Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Relay Day I

Ah, the relays. Normally the most exciting, or at least most highly-anticipated, races at the Olympics, the men's 4x10 (today) and the women's 4x5 (tomorrow) at Whistler are going to have to be phenomenal to live up to the drama of the pursuits or team sprints, or even the individual sprints.

But it could happen. Even beyond the weather - which looks to be set to "Epic" - a half-dozen men's teams are serious contenders for the medals (as both Lanngren and Nordic Xplained have outlined), including all the usual suspects and the strong Canadian team. God, but I hope the Canadians ski their guts out and garner medals for the home crowd.

Before the Games, I made these picks for the men's relay (having, of course, not seen either who was on form or the start lists):
1. Norway (Sundby, Hjelmeset, Berger, Northug)
2. Sweden (Richardsson, Olsson, Södergren, Hellner)
3. Germany (Filbrich, Teichmann, Sommerfeldt, Angerer)

5. Canada (Kershaw, Harvey, Babikov, Grey)
8. US (Newell, Koos, Kuzzy, Hamilton)

I'm going to stick with these picks for several reasons. First, Italy and Finland are racing poorly at the Games, so they're out. Second, while Switzerland had a great first day at the races and France has looked good recently, neither has enough all-around speed to vie for medals. Third, Russia looks good on paper, but we haven't seen any good results from the Russian distance racers yet. Canada too looks good, but just won't have enough to stay with the leaders to the finish - even though I would desperately love to see them on the podium.

Fourth and most importantly, Northug will want this race too much, and he'll be set up perfectly by Berger, who has fresh legs and showed in Sapporo that he can ski in crap conditions. Northug will be able to overcome the attacks that other teams have used to beat him and Norway on the Tour de Ski and now in the Games - hit him hard early, and then keep hammering him. (Clearly, last year's NCP post on this matter has been widely read by World Cup athletes and coaches.)

For what it's worth, my pre-Games predictions for the women's relay were these:
1. Norway
2. Russia
3. Finland


Anonymous said...

French showed some serious balls on the classic - pretty epic. Also - the general feeling the entire race was "when are those Czech guys NOT named Bauer going to drop???"
Northug mugging through the stadium asking the other two guys if they wanted to go was classic Northug - just the Swedes forgot how to play. Wicked day!