WHISTLER OLYMPIC PARK, BC (Feb. 20) – Sweden's Marcus Hellner sprinted to gold in the men's 30 kilometer cross country pursuit on Saturday, while James Southam (Anchorage) was 34th to lead the U.S.
Blood sugar problems for diabetic Kris Freeman (Andover, NH) dropped him to 45th, but he showed enough resilience to finish the race.
The pair labored through the 15K of classic racing and the 15K of freestyle in wet and soft conditions, falling well short of the results they had hoped for.
"The classic didn't go as planned," Southam said. "I never quite felt the rhythm classic skiing out there. I was able to hang with the pack for most of it. The little group was 30-33 (placed) people. A couple K before the switch, I took a digger and lost contact with them.
"I got in the skating part and started feeling pretty good on the second leg of the skate and was able to get with a group of guys and was able to relax for a little bit and then drop those guys."
Freeman saw his hopes come to an end when the longtime diabetes sufferer miscalculated his blood sugar and hit the snow on the fourth lap of the classic race.
"All of a sudden, my body wasn't working," he said. "I thought that was going to be it. If the coach hadn't come over, I thought I was going to have to walk back to the finish line."
One of the German coaches gave Freeman a bottle of Gatorade and goo, and he bravely rose to his feet.
"It's the Olympics and I want to finish the race," Freeman said. "I got up and after about 5K, I started to feel better, the sugar started coming back up.
"I'm crushed. I don’t know what's happened. I've been skiing towards this for four years and it's my worst nightmare."
Still, U.S. Cross Country Head Coach Pete Vordenberg said the confusion offers at least one silver lining: it wasn't performance-related.
"Today, while it's not fun, at least we had the satisfaction of knowing he had blood sugar issues," he said.
"I think we came in here with a chance to medal. We had some of our best results in the early World Cup season and that's what's really puzzling for us and quite frustrating for us. We really felt like we were on track coming in here. Our expectations were in line with our abilities."
The men's team sprint competition awaits Monday, with the women's 4x10K relay on Wednesday.
2010 WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES
Whistler Olympic Park, BC – Feb. 20
Men's 30 km Pursuit
Gold – Marcus Hellner, Sweden, 1:15:11.4
Silver – Tobias Angerer, Germany, +2.1
Bronze – Johan Olsson, Sweden, +2.8
4. Alexander Legkov, Russia, +4.0
5. Ivan Babikov, Canada, +9.1
34. James Southam, Anchorage, +5:34.8
45. Kris Freeman, Andover, NH, +7:51.2