Beaten on slopes, trails and tracks

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UPDATED: Norway’s Olympic team suffered more devastating blows over the weekend, also after the ladies’ cross-country gold medal favourites limped home to a disappointing fifth-place finish. There were no silver linings to be found in the day’s other events, as the Norwegians also failed to medal in the Super-G downhill skiing, speed skating and large hill ski jumping.

The Norwegian women failed to place on a demanding course in the ladies’ Super-G alpine event. Seven of the first eight competitors lost control and ran off the course. In total, 18 skiers did not finish, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Lotte Smiseth Sejersted’s 15th place finish was Norway’s best, 2.28 seconds slower than Austrian Anna Fenninger’s gold medal run. Her teammate Nicole Hosp took bronze, while Germany’s Maria Höfl-Riesch made the silver medal run. The other Norwegian in the race, Ragnhild Mowinckel, finished 19th.

The women’s 20 kilometre relay was expected to Saturday’s highlight, but the team was left flabbergasted and the public outraged when Sweden, Finland, Germany and France all beat the Norwegian women across the line. Norway’s waxing experts, considered the best in the world, were left scrambling for answers when it became clear the athletes skis hadn’t been optimally prepared, affecting their glide.

Speed skaters disappointed
Norway’s main hope for a medal in the men’s 1500 metre skate lay with Håvard Bøkko, but the best the 27-year-old could manage was sixth place. He was paired against Canada’s Denny Morrison, who eventually took the bronze medal. In the last heat of the competition, Dutchman Koen Verweij matched the time laid down by Poland’s Zbigniew Brodka. In a nail-biting review, a mere .003 seconds separated gold and silver, with Brodka emerging triumphant.

“I’m disappointed,” Bøkko told newspaper VG after the event. “I had hoped I could hold onto the medal when I crossed the finish line. I have spent four years on this, so it’s dull.” He told reporters it was the heaviest moment of his career. “I’m allowed to be depressed tonight. Tomorrow I’ll begin to think about the team pursuit.”

Sverre Lunde Pedersen finished two places behind Bøkko, Håvard Lorentzen cam 16th, and Simen Speieler Nilesen took 36th position.

Ski jumping fell flat
Anders Fannemel offered Norway a sliver of hope when he soared into first place in the final round of the men’s large hill individual ski jump on Saturday night. The next few jumpers failed to measure up, but Fannemel eventually finished fifth behind Poland’s Kamil Stoch, 41-year-old Japanese veteran Noriaki Kasai, Peter Prevc from Slovenia, and German Severin Freund.

Anders Bardal placed 16th and Rune Velta 24th, while Anders Jacobsen failed to make the cut to reach the final round and finished in 38th place. Bardal was Norway’s favourite going into the competition, but was among the first to jump in difficult conditions. “He got way too poor conditions,” said NRK’s jumping commentator Arne Scheie. “The judges should have stopped the event.”

NRK’s jumping expert Espen Bredesen said Bardal was unlucky, but disagreed that the competition should’ve been halted. “When the conditions are within the limit the judges have set, you must go,” he explained.

After two days with no podium finishes, Norway’s medal count remained at 13 on Saturday night: four gold, three silver and six bronze. Norway sat in seventh place in the medal standings, behind Germany, Switzerland, Russia, Canada, the Netherlands and the United States. Norway also lost its status as the country with the most medals, overtaken by Russia with 15, and the US and the Netherlands with 14.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate