Thursday, February 26, 2009

Relay Day II

The women's relay was an incredible contest: Kowalcyzk going out harder than hard at the start, Japan hanging in third place deep into the third leg, Steira skating so fast that she closed down a 31.8s gap to Finland in just 3500 meters, giving Kristoffersen an 8.2s lead at the start of the fourth leg. And then the fourth-leg war between Kristoffersen, Saarinen, Nystad, and Kalla - wow. Every medal was in play at the start the last leg, and the silver and bronze were up for grabs until the finish line. I have to think the Norwegian coaches will be rethinking their relay-team selection process after seeing poor young Marthe collapse on the anchor leg, sliding from gold down to fourth. Ouch.

We'll be lucky if the men's race is half so interesting. There should be a biggish pack (five teams, maybe?) right up to the anchor leg, at which point the attacks will come and the jet-powered one will emerge. I can't see the Czech team pulling out a win, much less a medal: Bauer and Koukal (2 and 4) can make up entirely for Jaks and Magal (1 and 3). My picks:

men's 4x10km relay
1. Norway (Roenning, Hjelmeset, Hofstad, Northug)
2. Sweden (Rickardsson, Olsson, Soedergren, Hellner - what, no Matti Fredriksson?)
3. Italy (Clara, Checchi, Piller Cottrer [who's had a bad Worlds, no?], di Centa)
     U.S. (Freeman, Cook, Southam, Newell): top 15
     Canada (Kershaw, Grey, Babikov, Harvey): top 10, inside 2:00 of the winner


keeron said...

Oh baby, did the Canadians ever show up today. Other than George having a real tough classic leg, they were pretty much shocking the big names left, right and center.
Also, anyone else confused by Axel Teichmann? He didn't look like he was trying/cared the entire leg, and put up the least spirited sprint finish I have ever seen. Tough luck for a team that I thought had a lock on the gold halfway through the third leg.

Christopher Tassava said...

Looks like a good finish, from the live update. Re. Canada: HELL YEAH. Nice race. Re. Teichmann: I think Northug is in his head in a big way. The German's accused the Norwegian of dubious sportsmanship, and you can't find two racers of more opposite demeanor. You only have to look at the last three minutes of the Tour de Ski Final Climb to see that Northug p0wns Teichmann right now.

Colin R said...

Yeah, Teichmann doesn't even put up a fight anymore when Northug's involved. It's ridiculous. It's like he'd rather lose automatically then go all-out and show that even if he actually tries, he can't beat Northug.

Back in the day Teichmann could sprint pretty well, which I would assume is why he's on the German anchor leg -- but given his apparent mental block with Northug, I think it's time to put Angerer back as the anchor instead.

Christopher Tassava said...

This interview with Northug includes all the critical moments of the anchor leg, including some shots of Northug showing off as he comes to the line. He's fast, but he seems like a big jerk.

Teichmann's lack of fight is sad, really. Almost akin to Joergen Brink blacking out on the anchor leg of the relay at Val di Fiemme as he was tracked down by Thomas Alsgaard - who was himself tailed by an emotionless young German with a peculiarly upright technique. Bring on Tobi!

Colin R said...

Petter clearly has an elevated opinion of himself. Unfortunately for those of us who enjoy pride going before fall, he's been backing it up lately.

I take issue with Teichmann's decision to lead. I bet Zorzi -- or any other Italian -- would have stood up and made Petter lead once he caught him. There's no point in giving the best sprinter a free ride to the line. These guys don't watch enough bike racing.

Also Chris, it's pretty unlike the Joergen Brink incident. In that case, Brink blacked the eff out from trying too hard. Kind of the opposite of Teichmann's problem.

Christopher Tassava said...

Ah, right. You got me re. the Brink/Teichmann thing. I was trying to get at the underlying psychological problems, but you're right that Axel didn't exactly run himself into the ground.

Re. Northug's opinion of himself: we'll always be able to enjoy the end of the Sapporo pursuit.

keeron said...

Re: Northug's Demeanor: Yeah, he does seem quite sure of himself, but this doesn't unduly worry me. Personalities sell sports - just look at Chandra Crawford's Gold Medal podium performance, and the recent Petra Majdic interview you posted. I'd rather take showboating, goofy-but-cocky Northug over an emotionless rock. He may be a dick, but at least he cares.
Re:Teichmann: In my books he's the second ugliest person on the WC to watch ski, right behind Justyna Kowalcyk. I won't comment on his mental situation vs. Petter, but his awkward standup style should be assessed some sort of time penalty.