Injured Justyna Kowalczyk wins 10km cross-country gold
Polish skier overcomes reported foot injury to win
Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland won the gold medal in the women's 10km classic cross-country race at the Laura Cross-Country and Biathlon Centre at the Sochi Olympics.
Sweden's Charlotte Kalla finished second, crossing the line 18.4 seconds back from the winner. Therese Johaug of Norway finished third, 28.3 seconds back from the victor, improving her position over the final big climb.
Kowalczykk was reported to have raced with an injured foot. She posted a photo of an X-ray on Facebook, revealing a small fracture.
Brittany Webster of Caledon, Ont., was the top Canadian finisher, crossing the line in 42nd position, more than three minutes back of the winner. Daria Gaiazova was the second-best Canadian. The Banff, Alta., skier finished 44th.
Amanda Ammar of Onoway, Alta., finished 55th. Banff, Alta., based Heidi Widmer finished 57th.
The strong favourite was Norwegian Marit Bjoergen, who has been one of the very best of the season. Already a gold medallist at the Sochi games, Bjoergen has eight lifetime Olympic medals. However, Bjoergen seemed not to have enough grip on the uphill sections of the course, and could not match the pace of Kowalczyk, finishing fifth.
Classic cross-country skiing requires athletes to race with their skis in parallel tracks except in tight corners. The first half of the course is the 5km "Red" route, which is very technically demanding. At the midpoint of the race, skiers pass through the stadium again before starting the "Blue" course, which is known for a fast 1km downhill before a 1km climb towards the finish.
Temperatures on the course were approximately 12 degrees Celsius, impacting the athletes who are accustomed to colder temperatures. Additionally, the warm conditions and bright sunlight made the snow conditions very challenging.