Norway’s winter athletes failed to impress at the Sochi Olympics on Friday, missing out on medals in the men’s super combined skiing, women’s individual biathlon and men’s classic cross-country events. Norway fared no better in the team sports, with the men’s curling team going down to both Canada and China and the men’s ice hockey struggling against Finland.
Kjetil Jansrud made a dominant start in the first leg of the super combined event, clocking the fastest time in the downhill race. In his Olympic debut Aleksander Aamodt Kilde finished fourth and Aksel Lund Svindal came in sixth at the end of the downhill leg. But they all failed to capitalize on their positions in the second and final event, the slalom.
Jansrud was bitterly disappointed with his overall fourth place finish, behind Swiss Sandro Viletta, Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic, and Italian Christof Innerhofer. “I knew it was going to be difficult, but I had hoped for a medal,” Jansrud told Olympic broadcaster TV2. He admitted he hadn’t trained enough for the slalom leg, and wasn’t fast and flexible enough to handle the course.
Svindal ultimately finished equal eighth, but Kilde became hooked in two slalom gates and failed to finish. “I’m disappointed, but both Kjetil and Aleksander have more reason to be disappointed,” Svindal told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “But I’m proud of the team anyway.”
Bombed in the 15km classic
The Norwegian men were furious with themselves after the 15 kilometre classic cross country race, where Chris Jespersen managed the team’s best finish in sixth position. Eldar Rønning came 12th ahead of gold medal hopeful Martin Johnsrud Sundby in 13th, and Pål Golberg finished 18th.
“What can I say? We are here to dominate,” a frustrated Sundby told NRK after the race. “We are not here to present a sixth place. Many are in better form than us. We must gather in the backroom and evaluate this.” Jespersen had gone for weeks without training due to sickness after the Tour de Ski, while Rønning used the whole season to prepare for his favourite distance. “For my own part, I have no explanation for this,” said Rønning.
Dario Cologna of Switzerland won gold, ahead of Swedes Johan Olsson and Daniel Richardsson. The Norwegian men are now looking towards Sunday’s relay event. No decision had been made on Friday evening whether Petter Northug would join the relay team. The out-of-form ski champion struggled in the games so far, and did not compete in the 15 kilometre classic.
Biathlon coach ‘cursed’
Norway’s best finish in the women’s 15 kilometre individual biathlon was Tora Berger in 16th place. Tiril Eckhoff finished two places back, Elise Ringen came in 24th, and Ann Kristin Flatland took a disappointing 56th place. “I am cursed,” said women’s national coach Egil Gjelland. “I am disappointed, not over the girls but over the result.”
Berger shot three penalties in her race to finish almost four minutes behind the winner, Belarus’ Darya Domracheva. “It wasn’t working today,” she told NRK. “It worked at the start when I set off, but when I bombed so much on the two first shootings I took that with me out onto the track and became a little defensive.”
The Canadians trounced the Norwegians in the men’s curling on Friday morning with a dominant 10-4 finish. The team then faced the undefeated Chinese on Friday night, going down 7-5. That meant three wins and three losses for the men so far in the competition, putting them in a precarious position.
The men’s ice hockey team needed a win against Finland after losing their first match 3-1 to Canada. Finland scored two early goals in a dominant first half and never lost momentum, beating Norway 6-1.
Norway’s medal tally remained at four gold, three silver and six bronze after no podium finishes on Friday. While Norway held an equal 13 medals with the USA, Germany, Switzerland Canada were all higher in the standings with seven, five and four gold medals respectively.