Everything you need to know about Cross-Country in Sochi
Number of medal events
12 medal events (6 ladies, 6 men), no new events only the name of the former “pursuit” has been changed to skiathlon (still the same competition, 7.5 km C + 7.5 km F for ladies and 15 km C + 15 km F for men)
Name of venue and highlights
"Laura" Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center is located on the crest and slopes of the Psekhako Ridge, approx. 10 km to the North-Ester of Krasnaya Polyana.
Two stadiums, one for Cross-Country Skiing and one for biathlon
Laura is a turbulent mountain river with a large number of waterfalls. It has its source in the southern slopes of the Assar, within the boundaries of the Caucasian nature reserve. The name of the river is based on a legend of a young girl called Laura who chose death over living with an old prince she did not love. After running away from the prince, Laura jumped of a rock into the river that was later named after her. Murat, Laura's lover, could not live with the pain of their parting and jumped in after his bride. The lovers' bodies were never found and local inhabitants say that the Gods were so moved by what had happened that they took them to the heavens the summit of the sacred Mount Elbrus.
Dario Cologna SUI is coming back after an ankle injury he suffered in November 2013. He jumped back in the FIS Cross-Country World Cup last weekend in Toblach ITA and finished in 2nd place in 15 km Classic behind Alexander Legkov
Marit Bjørgen (NOR) is aiming at most podiums at OWG. She has 5 podiums (2 wins), second best in the ranking of active skiers is Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) with 4.
Kikkan Randall (USA) could become to first U.S. female Cross-Country skier to win a medal at the OWG (Bill Koch won silver in 1976 in Innsbruck)
Medal favourites/big stars
Poland’s reigning 30km classic Olympic champion Justyna Kowalczyk is again expected to challenge for medals in the women’s events, having claimed the 2012/13 overall World Cup title. Her rivals will include Norway’s three-time Olympic gold medallist Marit Bjørgen, Therese Johaug and 10 km Free Olympic Champion Charlotte Kalla of Sweden. In sprint Kikkan Randall (USA) can become the first U.S. lady to win an Olympic medal in Cross-Country Skiing. Despite finishing 5th in the last World Cup sprint before the Games, Randall is one of the biggest favorites in the Olympic sprint.
In the men’s events, Norway’s double Olympic gold medallist Petter Northug will be looking to follow up his overall 2013 World Cup title with more success in Sochi. The 28-year-old, who won 50km classical and team sprint titles in Vancouver, has already enjoyed success on the Sochi cross-country course, having won the sprint event there during last year’s World Cup event. Switzerland’s Dario Cologna successfully came back last weekend at the FIS Cross-Country World Cup in Toblach as he finished in 2nd place in 15 km Classic. Cologna won first World Champion title last year in Val di Fiemme in 15 km C + 15 km F skiathlon and will be aiming high in Sochi as well.
Also Sweden’s Johan Olsson is likely to challenge for medals together with compatriots Marcus Hellner and Emil Joensson. Home favourites will be led by Alexander Legkov, who won the last pre-Olympic test in Toblach and is among big medal favorites in each competition. Also Nikita Kriukov can strike back in sprint and team sprint to defend the Olympic from Vancouver.
Athletes to watch
There are several young athletes to watch during the upcoming three weeks. Heidi Weng is considered to be the rising star of Norwegian Cross-Country skiing. The 23-year-old skier won her first big individual medal last year at eth FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme, claiming bronze in 7.5 km C + 7.5 km F skiathlon and gold medal in the 4x5 km relay. Weng’s compatriot Ingvild Flugstad Østberg is also one of the new names on the Norwegian squad but with a potential to win a medal.
Alexey Poltoranin of Kazakhstan is no longer a rookie as he started at his first Olympic Winter Games in Torino, 2006. Poltoranin broke in the top a few years ago becoming classical technique specialists and one of the biggest contenders for gold in 15 km Classic in Sochi.
U.S. ski team is not only Kikkan Randall. There are several young and talented skiers to watch out for such as team sprint World Champion (with Kikkan Randall) Jessie Diggins or surprise of the year Sadie Bjornsen.
Germany’s biggest hope for a medal lie with the current Sprint World Cup standing leader Denise Herrmann. Herrmann has finished three times in 2nd place in free technique sprints this World Cup season and will be one of Randall’s challengers.
Skiers from Iran, Nepal, Togo, Domenica or Bermuda
Did you know?
Cross-Country skier Bjorn Daehlie still remains the most decorated Winter Olympic athlete with 8 gold and 4 silver medals
Video link to “Skiing to Sochi”