12 February 2006

Winter Olympics update - Day 2

BerlinBear avatarAfter all the excitement of yesterday's golden start to the Winter Olympics for Germany, today has been rather more disappointing, with Germany picking up exactly zero medals, despite having at least three competitors who were favoured to bring home some precious metal.

In the women's 3000m speedskating, Anni Friesinger and Claudia Pechstein, of Zickenduell fame, were both considered good medal chances. But both ended the event empty-handed, finishing 4th and 5th respectively, behind a Dutch quinella of 19 year-old bolter Ireen Wüst and veteran Renate Groenewold, and Canadian world-record holder Cindy Klassen, who picked up the bronze medal. So high were the expectations for Friesinger and Pechstein that the German sports news website sport1.de headlined its front page with:

Enormous Disappointment: Pechstein and Friesinger out of the medals

and then went on to begin the article itself with the words "Entsetzen und Schock!" (Dismay and schock!) No pressure, eh? Poor things. They still have a good shot at a medal later in the games in the teams event, so all is not lost, not that you'd know that to hear the baying of the media hounds.

It was not to be for men's luge veteran and former Olympic and World Champion Georg Hackl in his last competitive appearance either. The 39 year-old was aiming for his sixth medal at his sixth consecutive Olympics (which would have been a record) but missed out, finishing in 7th place overall. David Möller (5th) was the best placed German, while gold went to the Italian Armin Zöggeler - the first gold for the host nation at these Olympics.

Meanwhile, it wasn't Germany's day in women's cross country skiing either. In the lead-up to the Olympics, two German women had been considered medal hopefuls: Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle and Claudia Künzel. However, today Sachenbacher-Stehle was watching from the sidelines after being forced to stand down for five days due to overly high haematocrit levels in her blood (a scandal which has led to the German head coach being disciplined by his own sports federation for inappropriate verbal attacks against the Olympic doping testers - whom he openly accused of lying and cheating). Künzel, meanwhile, was well off the pace, finishing over 2 minutes behind the eventual winner, outsider Kristina Smigun. Smigun took home Estonia's first ever gold medal in cross-country skiing.

Tomorrow is seen potentially as a more promising day for the German team. The women biathletes are considered to have top medal prospects, and the women's luge team are expected to dominate the first two runs of their two-day, four-run event. Time will tell.

So, after a poor day for Germany and a good day for the Netherlands, Italy and Estonia, the medal table looks like this after two days of competition:


1United States2103
5Russian Fed.1113
12Czech Republic0101

[Source: torino2006.org]

Bring on day three!