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[PyeongChang 2018] Norway blazes trails at PyeongChang skiingBy Joel Lee
Published : Feb. 19, 2018 - 16:56
Norway clinched a gold in the men’s slopestyle freestyle skiing, won by Oystein Braten, and another in the men’s 4x10 kilometer relay in cross-country skiing, won by a team of Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Didrik Toenseth, Simen Hegstad Krueger and Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo. It also grabbed one silver in the men’s alpine skiing giant slalom with Henrik Kristoffersen and one bronze in biathlon men’s 15km mass start with Emil Hegle Svendsen.
The Nordic nation led the overall medals table as of 18:00 p.m. Monday with nine gold, nine silver and eight bronze, trailed by Germany with nine gold, five silver and four bronze and the Netherlands with six gold, five silver and two bronze.
Canada was in fourth place with five gold, five silver and six bronze, and the United States in fifth with five gold, three silver and two bronze. South Korea was in ninth with three gold, one silver and two bronze.
In cross-country skiing, Norway ended its 16-year gold medal drought in the men’s 4x10 kilometer relay as Klaebo crossed the finish line with a comfortable lead over the Russians. The Scandinavian country with rugged slopes has taken home five of the eight gold medals, as well as 11 medals overall, in the sport at PyeongChang, just shy of the Soviet Union’s record 13 medals at the 1988 Calgary Games.
The Norwegian team won the race in one hour, 33 minutes and 4.9 seconds, nearly 10 seconds ahead of the Olympic Athletes from Russia, who have yet to win a gold at PyeongChang. The French team captured bronze.
“(Cross-country skiing) is the national sport in Norway, so of course it is an important sport for us,” said Norwegian coach Tor Arne Hetland, adding the relay is also the most important event in cross-country skiing for the Norwegians. “In the individual races you are skiing for yourself. In the relay you are skiing for the team, for the older skiers and the whole country.”
Norway’s Oystein Braaten edged American silver medalist Nick Goepper and Canadian bronze medalist Alex Beaulieu-Marchand to bring home gold in slopestyle skiing with a score of 95.00.
In curling on Monday morning, the South Korean women’s team extended its winning streak by beating Sweden 7-6 in a round robin match in Gangneung, one of two hosting cities of the Winter Games. The women’s team will play more round robin matches this week for a place in the semifinals on Friday.
The South Korean men's curling team also added a win by beating Italy 8-6 in a round robin match in the afternoon.
On the same day, the figure skating pair of Yura Min and Alexander Gamelin -- Americans representing South Korea at PyeongChang -- made the cut for the free dance competition on Tuesday with a score of 61.22 in the short program.
South Korea will try to add a gold to its medals list when women speed skaters Shim Suk-hee, Lee Yu-bin, Kim Ye-jin and Choi Min-jeong will compete in the 3,000m short track relay finals on Tuesday. Choi won gold in the women’s 1,500 meters on Saturday. Shim, Choi and their teammate Kim A-lang will also race in the women’s 1,000m heat events on the same day, with the finals slated for Thursday.
South Korea’s male speed skating team of Lee Seung-hoon, Chung Jae-won and Kim Min-seok finished first among eight countries that participated in the quarterfinals of the team pursuit event on Sunday, clocking in at 3 minutes, 39.29 seconds. The country will face New Zealand in the semifinals on Wednesday.
In biathlon men’s 15km mass start, France’s Martin Fourcade took a slice of history with his second gold at PyeongChang on Sunday. The title earned the Frenchman his fourth gold medal, following his two from the 2014 Sochi Games and one in the 12.5-kilometer course on Feb. 12. Simon Schempp of Germany won silver and Emi Hegle Svendsen of Norway won bronze.
“I finished second in the mass start in Vancouver (2010). Four years ago in Sochi I was fighting for the gold with Emil (Hegle Svendsen) and I lost by less than three centimeters,” the 29-year-old said. “And I thought about that during the whole last loop because I thought this would happen again. And when I saw the line, I had a deep feeling that I’d lost. For now it’s not real yet.”
Austria’s Marcel Hirscher won his second ski title on Sunday in the men’s giant slalom. The Austrian said his years of success on the World Cup circuit proved instrumental in his victory over Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen and France’s Alexis Pinturault, who came in second and third, respectively.
Oleksandr Abramenko’s gold in freestyle skiing men’s aerials on Sunday was Ukraine’s first medal at PyeongChang. The 29-year-old beat Jia Zongyang of China, who took silver, and Ilia Burov of the Olympic Athletes from Russia, who took bronze.
South Korean Lee Sang-hwa clinched silver in the women’s 500m speedskating in 37.33 seconds, 0.39 second behind winner Nao Kodaira of Japan who broke Lee’s Olympic record of 37.28. The bronze went to Karolina Erbanova of the Czech Republic with 37.34.
Lee, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and the defending champion in the 500m, became the first Asian woman to win medals in the 500m at three consecutive Winter Games.
“I felt a bit of pressure to defend my title,” the 28-year old skater said, calling herself an underdog to Kodaira. “In the past, I was nervous about falling from the lead. But this time, she was the heavy favorite, not me.”
After all 31 skaters finished their races, Lee let out her emotion in joyful tears, consoled and hugged by Kodaira as the two rivals and friends skated together holding their national flags.
Meanwhile, in hockey, South Korea fell to world No. 1 Canada 4-0 for its third straight loss at PyongChang. Sweden, the Czech Republic, the Olympic Athletes from Russia and Canada have secured their places in the quarterfinals.
In the women’s hockey, the joint team of South Korean and North Korean players lost to Switzerland 2-0 in the first classification match on Sunday. Korea will face Sweden for a seventh place on Tuesday, having lost all three games in the preliminary rounds to fall to the classification stage.
By Joel Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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