did not have the best time among Americans (Noah Hoffman finished in 31st), but he remains a top competitor for the future, according to his coach. Erik Flora told Kevin Tresolini of USA Today (h/t King5.com):
When we talked about his goals for this season, the Olympics was kind of a bonus. Kind of what it gives him is a chance to come here and see what the Games are all about and then come back in four years and take a step forward. His goal here is just gaining experience. Today, in that light, was fantastic.
It is sometimes hard for fans to look that far into the future, but Bjornsen has the potential to medal at the Olympics at some point in his future.
Until then, it is clear that Cologna is not going away any time soon after defending his Olympic title from four years ago. This is quite impressive for someone who required surgery for a torn ankle ligament in November, according to the Associated Press (via NBCOlympics.com).
At the time, the Swiss star explained, "this injury hurts not only physically but also mentally."
Fortunately, Cologna was able to recover in both aspects and take home yet another gold medal for his country.
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