Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Relay Day I

Man, the sprint events have been good appetizers* for the main course: the four days that include the women's and men's relays (Thursday and Friday) and the 30km and 50km freestyle mass start races (Saturday and Sunday). The Vasaloppet - effectively the world ski marathon championships - occurs on Sunday, too, as a sort of dessert.

The women's relays are almost always good for a surprise and some good competition. At Torino, the surprise came when Norway failed to medal in the event; the competition in the tight race between Germany and host Italy for the silver and bronze (behind Russia). At Sapporo, the surprise came when Virpi Kuitunen used her lead leg to destroy the field; the competition in German anchor Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle's climb from fourth at her handoff all the way up to silver.

Based on the strong showings by Saarinen in the 10km (an event in which Kuitunen just missed the bronze), Muranen in the sprint, and Kuitunen and Saarinen in the sprint relay, Finland appears ready to defend its title. My picks:

women's 4x5km relay
1. Finland (Muranen/Kuitunen/Roponen/Saarinen -- they'll win going away)
2. Norway (Bjoergen/Johaug/Steira/Kristoffersen -- what, no Jacobsen for spills and thrills?)
3. Sweden (Andersson/Norgren/Haag/Kalla -- I can see this team being a mess on the tracks, but the I'm trusting Kalla's mostly-fresh legs to keep them in contention)
Italy (Confortola/Longa/Valbusa/Follis) will be close behind, but I think the success of Longa and Follis will work against them in the relay.

* Joo see Japan hang with Sweden and Italy right into the last lap of the sprint relay? Wow. A shame they had to accept the wooden medal.


Colin R said...

Third spot for the women's race is surprisingly hard to call. I'll pick the Russians to turn back to their doping, er, glory days and sneak in for a bronze.

Christopher Tassava said...

I'm watching the live update right now, amazed that Japan is in the bronze-medal position halfway through the third leg! Wow. I guess yesterday's great performance in the sprint relay wasn't a fluke.

Christopher Tassava said...

What a freaking race. Every medal was in play at the start the last leg, and the silver and bronze were up for grabs until the finish line. Wow.