Cross Country stars impressed by Sochi venue
Sochi’s Laura Cross Country Ski & Biathlon Centre – one of the venues for next year’s Olympic Winter Games – has received praise from some of the world’s leading skiers after hosting the FIS Cross Country World Cup.
The event, which was held from 1-3 February, provided organisers with the chance to test one of the key Olympic venues as preparations continue ahead of the 2014 Winter Games, with many of the competitors impressed by the newly-constructed facilities.
“When I first got here, I thought to myself that this is what I always imagine an Olympic course to be like, before I ever got to one,” said America’s Kikkan Randall, who won the women’s free technique sprint event. “This course has a very Olympic feel to it, similar to the Vancouver course. It also has a long stretch before the finish, and the finish line in the full view of the tribunes. I think there is going to be a lot of drama here next year.”
Double Olympic champion Petter Northug, of Norway, won the men’s free technique sprint in Sochi, while Switzerland’s Dario Cologna, who won Olympic gold in the 15km freestyle event in 2010, claimed victory in the 30km pursuit.
"It was great to win here in Sochi, I feel quite well,” said Cologna. “I am very satisfied and happy to see the tracks for the next Winter Games. I like the course, especially the sprint; it's great. I think the track suits me very well. I am looking forward to next year. I hope the sprint tracks will be exactly the same. I like the long uphill. Sochi is a great place."
Norway’s Kristin Stoermer Steira, who won the women’s 15km pursuit, was also full of praise for the Sochi venue.
"I like it a lot, the classic course,” she said. “It has a lot of turns, small uphill. I like the last kilometre; it is really tough. Next year during the Winter Games the last uphill will be really important."
The final day of competition saw the team sprint classic technique races take place, with Finland’s Mona-Lisa Malvalehto and Anne Kyllönen winning the women’s event and Russia’s Dmitry Japarov and Maxim Vylegzhanin giving the home crowd reason to cheer as they clinched a solid victory in the men’s event, beating Teodor Peterson and Emil Joensson of Sweden by over 18 seconds.
“It feels great to be on the podium on the home soil,” said Japarov. “Maxim did a very good job on his legs and we could build up the gap. It was our plan to go as fast as possible right from the start. I hope we can repeat the same performance also next year at the Winter Games.”