Friday, February 16, 2018

Swiss Olympian Succeeds In Skiing Gold Three-Peat

My longtime friend and fellow International Society of Olympic Historians (ISOH) member J. Brian Carberry loves it when there's a five-ringed three-peat.

For most recent Olympiads -- including the one underway -- he methodically plotted the potential three-, four-, five- or even six-peat feats.

It's a meticulous process, and with Brian's thoughtful work in mind, it was fun to experience an actual golden three-peat in the making on Friday at Alpensia Cross-Country Skiing Centre.

Just steps from the iconic PyeongChang ski jump tower, and in view of the sunny albeit snow-covered mountains decorated with massive wind turbines, Switzerland's Dario Cologna finished the 15 km cross-country snow endurance course in 33:43.9.

Simen Hegstad Krueger of Norway earned silver 18.3 seconds slower, with Denis Spitsov, an Olympic Athlete of Russia (OAR), winning bronze 23 seconds behind the lead.

Norway was an audience favorite, and this blogger must admit to falling in rank with several jubilant Norwiegian fans upon arrival at the venue.

Could not stop laughing at their red "Make Northug Great Again" caps in reference to the legendary cross-country Olympian and 13-time World Champion Petter Northug.

At the post-race press conference I asked Cologna to describe what the gold medal three-peat means to him.

He had a lot to say.

"Three times in this event and four gold medals -- now I am together with [fellow-Swiss Olympian in ski jumping] Simon Ammann, the only Swiss who won four times in the Olympics," said Cologna. "To write a little bit of history, it is not bad."

Cologna continued with his response.

"To win in three different Olympics is very hard work over many years," he said. "I had two not-so-easy years, the last two, but really wanted to be back."

"It feels very good to be back on top," he added.

"So many thoughts are going through the head; very big emotions and many people, the team who helped me a lot, my family who is here, my girlfriend and it is always a great team behind, the all did a very good job."

My query was only one of three in English before the press conference became an all-German language stampede to interview the Olympic champion.

As the gaggle of European reporters subsided, I did get in one more question regarding Cologna's choice to wait at the finish line and congratulate the last three racers from Tonga, Columbia and Mexico, respectively.

The gesture of sportsmanship impressed me greatly, so I asked Cologna what he said to the tropical trio.

"I just congratulated them and said that it is great they are here and I was very happy to see them finish the race," said Cologna.

Tonga's Pita Taufatofua, who earlier this week joked he would be lucky to complete the race before they turn off the lights in the venue, placed 114 out of 117 finishers with a time of 56:41.1, just under 23 minutes slower than Cologna. Mexico's lone entry, German Madrazo, crossed the finish line in 59:35.4 carrying a fan-provided Bandera de Mexico and a gran sonrisa.

Fun to see Taufatofua, who trains with Madrazo, help lift his amigo onto the shoulders of other cross-country athletes to the delight of spectators.

I looked for Mister Tonga but missed him post-race, hoping to catch up with him later in PyeongChang.

Photos by Nicholas Wolaver

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