Cologna (SUI) stuns with gold medal in Skiathlon
Switzerland's Dario Cologna has come back from ankle surgery in late November to win gold in the men's 30 km Skiathlon in Sochi. Sweden's Marcus Hellner took the silver, with Martin Johnsrud Sundby Norway taking the bronze.
As expected the final climb was a deciding factor in today's Skiathlon. Hellner lifted the pace coming into the hill and Cologna took over towards the top getting a gap into the final down hill.
With Hellner was Sundby and local favourite Russia's Maxim Vylegzhanin. Cologna and Hellner entered the homestretch 1, 2 and remained that way to the finish. Sundby and Vylegzhanin battled all the way to the line with Sundby ultimately taking the bronze medal.
Alexander Legkov, another Russian favourite for a medal was with the leading group that consisted of 17 athletes with 2 km to go when he broke a pole. Legkov still managed to finish in 11th place.
Men's Skiathlon Top 5
1. Dario Cologna SUI 1:08:15.4
2. Marcus Hellner SWE +0.4
3. Martin Johnsrud Sunbdy NOR +1.4
4. Maxim Vylegzhanin RUS +1.5
5. Ilia Chernousov RUS +13.6
Complete results are available HERE.
Source: Olympic New Service
KRASNAYA POLYANA – Dario COLOGNA (SUI) won his second Olympic gold medal in cross country skiing, having arrived at Sochi 2014 as the only person from Switzerland to win an Olympic cross-country skiing event.
- COLOGNA had emerged victorious in the men's 15km individual event four years ago in Vancouver.
- With his second Olympic title, COLOGNA is now chasing only two more successful countrymen, ski jumper Simon AMMANN (SUI) and alpine skier Vreni SCHNEIDER (SUI).
- COLOGNA gave Switzerland its first medal at Sochi 2014.
- COLOGNA became the first Swiss to win gold medals in successive Winter Games since snowboarder Philipp SCHOCH (SUI) won gold in at Salt Lake 20002 and Torino 2006.
- Marcus HELLNER (SWE), the defending champion from Vancouver 2010, became the seventh Swede to win at least three Olympic medals in men's cross country skiing. Apart from this event, he also won a gold in the relay in 2010.
- Martin Johnsrud SUNDBY (NOR) won his first Olympic medal in an individual event, adding to his silver in the relay from Vancouver.
Marcus HELLNER (SWE) - silver
On saving his best performances for big competitions:
"I like to compete when it's big and when there's a lot of pressure. I trained very hard for this."
On whether he was surprised at his performance:
"I am surprised. In the last years I've been feeling up and down. I'm more surprised than I thought I would be."
On whether his extensive poker experience helped his preparations:
"Psychologically, of course. In poker you need to keep your line and not reveal your tactics. Since the last Olympics I've been bluffing all the time."
Dario COLOGNA (SUI) - gold
On winning gold:
"It's great - a dream come true. The second gold after Vancouver. It's very special. It was a good race. My plan was to protect the last lap. I won already here in the  world cup in Sochi, I just wanted to do the same again."
On his ankle injury in 2013:
"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."
The stadium spectators at the Laura cross country course were brought to their feet by a stirring finish to the 15km + 15km race as COLOGNA held offMarcus HELLNER (SWE), the Olympic skiathlon champion, to take gold, with Martin Johnsrud SUNDBY (NOR) snatching bronze from Maxim VYLEGZHANIN (RUS).
"It's very special for me to win after my injury in November," said COLOGNA. "I didn't expect to be on the podium some months ago. I can't believe I won the first race."
With a kilometre to go it looked as if HELLNER - his season has also been troubled by health issues - might retain his title but COLOGNA powered past him on the final uphill climb before entering the stadium.
"Dario was a little bit stronger, I couldn't follow him," said HELLNER. "I felt a bit stiff in the legs at the end. I regained my strength again but he was too strong."
Petter NORTHUG (NOR), the favourite and yet another of the top men to have his season disrupted by illness or injury, finished a disappointing 17th.
No one should have been too surprised by COLOGNA's achievement. The Swiss, who won gold in the 15km free at Vancouver 2010, went into the 2013 world championships not long after a serious injury and managed to turn his season around when it mattered most of all. At Sochi 2014 he did it again.
An ankle injury in November required surgery, which meant he missed the opening two months of the 2013/14 world cup season. But COLOGNA's physical base is so good that neither he nor his team was about to give up on his Olympic chances.
Worryingly for the opposition, he thought the sprint free on Tuesday offered him a better chance of gold. His rivals have been warned.
The reigning world and Olympic champions were always in contention, while SUNDBY - who grabbed his first individual Olympic medal - had done much of the donkey work by frequently leading the race. His medal was a fitting reward for his endurance and endeavour.
"A medal is good [but] I went for gold and bronze is a disappointment," he said.