On 6 January 2013 Alexander Legkov reached what he regards as the apex of his career thus far, when he became the first cross-country skier from Russia to win the FIS Tour de Ski, an intense week-long competition held at five different locations and featuring every distance and style involved in cross-country skiing. To win the event, the Muscovite held off the not insignificant challenge of two Olympic champions, Dario Cologna (SUI) and Petter Northug (NOR), thereby asserting his credentials as a genuine medal contender at Sochi 2014.
As the greatest challenge of his career approaches, Legkov has taken advantage of every spare minute between the various competitions during the 2013-2014 season to put the finishing touches to his preparations. “Like all athletes, I’ve always dreamed of winning an Olympic medal. The most important thing now is just avoiding illness and injury. You need to stay focused on your goal, or your dream, and if you can manage that, everything should fall into place,” says the Russian. “But I don’t think about it every single minute of the day. Whatever happens, happens – that’s life. I just hope that everything goes as planned.”
Having made his international debut in 2002 and taken part in every FIS Nordic World Ski Championships since 2005, Legkov got his first taste of Olympic competition at Turin 2006, where he finished 37th in the 2 x 15km pursuit and 20th in the 50km classical. “I was just so happy to have qualified and to be able to participate in the Games,” he says.
Disappointment in Vancouver
Four years later, boosted by his first successes in the FIS Cross-Country World Cup, including a second place in the overall standings in 2007, he was, in his own words, “ready to fight for a medal” in Vancouver. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for me,” he says. That was a reference to the final of the 2 x 15km pursuit in which Legkov was one of four skiers still in contention for gold with just a few hundred metres to go. Unfortunately he fell slightly off the pace during the short downhill section leading into Whistler Olympic Park stadium and finished fourth, four seconds behind eventual winner Markus Hellener (SWE) and one second off the bronze medal position.
Before embarking on this latest Olympic adventure, which follows his best season to date (as well as his Tour de Ski victory, he again finished second overall in the World Cup and captured the small crystal globe for the distance title), Legkov warmed up in Australia in August by prevailing in the traditional 42km Kangaroo Hoppet race in Falls Creek, where the Russian team were holding a training camp. The 30-year-old subsequently claimed third spot overall in the Ruka Triple, the mini-tour of Kuusamo (FIN) in November/December 2013, and enjoyed collective success with his Russian team-mates in mid-December in the men’s 4 x 7.5km relay event in Lillehammer (NOR). “Right now I’m convinced I’m ready – mentally and physically – for the Sochi Games,” he insists. My moment has arrived, and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”