IT’S BEEN A DAY OF FEROCIOUS WINDS, THE MAKING OF BRITISH CROSS-COUNTRY OLYMPIC HISTORY AND REMARKABLE DISPLAYS OF DETERMINATION AND SKILL IN PYEONGCHANG.
If anybody else out there was awake this morning shortly before 7.30am, they’ll agree that it was an emotional time. Primarily because we had to endure Andrew “Muzzy” Musgrave slipping from an off-your-sofa-screaming-at-the-tv second place in this morning’s cross-country 15km+15km skiathlon, with only 5km left of the gruelling 30km event, to ultimately drop down to seventh. But it was also quite remarkable to watch Norway’s Simen Hegstad Kruger fall over right at the beginning of the race, dropping into joint last place, a whopping 38 seconds behind the frontrunners, only to claw his way back through the field to take the gold medal. If you’ve got to lose a podium spot to somebody, it’s surely somewhat reassuring to lose it to an athlete capable of such a remarkable feat – one who epitomises the Olympic Spirit.
Furthermore, we can console ourselves with the thought that Muzzy still made history by producing the best ever performance by a Briton in an Olympic cross-country event and that his favourite event – the 15km freestyle – is yet to come (Friday 16 February). As he said:
“It’s a decent result but I’m not at the Olympics to come seventh. I’m here to fight for a win.”
We were similarly gutted when none of our three men’s snowboard slopestylers – Billy Morgan, Jamie Nicholls and Rowan Coultas – made it through the qualifying rounds to feature in today’s final yet it was still a mighty impressive battle to watch. In a field of seasoned pros, America’s surprise 17-year-old finalist Red Gerard fell on his first two runs, placing him 11th out of 12 with just one run left to salvage his Olympic dream. Throwing himself at the run, he pulled off a series of jaw-dropping tricks, including a massive backside triple cork 1440 (three twists and a flip), to bag the highest score of the day and the gold medal. Looking somewhat dazed, he said:
“I was surprised to even make it to the finals at the Olympics. And to get first is above me… I don’t even know what’s going on to be honest right now.”
Well, we can tell you: you’re now the youngest snowboarder to win a medal at the Winter Olympics and the youngest American to win a gold medal in 90 years.
In other Olympic news, the men’s Alpine downhill was postponed due to high winds and is now set to take place on Thursday 16 February. Those same winds caused the cancellation of this morning’s two-run women’s snowboard slopestyle qualifying stage. The competition will now take the format of a two-run straight final with all competitors taking part, kicking off tomorrow at 01.00 GMT. It means Aimee Fuller gets a free pass to the final – she’s looking strong and confident, so here’s to hoping she’ll nail those two runs!