Sochi recap: Cross-country skiing, men’s skiathlon

Dario Cologna, whose favorite status was in doubt after an injury slowed him through the World Cup season, made the decisive move on the torturous uphill before the finish and held on for gold, while Russia endured another fourth-place result.

Date: 9- Feb

Sport: Cross-country skiing

Event: Men’s skiathlon (15k classical + 15k freestyle)

Medalists: Dario Cologna (Switzerland), Marcus Hellner (Sweden), Martin Johnsrud Sundby (Norway)

SportsMyriad projections: Dario Cologna (Switzerland), Martin Johnsrud Sundby (Norway), Petter Northug (Norway)

How U.S. fared: The early surprise – the USA’s Noah Hoffman stuck with the leaders in his weaker discipline of classical. Then he wiped out on a turn heading into the stadium. He got up, and Italy’s Francesco de Fabiani ran into him. He dropped back and wasn’t a factor again. He finished 35th, 3:12.7 back. Erik Bjornsen was 42nd, 4:26.9 back. Then Brian Gregg (47th, 5:10.9) and Kris Freeman (54th, 6:19.2).

What happened: Format reminder: The skiers go 15 kilometers in classical style, then change skis and poles like they’re in a NASCAR pit stop, then take off in freestyle.

Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Russia’s Alexander Legkov led a pack that broke away in the classical phase. That group had roughly 19 skiers. Legkov ran into some trouble heading into the stadium and dropped to the back of that group, but he made a smooth transition and stayed in the lead group as it dwindled to 17, including four Swedes and three Russians. All three of the SportsMyriad projected medalists took turns at the front in freestyle.

NBC’s insightful Chad Salmela kept pointing out Petter Northug’s tactics. He would push his way to the front and try to slow the pace, figuring he would win a sprint finish. And no one else was able to break away.

Finally, the big move came from Switzerland’s Dario Cologna. He pushed himself to the limit up the final downhill. Three skiers stayed close — Sundby, Sweden’s Marcus Hellner and Maxim Vylegzhanin.

Cologna barely had enough energy to hold off Hellner by 0.4 seconds. One second later, Sundby broke Russia’s hearts, beating Vylegzhanin by 0.1 seconds after more than 68 minutes of racing. One day earlier in the same venue, Russia’s Anton Shipulin was fourth in the biathlon sprint. When will Russia’s agony end?

Quote: “It’s very special for me to win after my injury in November. I didn’t expect to be on the podium some months ago. I can’t believe I won the first race.” – Dario Cologna

Full results