PRAGELATO, Italy (Feb. 12) - In the first cross country race of the Torino Olympics, Rebecca Dussault (Gunnison, CO) was the top American finisher in 48th in the 15km Pursuit. Estonian Kristina Smigun won the gold medal.
Smigun won with a time of 42:48.7. Czech Katerina Neumannova won silver (42:50.6) and Russian Evgenia Medvedeva-Abruzova took the bronze medal (43:03.2).
Dussault crossed the finish line in 47:53.7, 5:05 behind Smigun. Lindsey Weier (Mahtomedi, MN) was 55th in 48:45.0, Abigail Larson (Bozeman, MT) came in 56th in 48:47.5 and Lindsay Williams (Hastings, MN) placed 62nd in 50:49.7.
All four American women are competing in their first Olympics.
The race consisted of two 7.5km sessions. The first was skied in classic technique and the second in freestyle. Racers changed equipment in a mid-race pit stop.
“I love the course," said Dussault. "The climbs are hard and the downhills are so fast. Most of the course I can make up time on but the stadium laps just killed me. I love the race but I hang on by the skin of my teeth in the classic and I pour it on in the skate and I always make up places in the skate.”
“The conditions were perfect and I had awesome skis," said Weier. "The classic leg was awesome. I felt pretty good on that. I got a little tired on the second half of the skate. The course was hard but that’s what I expected. I felt like I was right in there during the classic portion. It’s a big climb but there is a lot of recovery on the other side.”
"I was so good at the beginning of the season and the change (in technique) was perfect," said Smigun. I have been skiing for more than 10 years but every time I make a change it is not easy, but this was perfect."
The next cross country event for the women is the Team Sprint, which will be held Tue., Feb. 14 in Pragelato.
XX OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES
Pragelato, ITA - Feb. 12, 2006
Women's Cross Country 15km Pursuit
1. Kristina Smigun, Estonia, 42:48.7
2. Katerina Neumannova, Czech Republic, 42:50.6
3. Evgenia Medvedeva-Abruzova, Russia, 43:03.2
4. Kristin Stormer Steira, Norway, 43:06.8
5. Gabriella Paruzzi, Italy, 43:18.9
48. Rebecca Dussault, Gunnison, Colo., 47:53.7
55. Lindsey Weier, Mahtomedi, Minn., 48:45.0
56. Abigail Larson, Bozeman, Mont., 48:47.5
62. Lindsay Williams, Hastings, Minn., 50:49.7
[Note: Canadians Becki Scott and Sara Renner finished 6th and 16th overall. Rebecca Dussault placed 48th.]
For complete results: http://www.nordicskiracer.com/racing/2006/olympics/mens30kpursuit.pdf
Kristina Smigun of Estonia celebrates winning the Gold Medal after winning the Womens Cross Country Skiing 15km (7.5+7.5) Pursuit Final (Getty Images)
Estonia's Smigun leads the race to win at the Winter Olympic games in Pragelato © Reuters
Kristina Smigun of Estonia beats Katerina Neumannova of the Czech Republic to the finish line and wins the Womens Cross Country Skiing Pursuit(Getty Images)