Nicolien Sauerbreij claims Gold in Parallel Giant Slalom
Nicolien Sauerbreij has won the Olympic parallel giant slalom title at Cypress Mountain. The 30-year-old rider from the Netherlands beat Russian surprise Ekaterina Ilyukhina, who secured the first ever Olympic snowboard medal for her home country, in the big final of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games ladies' race by 23 hundredths. In the battle for third, Austria's Marion Kreiner crossed the finish line ahead of Selina Joerg from Germany who struggled in both runs.
By clinching the first ever Olympic medal for the Netherlands outside of speed skating and figure skating, Nicolien Sauerbreij has successfully overcome her personal trauma suffered at the 2006 Winter Games in Torino. Four years ago, the current number one of the World Cup ranking lost the maximum penalty lead of about 1.5 seconds in the re-run of her eighth finals against later on Silver medallist Amelie Kober (GER) being edged of by a blink of the eye.
No wonder, that the three times Olympian was all smiles after she had performed the best possible way in a race held in tough weather conditions thus celebrating a little redemption: "I'm really fine. Really wet, but really fine," said the champion. "I just did my thing. I concentrated on my racing, and concentrated on myself. It is so hard in this weather to concentrate on yourself."
"This week, I would sometimes dream of a bronze medal and I had to say, 'no, no, gold'. But in every run I did, I felt more and more comfortable."
In yesterday's race at the rain-swept, bog-found Cypress Mountain, Sauerbreij went easily all the way through her head-to-head duels against Isabella Laboeck (GER) and Claudia Riegler (AUT). The second best qualifier only struggled a little bit in her semi final against Joerg who had entered the decisive second run with a tiny lead of 17 hundredths.
Tough course takes out some aspirants for Olympic glory
But Sauerbreij put together a clean run on a slope which exacted its toll from some top guns. Germany's hopeful Amelie Kober crashed out badly in the round of the top-8 which prevented her from starting in the consolidation run for seventh rank. In addition, World Cup second ranked Fraenzi Maegert-Kohli (SUI) and this season's rising star from Russia Alena Zavarzina both failed to qualify for the finals finishing 28th and 17th respectively.
Also Bronze medallist Kreiner, who slipped in her semis against Ilyukhina thus losing the chance for the title, had problems with the slope. "It was the first time I tried a new line and bounced out. Well, this happens once in ten runs. It's just a pity that it took place in the worst place," Kreiner summed up.
Third Austrian medal at Olympics
In the end, the 28-year-old Graz resident, who brought home the third Olympic Bronze medal for her home country after Brigitte Koeck (1998) and Siegfried Grabner (2006), was fine with the result - despite the fact that she could have done better: "The delight outweighs the disappointment although I would have preferred to place on top of the podium. To race for the third is always hard but I stayed focused and did a good job - this is amazing," explained the 2009 World Champion.