The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Swiss star Cologna holds off defending champ Hellner to win skiathlon

  • Print

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - No one knew quite what to expect from Dario Cologna at these Olympics.

It did not take long for the Swiss cross-country skier to provide an emphatic answer.

Cologna won the men's 30-kilometre skiathlon at the Sochi Games on Sunday with the strongest finish of any racer in the field, pulling away from his rivals at the top of the last uphill section before holding off defending champion Marcus Hellner of Sweden on the final straight.

It was quite an achievement for someone who had surgery in November to repair an ankle ligament and only returned to competition last month.

"It's a very big day, and very emotional for me to come back and win a gold medal, my biggest thing I won so far," said Cologna, who won gold in the 15-kilometre freestyle in Vancouver. "I said I hoped to be at my best again before the end of the Olympics, but it can't get better than this."

Cologna finished in one hour 8 minutes, 15.4 seconds. Hellner was 0.4 seconds behind to win silver.

Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway beat Russia's Maxim Vylegzhanin in a tight sprint for the bronze that led to a protest from the Russian team. They argued the Norwegian had impeded his rival by crossing into his lane just before the finish line.

A jury upheld the results but gave Sundby a written reprimand, saying he had broken the rules but did not affect the results. The Russian team can still appeal the ruling to the International Ski Federation's appeals committee.

Alex Harvey of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., was the top Canadian, finishing 18th in 1:10:00.5. Ivan Babikov of Canmore, Alta., was 25th in 1:10:14.6, while Graeme Killick of Fort McMurray, Alta., placed 45th in 1:13:16.1.

"In the classical portion, it was over after the second leg," Harvey said. "We had zero grip, and we were not very fast either.

"We lost 45 seconds in that portion, and we were pushing at 100 per cent, when the other guys in front were only pushing at 75 to 80 per cent."

Sundby acknowledged he crossed into Vylegzhanin's lane, but said he didn't realize what had happened until after the finish.

"I feel bad about the whole episode," Sundby said. "This was never, ever my intention. I didn't know where I was. Luckily it didn't influence the results. ... I feel really upset about it."

Cologna is a three-time overall World Cup winner and the only Swiss cross-country skier to take home an Olympic gold. He is also the reigning world champion in the skiathlon, which mixes classical-style skiing with freestyle, but came to Sochi with low expectations following his injury.

By finishing second in a World Cup race last weekend, Cologna send a signal he was returning to form. He left no doubt Sunday that he's back to his best, even if his foot is "still not 100 per cent."

"When I am sprinting like this, I still feel it a little bit," Cologna said. "Who cares, I won a gold medal and I am in a very good shape beside my foot. I did a lot to be ready here. It was not an easy season."

Cologna stayed well back in the pack for most of the 15K classical style portion of the race before moving his way up the field after the switch to freestyle at the halfway point.

About 15 skiers were still in the main pack entering the last two kilometres, but when Hellner made a move up the steep hill just outside the stadium, only Cologna, Sundby and Vylegzhanin could keep up.

Cologna then pulled in front near the top and immediately opened up a gap of about 10 metres over Hellner. The Swede pulled closer in the final sprint but couldn't catch his Swiss rival.

"Dario was a little bit stronger, I couldn't follow him," Hellner said. "I felt a bit stiff in the legs at the end. I regained my strength again, but he was too strong."

Unlike Cologna, double Olympic champion Petter Northug of Norway looked far from having found his best form as he ran out of energy on the final hill, dropping back and out of contention. Northug is a two-time world champion in the skiathlon, but has struggled with an illness this season and Sunday's performance was a worrying sign for Norway's biggest star on the men's side. A lethargic-looking Northug skied down the final straight at a slow, walking pace and he ended up 17th, 1:24 behind Cologna.

"My feeling today was that I didn't have the power I needed to fight in the top three," Northug said. "In the last climb it was just to give up and save power for the (individual) sprint."

The freestyle sprints are held Tuesday for men and women.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Kevin Cheveldayoff announces Maurice contract extension

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A baby Red Panda in her area at the Zoo. International Red Panda Day is Saturday September 15th and the Assiniboine Park Zoo will be celebrating in a big way! The Zoo is home to three red pandas - Rufus, Rouge and their cub who was born on June 30 of this year. The female cub has yet to be named and the Assiniboine Park Zoo is asking the community to help. September 14, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • A gaggle of Canada geese goslings at Woodsworth Park in Winnipeg Monday- See Project Honk Day 05- May 07, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What Western Conference teams will emerge from the first round of the NHL playoffs?

View Results

Ads by Google