WHISTLER OLYMPIC PARK, BC (Feb. 15) – Charlotte Kalla won gold for Sweden in the first cross country event of these Games, while Caitlin Compton (Minneapolis) was the top finisher for the U.S. in 30th after a long, hard fight to reach her first Olympics at 29.
"30th result isn't bad considering this is my first Olympics," said Compton, who competed in her first World Cup event of the season last weekend in Canmore, AB, taking 14th. "I think we have great potential for this next week and the next four years.
"Part of me had such a great time during the first lap. All of the fast women were around me, and it was exciting coming through the stadium with them."
"It was good to get the first race underway," said 34th-place Morgan Arritola (Ketchum, ID). "I didn't feel great, I didn't feel terrible. A little sigh of relief now and I'm ready for the pursuit."
Concerns about changing course conditions abated when the skiers hit the course, said Holly Brooks (Anchorage), 42nd.
"It was a happy medium between the rock-hard conditions yesterday and the deep sugar of a couple days before," Brooks said. "I felt pretty good and tried to start pretty conservative because the last two 10k skates I've done, I went out pretty hard and blew up at the end."
Liz Stephen (Montpelier, VT) was slightly disappointed with 50th after feeling good in training, struggling to replicate that speed in the finals.
"It was not the result I wanted, but it was a great course and I'm having a blast," she said. "I guess I just didn't put the race together that I wanted."
Results aside, the experience of racing in the Olympics for the first time wasn't lost on any of the four rookie U.S. athletes.
"Last night, they handed out bibs to us and we were so giddy," Stephen said.
The women's individual sprint classic is set for Wednesday - with finals at 1:55 p.m. PT - while the 15 km pursuit awaits Friday at 1 p.m. OFFICIAL RESULTS
2010 WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES
Whistler Olympic Park, BC – Feb. 15
Women's 10 km Free
Gold - Charlotte Kalla, Sweden, 24:58.4
Silver - Kirstina Smigun-Vaehi, Estonia, +6.6
Bronze - Marit Bjoergen, Norway, +15.9
4. Anna Haag, Sweden, +20.9
5. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland, +21.7
30. Caitlin Compton, Minneapolis, +1:50.7
34. Morgan Arritola, Ketchum, ID, +2:06.0
42. Holly Brooks, Anchorage, +2:19.2
50. Liz Stephen, Montpelier, VT, +2:42.7