I got a wonderful valentine yesterday from my teammates. I have to admit I didn’t reciprocate. I’ll have to do something for them before the end of the season.
They served sushi (well, vegetarian sushi) in the dining hall last night. It was excellent.
I don’t remember previously seeing this barbed wire on the fence surrounding the village. I’m not sure if I just missed it or if it was recently installed.
It was ladies relay day here at the Olympics. Here is Sadie Bjornsen before heading out for her warm-up. The face paint is a relay tradition for our ladies.
I did my easy recovery ski right before the race so I could stay at the venue after to watch. I was skiing while the racers were warming up. Here is Canada’s 1st leg skier Perianne Jones:
Here are coach Matt Whitcomb and Liz Stephen picking Liz’s race skis:
Here is Norway’s 2nd leg skier Therese Johaug:
And Johaug’s teammate Heidi Weng:
After my short ski I joined up with the Team USA cheering squad. Here are the girls who weren’t racing the relay but who made a huge difference with awesome cheering (from left to right) Holly Brooks, Sophie Caldwell and Ida Sargent:
We were in the coaching zone above the stadium. Athletes aren’t really supposed to be on course, but it’s hard to tell us we can’t cheer for our teammates. The organizers didn’t seem to mind even though the coaching zone was crowded.
The officials were trying to keep us in the coaching zone, but the signs were small and they had their work cutout for them.
Here is Simi Hamilton (who will anchor our relay tomorrow) with Sophie:
It was a beautiful day for a race, warm again. Here are the ladies lined up to start.
I really believe our ladies had a chance to medal today. They were on the podium in a World Cup relay last season and have proven many times that they have one of the strongest teams on in the world. The race went out fast today. Here is Finland’s Anne Kylloenen leading the group up the first hill.
In the middle of the first lap they were still all together.
Here they are dropping into the stadium. The laps were 2.5 kilometers long and each athlete skied two laps before tagging her teammate.
From a team perspective the relays are the biggest cross country event at the Olympics. Many athletes who weren’t racing came to watch. Here are some of the Norwegians cheering their team on:
On the second lap things started to break up. Here is Kikkan changing lanes to try to stay in contact.
We were surprised to see Weng (from Norway) off the back.
At the front of the group was the Czech Republic, Germany and Sweden.
Unfortunately Kikkan did not have a good day. She blew up in the last kilometer and dropped 40 seconds to the leaders, taking us out of medal contention. Here she is suffering up the last hill.
Our cheering squad was still in good spirits. Here are (from left to right) Sophie, biathlete Hannah Dreissigacker, Andy Newell and Ida:
Here are the leaders coming by the Olympic rings at the end of the first leg:
The Canadians had an even worse day than we did. Here is their second leg skier Daria Gaiazova:
Seeing Norway struggle like they did is unbelievable. None of their skiers raced at their normal level. Here is Johaug:
Here are (from left to right) Norwegian athletes Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and Kristin Størmer Steira with Sophie and Holly:
Sadie skied a good race with the 7th split of the second leg.
Here she is going by the wall of American flags:
Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland, who won the classic race on Thursday, was flying today. She had the fastest split of the second leg.
Ida got some T.V. time while waving her flag. (I actually heard I got some T.V. time while taking pictures too.)
It looked like brutal racing in the warm temps. Here is Sadie dropping into the stadium to tag Liz.
By the third leg a solid three-skier lead group had formed containing Sweden (Anna Haag, left), Finland (Kerttu Niskanen, center) and Germany (Claudia Nystad).
The chasers were Norway (Astrid Jacobson), France (Anouk Faivre Picon) and Poland (Sylwia Jaskowiec).
I was really impressed with Nystad who skied better than she has all season to stay with Finland.
Even though Liz was only near Italy, fighting for 8th place, she was still hammering.
Nystad and Niskanen had gaped Haag by the end of the first lap.
Haag seemed to ski a really smart leg. She let the two leaders go and skied her own pace. Consequently she didn’t blow up and didn’t give up too much time.
We kept waiting for the Norwegians to make a move and come back into the race, but they looked very average.
Here is Liz with an awesome cheering squad.
Niskanen put in a big effort to drop Nystad. She had 6 seconds at the end of her leg.
Here’s Haag holding tough.
And Norway still with France and Poland:
Liz doing her typical head down charge.
Niskanen tagged Finland’s anchor Krista Lahteenmaki.
Lahteenmaki has two top-15 results so far this Olympics.
Jessie Diggins skied our anchor leg.
Anna Haag tagged to Charlotte Kalla who took a silver medal in both of the distance races so far in this Olympics.
We thought Bjørgen, as Norway’s anchor, still had a chance to ski back into the race. She was only 33 seconds down when she got the tag. However, she was just as average as her teammates. By the finish she had lost another 20 seconds to the leaders. To illustrate how astounding it is to see Norway finish out of the medals, the Norwegian women had not been beaten in a distance relay since the 2009 World Championships. Here’s Bjørgen:
Amazingly France’s Caraline Hugue actually caught Bjørgen and beat her.
After a great opening leg Russia finished in 6th position. Here is their anchor skier Yulia Tchekleva:
Here’s Jessie finishing her first lap:
Here are the leaders next to the snowmobile cam:
Here’s Jessie on the first hill of the second lap:
Our cheering squad was still hard at work:
Ida takes her cheering seriously.
Jessie broke away from the Italian skier. She had 8th place locked up until she accidentally went into the lap lane instead of the finish lane. She had to stop and turn, and Italy crossed the line before us.
Kalla was amazing. She caught the leaders from 25 seconds down and out sprinted them to take the gold medal for Sweden. Finland took silver and Germany bronze. Full results are available here.
When I was walking back to the village from the race the German men were hanging a flag to honor their teammate’s medal.
The women on my team are definitely disappointed. Today doesn’t take anything away from the fact that they are great athletes who have achieved incredible results. Every team is going to have bad days, but it certainly feels like our chances for a medal in these Games are slipping away.
Tomorrow at 2 p.m. Sochi time is the men’s relay. Our team will be led by Andy Newell. Erik Bjornsen will ski second, I will ski third and Simi Hamilton will ski fourth. We are a LONG shot for a medal. My outcome goal for us as a team is to finish in the top eight. My personal goals are to ski with high energy and without tension. I want to start hard but at a sustainable pace. If you’re in the U.S. you can watch the race live on the NBC Sports Network at 5 a.m. Eastern (3 a.m. in the Rocky Mountains) or on NBC at noon Eastern (2 p.m. mountain).