WHISTLER OLYMPIC PARK, BC (Feb. 15) – Dario Cologna won gold for Switzerland as the Olympic men's cross country schedule opened with the men's 15K free event on Monday at Whistler Olympic Park. James Southam (Anchorage) was the top finisher for the U.S. in 48th.
Southam wound up 2:21.9 behind Cologna, a result that didn't thrill him but left him with a positive mindset heading forward.
"It wasn't my best day," he said. "But, you know, it's a start. Coming into the Games, this is probably the weakest of the three individual events I'll be in, but I went out there and gave it what I had. Unfortunately, everything didn't quite come together."
Fellow Olympic veteran Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), usually better in the classic technique, was seventh in the 15K free at a World Cup last year in Davis, Switzerland but took 59th in a disappointing race.
"I just had a bad day," Freeman said, with the 50K classic offering a chance at redemption on Feb. 28, the last day of the Games.
Olympic rookies Garrott Kuzzy (Minneapolis, MN) and Simi Hamilton (Aspen, CO) went 58th and 64th, respectively, while gaining some priceless experience.
"I felt pretty good going into it," Kuzzy said. "It's a beautiful day, and we've had some great preparation going into it. The track was the best I've seen all week since we've been here. It's nice to get a race under my legs."
Hamilton said his goal was to ski the first lap or first 10K controlled and relaxed.
"I think I achieved that," he said. "It was a tough course. There are so many technical corners that it's hard to get a solid recovery between corners."
The men's individual sprint classic will kick off with qualification at 10:40 p.m. PT on Wednesday, with finals at 1:55 p.m.
2010 WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES
Whistler Olympic Park, BC – Feb. 15
Men's 15 km Free
Gold - Dario Cologna, Switzerland, 33.36.3
Silver - Pietro Piller Cottrer, Italy, +24.6
Bronze - Lukas Bauer, Czech Republic, +35.7
4. Marcus Hellner, Sweden, +37.2
5. Vincent Vittoz, France, +39.9
48. James Southam, Anchorage, +2:21.9
58. Garrott Kuzzy, Minneapolis, +3:05.2
59. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, +3:05.3
64. Simi Hamilton, Aspen, CO, +3:54.2