Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics — Day four review

By Paul Hurst
dario cologna

23-year-old Dario Cologna

The Alpine skiing program finally got underway up at Whistler yesterday, after inclement weather had delayed the men’s downhill since Saturday.

Didier Defago of Switzerland took the gold medal. Defago knew he’d put in a special run that would be difficult to match, despite a number of strong challengers due to ski the course after him. He looked confident and relaxed in the finish area as he watched the competition fall away one by one.

Didier Cuche looked closest to displacing Defago at the top. He was just 0.06 seconds outside the leader’s time after the fourth intermediate split, but lost momentum in the final section, and could finish no higher than sixth. Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway took the silver, with Bode Miller of the US taking bronze.

Shortly afterwards, Switzerland claimed their second gold of the day, their third of the Games, in the Men’s 15km Cross-Country. 23-year-old Dario Cologna, making his Olympic debut, won the gold by a comfortable margin of 24 seconds. Sweden claimed their first gold of the Games, with a victory for Charlotte Kalla in the Ladies’ 10km Cross Country.

The Men’s Snowboard Cross event culminated in a final full of excitement yesterday. Canadian Mike Robertson and American Nate Holland both got off to good starts and jostled for the lead in the early stages. As Holland looked to be pulling ahead, his medal hopes were dashed as he took a tumble, dropping him back into last place.

Robertson pulled ahead, and looked well on course to bring home Canada’s second gold of the games. Defending champion Seth Wescott refused to give up, and with about a quarter of the course left to run, took the lead. Robertson fought back, and if the course had been just 10m longer he may have snatched the victory, but Wescott managed to cling on to give the United States their second gold of the games.

Back in the city, the evening most certainly belonged to the Far East. At the Pacific Coliseum, one of the great Olympic winning streaks came to an end in the Pairs Figure Skating, as a pair from Russia/USSR failed to win the gold medal for the first time since the 1960 Squaw Valley games.

Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China claimed the gold at their fourth attempt. After winning bronze in Torino and Salt Lake City, the couple, who are married, had retired from competition almost three years ago. Their decision to come back for one last shot at Olympic glory paid dividends. Dancing to “Adagio in G Minor” they put in a magnificent, albeit not flawless, performance in the free skate.

It was enough for them to hold on to their lead from the short program. The Russian couple of Kavaguti and Smirnov, in third after the short program, had a poor free skate, dropping them out of the medal places.

This allowed fellow Chinese pair of Qing Pang and Jian Tong to claim silver after putting in the best performance in the free skate. Germany managed to hang on for bronze, despite Robin Szolkowy taking a big tumble, ending their hopes of victory.

There was victory for South Korea in the Men’s 500m Speed Skating. In a bizarre twist, the event was delayed for over an hour, as both ice-resurfacing vehicles malfunctioned during a routine resurfacing break. When the competition eventually got back underway, Tae-Bum Mo took the gold, ahead of Japanese skaters Keiichiro Nagashima and Joji Kato, in silver and bronze, respectively.
Tuesday is a packed schedule, with a number of events getting underway.

Zoe Gillings will be competing in the Ladies’ Snowboard Cross, and has a good chance at a medal. Gillings has overcome adversity to even make it to Vancouver, after the British Ski & Snowboard Federation recently went into administration, throwing athletes’ plans into disarray. Both curling events get underway on day five with Britain’s men beginning their campaign against Sweden, in the very first match at the new Vancouver Olympic Centre, south of downtown.

The big event of the day will be at Canada Hockey Place, as Canada’s men begin their charge at ice hockey glory, against Norway. Team Canada have announced Roberto Luongo will start in goal for the match in his home arena; the stopper plays his hockey for the venue’s usual residents — the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks.

And if anyone was worried about any more ice-resurfacing problems, the organisers have announced they are airlifting an emergency Zamboni machine in from Calgary!

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