They wanted to call themselves Olympians. Now, some of them have the bumps and bruises to prove it.
Not everyone in the 109-skier giant slalom race on Wednesday pushed out of the starting gate with the intention of winning. Some just wanted to make it down the tricky course in one piece.
There were plenty of spills and tumbles along the course as skiers from nations not really known for skiing tried their luck in a race won by Ted Ligety of the United States. In all, 26 competitors didn’t finish the first of two runs.
A skier from Spain lost both skis in a wipeout. Another from South Korea was so exhausted after finishing that he crashed directly into a protective bumper. And one from Andorra had to be carried off the hill in a stretcher.
For Himanshu Thakur of India, though, time didn’t really matter. He wasn’t bothered by finishing 52.26 seconds behind Ligety’s winning time, just elated at the chance to take the course.
“It’s a good thing,” Thakur said of lower-ranked skiers being included in this Olympic giant slalom. “Because I’m a skier. So it’s a good thing for me.”
Another Suomi surprise
Nikita Kriukov had just lost out in a fight for a gold medal against a Finnish skier at the Sochi Olympics, when the Finns made his day even worse.
Kriukov and Russia teammate Maxim Vylegzhanin had to settle for silver in the cross-country team sprint on Wednesday after Finland surprisingly won the final. That was Kriukov’s last event of the games, and he plans on spending the next few days in the coastal cluster watching some of the other events. Especially, he told a news conference, he was looking forward to watching Russia’s hockey semifinal on Friday.
A journalist had to interrupt him then, to inform him that Russia was in the process of losing its quarterfinal — to Finland.
Kriukov managed little more than an “oh” and then had to modify his plans.
“I hope to catch some of the competitions,” he said through a translator.
Vic Wild competes under the Russian flag, but the roots for the White Salmon, Wash., native run deep.
After the snowboarder completed a career revival with a gold medal for his new home country in men’s parallel giant slalom on Wednesday — just minutes after wife Alena Zavarzine won bronze in the women’s event — Wild wanted to celebrate in the most American way possible.
“It would be nice to have a beer,” Wild said. “They won’t let us have beer.”
When jokingly asked if vodka would suffice until a beer could be had, the 27-year-old provided a very un-Russian answer.
“I don’t like vodka,” he said. “I just want a beer.”
Surf’s up, Sochi
Leave it to a skier from California to perfectly capture the spirit of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
With the competition finished, Julia Mancuso decided to grab some waves. With the temperatures in Sochi balmy once again on Wednesday, Mancuso did some surfing in the Black Sea.
She got some help locating a local man who builds surf boards by hand in his garage. He also had a spare wetsuit, and that’s all Mancuso needed to indulge in one of her favorite pastimes.
“There are real waves in Sochi,” Mancuso said with a laugh.