29 January 2014

Smaller Winter Olympic delegations: 2 Asia #Sochi2014

After looking at the debut Winter Olympic nations it is time to look at some of the smaller delegations, those with 5 or less athletics so I am looking at them continent by continent. Second up is Asia.

 Four athletes will represent Azerbaijan in two sports, but not one of them is born in Azerbaijan.

Russians Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov will be taking part in the Ice Dancing for their adopted nation they were 6th in this season's European Championships an improvement on 7th last season. They were also the silver medalists in last year's Winter Universiade. At 24 and 27 it is possible that they may continue for another Olympic cycle but having finished 16th in the world's last year they will be looking for any improvement on that position and a top 10 finish would be exceptional.

Patrick Brachner originally from Austria will take part in the men's giant slalom and slalom. He injured his left knee earlier on in the season but was back on the slopes ahead of the initial schedule determined to be in Sochi.

Gaia Bassani Antivari was born in Italy and first tried to compete in the 2002 Winter Olympics for Grenada, but they failed to compete the necessary paperwork. She did however take part under the Azerbaijan flag in 2010 finishing 57th in the Giant Slalom but skied out of the course in the first run of the slalom. She is only selected for the women's slalom this time.

Hong Kong

Only one sport has ever had Hong Kong representation in the Winter Games since they first appeared in 2002, and only three athletes before have ever competed in Short Track Speed Skating. So the fourth competitor but in that sport is Pan-To Barton Lui who will be the first man to represent Hong Kong in the Winter Games.

He qualified in November last year at the World Cup series events in Turin, Italy and Kolomna, Russia. He has traveled to be able to train, while still at school moving to Vancouver and now basing himself in Korea to train alongside the best Asian short track stars.


Himanshu Thakur
There will not be the Indian flag at the Opening ceremony of the 2014 Games due to the suspension of the nations National Olympic Committee in December 2012. Elections to replace the NOC committee take place 2 days after the opening ceremony so the Indian athletes will take part under the Olympic flag as Independent Olympic Athletes.

There will be three athletes across three disciplines.

Twenty-year-old Himanshu Thakur was up for the one Alpine slot against 2006 men's giant slalom competitor Hira Lal but the 34-year-old took his own name out of contention so that his younger first cousin who had the better performances over the qualifying period finishing ahead of his cousin on 8 of the 12 occasions that they both finished an event over the last 20 in the qualifying period. To qualify an athlete the men had to have a score of under 140 points on the FIS system, Thakur was on 111.20, Lal slightly worse on 111.43.So Thakur will compete in the men's slalom.

In cross-country skiing will see Nadeem Iqbal who serves with the High Altitude Warfare School of the Indian Army at Gulmarg take part in the men's 15km classical. He took part in the Nordic World Championships in 2013 and sealed his qualification after a race in France in December.

The final Indian participant is a veteran at the age of 32 he will be taking part in his fifth Winter Olympics. Shiva Keshavan first took part in the luge in 1998 at Nagano when he was the youngest ever luge competitor. His mother is Italian and he was approached to represent Italy in 2002 but insisted on retaining his Indian nationality for competition. Ironically then his best performance in the Olympics came in 2006 in Turino when he finished 25th.


Iran secured a quota of five athletes for the 2014 Games three spots in Alpine and two in Nordic skiing.

Kiadarbandsari in action
Hossein Saveh-Shemshaki will be taking part in his second Olympics coming 41st in the men's slalom and 70th in the Giant Slalom in Vancouver, where he was part of a team that included his brother Pouria. He will take part in the same two events in Sochi.

He is joined this time by 24-year-old Mohammad Kiadarbandsari who took a bronze medal at the 2011 Winter Asian Games in the Super-G. This is the first medal won by Iran at that level.

There is a spot available in the women's slalom and although at the time of writing it has yet to be awarded. Although it is likely to go to Marjan Kalhor who was the flag bearer and first woman to compete at the Winter Games for Iran in 2010.

There are two skiers going in the Nordic events, first there is Sattar Seid who also took part in 2010 where he came 89th in the men's 15km freestyle cross-country. The following year he was a key part in the Iranian relay team in the Winter Asian Games that brought home a silver medal. He will be lining up in the men's 15km classical in Sochi.

For the women there is Farzaneh Rezasoltani who will be taking part in the 10km classical. She has dominated the domestic racing schedule this season with a week at Val de Fiemme her only international competition last February with her best result being 36th in the 5km.

Will take part in three sports with a total of 5 athletes, three born in Ukraine, one in the USA and the other in Luxembourg.

Their best performers are likely to come in the figure skating the pairs will see Andrea Davidovich and Evegeni Krasnopolski. American born Davidovich only teamed up with Krasnopolski, born in Kiev, Ukraine, last year after his partner Danielle Montalbano had an injury that ruined their 2012-13 season. It is the first time Israel will be represented in the pairs having previously only had competitors in Ice Dance and men's singles. So far this year they have managed a 7th place finish in the European Championships which is 4 places higher than Krasnopolski and Davidovich managed in 2012. They are tipped for a top 16 finish in Sochi.

Another Ukrainian born competitor is Alexei Bychenko also from Kiev who had competed for Ukraine until 2010 in the men's individual figure skating. He was only third in the Ukraine national championships in 2010 having been a silver medalist on two previous occasions, but there was only one spot open to the Ukraine that year. He came 10th in this year's European championship his best ever finish.

Vladislav Bykanov is the third Ukrainian born competitor on this team, although his family moved to Israel when he was five. He is the first Israeli male to qualify in short track speed skating and came 12th overall in the European Championships this season. He will be competing in the 500m, 1000m and 1500m. He is hoping to do better than Olga Danilov who failed to advance in two of the same three disciplines in the women's events in 2002.

The final member of the Israeli team is a 19-year-old born in Luzembourg, Virgile Vandeput. Although Israel have a quota of two spots for the Alpine Skiing events they have chosen to only fill one of them an that is for the men's slalom and giant slalom. But the 19-year-old who trains in France is a veteran on the circuit having first appeared in the 2010-11 season as a mere 16-year old. In the world championships last season he managed 48th in the slalom.


Once again Kyrgyzstan will send Dmitry Trelevski to the Winter Games, but this time he is the sole qualifier from the Central Asian republic. He came 76th in the men's giant slalom but had failed to complete the first run of the slalom. At 28 he is taking part in his second Games and adding the Super-G to his itinerary. He is not a regular on the World Cup circuit and his best performance in the World Championships was in 2007 when he finished 45th in the slalom and 55th in the Giant Slalom.

He proudly carried his nations flag into the Opening ceremony in Vancouver four years ago and as the only representative this time will be doing so once again in Sochi.


There will be two competitors for Lebanon in Sochi a single competitor in both the men's and women's slalom.

Jacky Chamoun at 22 is returning for her second Winter Games. She placed 54th in the women's slalom four years ago.

She will be joined by Tarek Fenianos who is 13 months older than the veteran Olympian. He finished 46th in the slalom at last year's World Championships.


Chinbat Otgontsetseg
With the exception of 1976 when they sent no team and 1994 when there was only a short track speed skater Mongolia has been represented in the Cross-Country skiing every Olympics since 1964. This year they are no different.

In the shortest women's classical race the 10km they will be represented by 22-year old Chinbat Otgontsetseg. She was 91st in last season's World Championships at 10km Freestyle. Although she hasn't competed on the World Cup stage since she made two appearances in the 2009-10 season.

In the men's 15km classical she is joined by Bold Byambadorj. The 22-year-old has been based in Europe this season after coming 138th in the 15km Freestyle World Championships last year, to gain more international experience.

Both of them took part in the Universiade in Trentino in November last year as part of a four strong. Otgontsetseg had a best of 52nd in her Olympic discipline, Byambadorj came 61st in the 30km classical.


Nepal are only competing in their fourth Winter Olympics and for two of the previous Games their representative this year, Dachhiri Sherpa, was also their sole representative. Now aged 44 the man who holds the Ultra Marathon record for the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc is taking part in his third Winter Games. He was 92nd in 2010 better than, his 94th from 2006 in the men's 15km classical cross country.

At his age he is bound to be one of, if not the oldest competitor at this year's Winter Olympics. But as well as being a recognied trail runner around Europe in 2003 he decided he wanted to show off his country and to do that he took up cross country skiing. He is still superbly fit and do not rule him out of appearing in the next Games at an incredible 48.

Karim with Air Marshal Khan head of the Ski federation

Having sorted out the dispute between the Pakistan Olympic Committee and the Pakistan Government Mohammad Karim and teenage skier will be able to take his place in the men's slalom and giant slalom. He is only 18 and already leaps and bounds ahead of Pakistan's only previous Winter Olympian Mohammad Abbas. He is one of the growing number of young people from the Naltar region who the Pakistan Air Force are taking from the wooden skis that they start on to progress through international competition to enhance the nation's ski programme.


The sole representative for the Philippines wasn't even born when they last took part in their last Winter Games, the last time they were held in the same year as the Summer Games at Albertville in 1992. Indeed it would be almost five years before Michael Christian Martinez came into the world. At 17 it is only last year that he landed his first triple Axel. But last year he was 5th in the World Juniors, two of those above him were in the top four of this year's USA Championships and another won the Chinese Men's but has not been selected this time. The year before he was 7th in the Youth Olympic Games.

He is the first figure skater to ever represent his nation, as the only previous competitors have been in Alpine skiing or luge.

Chinese Taipei
There are two 21-year-old athletes from different backgrounds representing Chinese Taipei in both the speed skating disciplines.

The elder but just over 3 weeks is native born Sung Ching-yang who started out as an inline skater in which he won 2 gold medals in the 2010 Asian games in the 300m time trial and 500m sprint. He converted to long track speed skating and had success in last year's Universiade taking bronze in the 1000m. He will be competing in the two sprint disciplines 500m and 1000m at the Adler Arena Skating Centre. He is the first competitor from his nation to take part in the long track speed skating

The other is Canadian born Mackenzie Blackburn whose mother hails from the island. He grew up in Quebec surrounded by ice and snow in winter and coached by his parents in the short track version of speed skating. Like Sung Ching-yang he is a speed merchant and will only be taking part in the sprint events over 500m and 1000m. When he was only 16 he managed to come 14th in the 500m at the World Junior Championships. In an event where sometimes chance can have and impact he is capable of semi-final and quarter final results so anything could happen.


For the fourth Winter Games in a row Tajikstan are sending one man to the Games and that man is Andrei Drygin. He is the only person to have represented his adopted nation in the Winter Olympics, he was born in Russia. His best performance was when he came 44th in the Super-G in Vancouver 4 years ago., but he also has a best of 51st the Downhill in 2006 and 57th in Giant Slalom in 2010. He will be 36 this year when he arrives in Sochi to take part in the Super-G and Giant Slalom.


Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn
With two competitors it will no doubt be Kanes Sucharitakul who is taking part in the men's giant slalom and slalom who will be overlooked. The French based 21 year old student will pale in comparison to the media interest of the woman competing in the giant slalom. Although she is competing as Vanessa Vanakorn she is best known as Vanessa Mae the violinist. She will be making her Olympic debut at 35 after securing the Olympic qualifying standards on the last eligible day 19 January. They will follow in the ski tracks of Prawat Nagvajara who competed at Salt Lake City in 2002 and Turin in 2006.


There will be three athletes representing Uzbekistan in Sochi.

The first the eldest at 26 is also the only woman Kseniya Grigoreva who is appearing in her second Games. She unfortunately did not finish the first run of the women's slalom four years ago but came 58th in the Giant Slalom. This year she is doubling up adding Giant Slalom to her itinerary. She did not finish in either event in last year's world championships but two years earlier she was 44th in the slalom and 72nd in the Giant Slalom. 

Joining her in the Alpine disciplines in 20-year-old Artem Voronov who in last year's world championships came 44th in the men's slalom. In the world juniors the year before that he came 16th in the combined which suggests that in the future he may do more than simply the slalom and giant slalom which is all he has qualified for this time around.

The final member of the Uzbek team is yet another Russian born skater, Misha Ge. He is 22 years old but for most of his life has been training away from his homeland. At the age of ten he moved to China to start training and since 2009 has been training in the USA.

This explains why he was 6th in the Chinese national championship in 2009 before winning the Uzbek national title the following two years. However, in the 2011 Asian Games he finished 6th the last continental wide event he took part in. But in the last three Four Continents Tournaments (bring together the non-European skaters) he has been in the top 12 on each occasion. In last year's World Championships he recorded his best ever finish of 16th. But earlier this season he recorded his second silver medal performance in the Asian Cup only being beaten by Japan's Tatsuki Machida who secured Japan's second slot for the Olympics and Worlds this season.

 Timor-Leste appears in my blog post about debut nations.

28 January 2014

Smaller Winter Olympic delegations: 1 Africa #Sochi2014

After looking at the debut Winter Olympic nations it is time to look at some of the smaller delegations, those with 5 or less athletics so I am looking at them continent by continent. First alphabetically is Africa.

Khelfi in action

Twenty one year old Mehdi-Sélim Khelfi will enter the stadium as the first Algerian to take part in two Winter Olympics. He will once again take part in the 15km cross-country skiing. Though this time he will be taking part in the classical rather than freestyle version. He finished 84th in Vancouver 4 years ago, but has a career best finish from that year of 26th in an individual sprint event from Germany in 2010 .

Born in France he made his debut on the world cup circuit last season having qualified in 2010 from the lower ranking events. He of course carried the flag into the stadium four years ago with only Greece and Albania going before and will most likely be repeating that honour when the Games come to Sochi, so he will be one of the first athletes to be seen on TV screens once again.


Lamhamedi winning gold in the Winter Youth Olympics
Neighbouring Algeria to the west is Morocco is sending two teenage skiers to take part in the Alpine events. The first is 17-yeare-old Kenza Tazi who is currently at high school in Albertville doing a sports studies course. It was here that she developed her interest in skiing and she will take part in the women's slalom and giant slalom.

The other Moroccan competitors is Adam Lamhamedi who was born to Canada to an Algerian father. In 2012 at the Youth Winter Olympics he won the boy's Super-G. This made his the first African athlete to win a winter related Olympic medal. He has largely been competing on the junior men's circuit in Canada this season but raking in the top six in all but one of the races he has taken part in against the best of Canada and the USA's young skiers. At eighteen he is already shown a natural ability for the sport and may well be one to look out for in Pyeongchangfour years from now.

Togo and Zimbabwe are also sending small delegations from Africa but they are featured in the debut nations blog post from earlier this month.

25 January 2014

South Africa not sending athlete to Sochi

For the first time since they returned to the Olympics at the 1992 Summer Games South Africa will not be sending an athlete to Sochi. This is despite the fact that when the quota allocation was finalised on Monday they were allocated one spot in Alpine Skiing.

However, Sive Speelman who was the skier whose performances that quota spot was based on will not be packing his bags from the ski slopes of Europe where he has been gaining points to head to the Black Sea city that is hosting the 2014 Winter Games.

The last quota from the IOC is to award the unused positions based on countries who had yet to fill a position or those who were not using their full criteria, when they were awarded multiple spots, freeing up spots. The standard for the quota list released in December was based on skiers achieving a average score of less than 140 points based on five FIS events. As of earlier this week Speelman had a score of 140.126 only just missing out on achieving the B standard as of right. However, as explained above the IOC were filling up the spots for the men's slalom which will take place on the 22nd February and this was good enough to be part of that day.

Yesterday the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) said that they would not be taking up the spot saying they would only be sending their best athletes to the Olympics.

However, a quick look at Sive's FIS page indicates that the earlier of these five races used to get that average was on 9 April 2013. There is a race three days earlier which he also picked up points which if used as a average of his best five scores over the last 12 months actually comes to 134.97.

So you can understand the disappointment of the 18 year old from Barkly East with his local Olympic Committee. However, looking at every South African Winter Olympic team since 1994 they have one thing in common that Sive Speelman cannot provide. There is at least one white South African in each of their previous five Winter Games teams.

With the refusal to send Speelman as a one man team there will be international scrutiny on the subject of race on this decision denying the one invitee from the IOC for South Africa to send to the Games in a fortnight's time.

14 January 2014

US Skating Federation break their selection criteria for the sponsors dollar

Anyone who is anyone in sport will tell you that US Olympic selection is rigid. If you want to take one of the three spots your nation has in that sport you have to be in one of the top three spaces in that sport's trial or national championship.

With winter sport and the threat of injury for most of them there have been the odd exception made, but only for the issue of injury. For figure skating there have only ever been four exceptions, the first was in 1992 when Todd Eldredge the two time US Champion and bronze from the previous year's worlds was unable to compete due to a back injury, he was selected but came a lowly 10th. In 1998 it was pairs skaters Jenni Meno and Todd Sand who benefited by an ankle injury to Meno forced them to withdraw during the nationals, they were 8th in the Olympics but unlike Eldredge recovered to take silver in the Worlds. Michelle Kwan was selected for the 2006 Games after chronic injuries had forced her to miss the entire season but in the end she had to withdraw from the Games and normality was resumed.

The only other time was the infamous 1994 when Nancy Kerrigan replaced Kwan after the incident involving her rival Tonya Harding's ex-partner and a police paton on the eve of the championships. Kerrigan alone of the replacement pics medaled.

Podium from the US Championships with Wagner on 4th step
This year there was no injury issues and the third place finisher in the Ladies was the only of the top four who had previous Olympic experience coming 4th in Vancouver four years ago. She stayed on her feet, with a substantial lead and a harder programme then the skater in fourth, who actually feel twice in the free programme. She is also coming back from a tough season last year, she is the sort of story of American grit that sponsors would love. But the sponsors have already investing in advertising in Ashley Wagner who came fourth who is signed with Nike, Pandora Jewelry and Cover Girl for her blond hair and blue eyes. The women who came third and is now only the alternate for the Games is Mirai Nagasu the daughter of Japanese immigrants who run a sushi bar in California. In 2008 she was the second youngest ever US national champion.

In another twist to the who story Wagner was born in Heidelberg, Germany while Nagasu is Californian born. Although to be be fair Wagner was born on the US Army Base in Heidelberg.

Here's the routine that everyone thought at the time earned Mirai her return to the Olympic stage.

10 January 2014

Dukurs brothers reign supreme at home of Skeleton

The sliders of Winter sport have moved to the last hand made track this weekend and that means St. Moritz. First up up? What else but the men's skeleton the event that before 2002 had only appeared when the Olympics of 1928 and 1948 were held in this high altitude Swiss resort.

In the first of two men's events here this weekend it was this seasons top four in the standing who were the four fastest after heat 1. For the Lativian Dukurs brothers younger brother Thomass had the better of the four time world cup winner, looking for his fifth in a row, older brother Martins on the first run. Behind them Matthew Antoine USA had the edge over Alexander Tretiakov RUS but there was only 0.17 seconds covering the top 4 and only 0.03 separating 2nd from 4th. So it was all to play for on the second run.

Before the contest at the fast end of the first run, German Frank Rommel put in a great performance the first man to record a time of over 101 km/h in the last speed trap all day which saw him rise into the top 10. Britain's former World Champion Kristan Bromley also but in a good run, recording one of the fastest times at the speed guns and indeed his time of 1:10.21 was only to be beaten by those top 4 sliders as well as thew unfortunate USA slider Eric Neilson who had a big hit near the end which saw he drop down to 9th having been 5th at the end of the first run. Bromley's run would eventually see him climb to 7th overall.

Martins Dukurs Picture captured from Bobsleigh and Skeleton TV
Tretiakov didn't manage to be the first man to go under 1:10 twice, so when Antoine did he was able to retain at least a podium spot, but he then had the pair who were one-two last weekend in Winterberg and in last year's World Cup to come after him.

Martins Dukurs set a new track record of 1:09.30 while his brother was preparing in the start gate. Thomass came down in the second fastest time of the day, but it was only 0.04 seconds faster than his previous run, a full 0.4 seconds down on the track record set moments before and 0.26 second behind his brother, who win took him back to the top of the world cup standings.


1. Martins Dukurs LAT 1:09.88 + 1:09.30 (TR) = 2:19.18
2. Thomass Dukurs LAT 1:09.74 + 1:09.70 = 2:19.44 +0.26
3. Matthew Antoine USA 1:09.90 + 1:09.97 = 2:19.87 +0.69
4. Alexander Tretiakov RUS 1:09.91 + 1:10.07 = 2:19.98 +0.80
5. Kyle Tress USA 1:10.22 + 1:10.28 = 2:20.50 +1.32
6. John Fairburn CAN 1:10.28 + 1:10.31 = 2:20.59 +1.41
7. Kristan Bromley GBR 1:10.39 + 1:10.21 = 2:20.60 +1.42
8. Alexander Kroeckel RUS 1:10.37 + 1:10.25 = 2:20.62 +1.44
9. Eric Neilson USA 1:10.18 + 1:10.46 = 2:20.64 +1.46
10. Eric Rommel GER 1:10.58 + 1:10.24 = 2:20.82 +1.64

World Cup Standings

1. Martins Dukurs LAT 1045
2. Alexander Tretiakov RUS 1037
3. Thomass Dukurs LAT 988
4. Matthew Antoine USA 985
5. Frank Rommel GER 816

First 2014 Cycling national champions

The traditional first national jerseys to be decided are in the Green and Gold of Australia. First up on Wednesday were the Time Trials.

Orica-GreenEDGE and Orica-AIS riders were defending both the men's and women's jerseys. For the women Shara Gillow was looking for her fourth title on the run and for the men Luke Durbridge was looking to become only the second Aussie to win more than twice with his third win in a row.

Wardlaw in action on Wednesday
In the women's race Gillow was coming back from illness and hadn't been on a bike for two weeks in the build up to the event. She still managed to see off almost every female cyclist in the field, the one exception being a 36-year-old Victorian who is only in her second full time season on the roads. Felicity Wardlaw had come third last year clocked 38:46.64 for the 28km course at Burrumbeet, near Ballarat in her home state.

Gillow who had come 13th in the Time Trial at Hampton Court during the London Olympics came in 32.2 seconds down, while 2008 champion returned to the podium a further 37.1 seconds slower.

In the men's race Orica-GreenEDGE had reigning World Team and Individual Pursuit champion on the track, Michael Hepburn, along with world U-23 World Time Trial Champion Damien Howson competing against their champion Durbridge. There was also Garmin-Sharp rider Rohan Dennis to contend with, however a puncture followed later by a fall caused by a gust of wind meant that Dennis did not complete the course.

l to r: Durbridge, Hepburn, Howson
Hepburn the 22-year-old World pursuit champion "captured" nine other riders, but unlike on the track he had to keep pedaling which he did posting a time of 56:25.90 on the 45km course. He was 2 minutes 6.3 seconds faster than Howson and with Dennis having a day to forget there was only his team mate wearing the number 1 as defending champion who could unseat him. But Durbridge lost out to the man who is only 130 days older than Hepburn missed out by 11.6 seconds. But Orica-GreenEDGE filled the podium.

The Road Race champions will be decided at the weekend.

6 January 2014

Newcomer soars to Four Hills Triumph

Austria's Thomas Diehart had only taken part in four World Cup ski jumping events before Christmas. But it was the 4th and 6th place in the Englebert rounds just days before that would have alerted others to his potential.

However, since he has gone on a remarkable run. On the 29th December he lined up for his first appearance in a Four Hills event. In the first round he jumped 139m the same distance as Simon Ammann SWI, for the second longest distance of the round, in the second round he equalled the distance as his countryman Thomas Morgenstern 134.5m. His style marks weren't the best but with the top 5 only divided by 5.1 points overall he slotted in at equal 3rd claiming his first World Cup podium, behind Ammann.

New Year's Day saw him soar out beyond everyone else his 141m in round 1 was 2 metres further than Morgenstern and a full 7.5 metres further than Ammann. In round 2 he cleared 140.5m in what was to be the only time someone jumped 140 in both rounds of any hill, this was 1.5m further than both Morgernstern and Amman, giving him 9 points more than his compatriot and almost 17 more than Amman.

Saturday saw the weather foreshortened Innsburck hill which was cut short after the first round. Diehart was in 5th after that having jumped a mere 126.5m but everyone was shorter as a result of the weather. Only Ammann of him main rival was able to gain any ground on him overtaking Morgenstern to go second in the standings as a result of his second place leap but he only pulled back 3.6 points leaving the 21-year-old Austrian with an eleven point lead with just one round to go the following day.

Bischofshofen yesterday saw the final round of the 62nd Four Hills Tournament to end just over a week of exceptional jumping (bar the one weather affected hill). Peter Prevc of Slovenia jumped furthest in the first round 139.5m but Diehart was second with 138.5. Then in the seventh and final round of this year's Four Hills he jumped another 140m jump, only Morgenstern was able to surpass that, but by a margin of 1.7points the younger Austrian had recorded his second World Cup win of the week and his life to secure the Four Hills title by a margin of 18.3 points from Morgenstern and 20.2 over Ammann.


1. Thomas Diehart AUT
297.3 (3) +  296.1 (1) + 122.7 (5) + 296.5 (1) = 1012.6
2. Thomas Morgenstern AUT
296.8 (5) + 285.1 (2) + 118.8 (8) + 293.6 (3) = 994.3
3. Simon Ammann SWI
301.9 (1) + 278.5 (3) + 126.3 (2) + 285.7 (4) = 992.4
4. Peter Prevc SLV
297.3 (3) + 257.1 (18) + 122.1 (6) + 294.8 (2) = 971.3
5. Noriaki Kasai JAP
294.5 (6) + 265.3 (6) + 121.3 (7) + 281.0 (5) = 962.1
6. Anders Bardel NOR
297.9 (2) + 260.6 (13) + 113.7 (14) + 278.4 (6) = 950.6

Norway historically fill podium for women's Tour de Ski

The Tour de Ski is a discipline roughly based on the grand tours of cycling testing cross-country skiiers over various disciplines. This year's event consisted of six stages.

This year the event started in Oberhof, Germany on 28th December for the first of two stages. The first was a short individual start free technique race over 3km for the women and 4.5km for the men. The following day there was a sprint over 1.4km again using the free technique.

On New Year's eve the event had moved on to Lenzerheide, Switzerland for a second sprint round. The the following day the new year was welcomed in with a mass start classical event over 10km for women and 15km for men. The Italian resort of Cortina-Toblach held the longest stage of the race on the 3rd of January with a 15km for women 35km for men free technique pursuit.

The final two days over the weekend brought us to Val di Fiemme in Italy. Saturday say the final Classical style race of the Tour with an individual start over 5km for women and 10km for men. But yesterday saw the tough mountain climb of Mount Cermis over a 9km route where the skiers set off based on their accumulated time from the previous events in pursuit once more.

Johaug crossing the line in triumph
Yesterday in the women's event Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen of Norway who had been consistently in the top five on each stage, bar the second, went off first. But behind her was her compatriot Therese Johaug who had been second twice and third once in the previous three Tours. On each of those three previous occasions it had been Johaug who had proven strongest pulling back at least 40 seconds on every other skier each year. Jacobsen only had a 23 second lead over Johaug.

Once again the final stage was to prove to be Therese Johaug's strength in the end she pulled back all of the 23 second deficit and opened a lead of 20.4 seconds to win Norway's first Tour de Ski. Almost three minutes back in third came a third Norwegian Heidi Weng. It was the first time that one nation has taken all three podium spots in either the men's or women's Tour de Ski events since their inception in 2007.

Overall result

1. Therese Johaug NOR 2:04:16.4 
2. Astrid  Uhrenholdt Jacobsen NOR +20.4
3. Heidi Weng NOR +2:50.4
4. Krista Lähteenmäki FIN +2:56.1
5. Kerttu Niskanen FIN +3:18.1

6.  Anne Kyllönen FIN +3:50.2

Sundby powering up Mount Cermis for his victory
For the men there was to be more Norwegian celebrations. Martin Johnsrud Sundby had a 30 second start lead over his fellow countryman Petter Northug and fellow countryman Chris Jespersen, who was making his debut in the Tour de Ski, going off third.

Northug has been second three times and third once so people were wondering if he could have the same fairy tale ending as Johaug had earlier in the day. However, Sundby was to stay in front for the entire race to secure the second Norwegian victory on the Cermis. Jespersen was to climb up to the second step on the podium and starting from fifth behind four Norwegians, Johannes Dürr of Austria was to spoil the party and prevent all six medals of the day heading to Norway.

Overall result

1.  Martin Johnsrud Sundby NOR 3:05:55.2
2.  Chris Jespersen NOR +36.0
3.  Johannes Dürr AUT  +1:05.9
4.  Petter Northug NOR +1:49.5
5. Sjur Røthe NOR +1:55.7
6. Alexander Legkov RUS +2:33.6

5 January 2014

Lars van den Haar stays the course to extend his lead in World Cup

Unlike the earlier women's race in Rome of the Cyclo-Cross UCI World Cup the men's standings were a lot closer heading into the penultimate race and first of the new year. Going into race 6 the standings were

  • 1 Lars van den Haar NED 337
  • 2 Philipp Walsleben GER 304
  • 3 Klaas Vantornout BEL 279
  • 4 Kevin Pauwels BEL 275
  • 5 Niels Albert BEL 273
  • 6 Bart Aernouts BEL 227
The switch backs on lap 2 showing the leading groups
The 80 points on offer for winning would be a great prize for any of the top 5 and give any of them a great chance of winning. Walsleben of course would be looking to finish ahead of van den Haar because if the Dutchman having won rounds 1,2 and 5 could be almost unsurpassable were he to get his fourth win of the season on the Race course outside Rome today.

Walsleben it was who went straight to the front to avoid carnage at the first sharp bend and he was joined by the Czech rider Martin Bina. At the first hurdles van den Haar was some distance back from the leaders. Crossing the line at the end of the first lap Bina had just taken up the pace from Walsleben, closley followed by Niels Albert BEL and Francis Mourey FRA. A further nine seconds back there was a group of three W Bosmans and Bart Wellens of Belgium and Corne van Kessel from the Netherlands. In a large group about 16 seconds back was the World Cup leader van den Haar in 13th place.

Mourey started to struggle on lap two and get distanced from the other three leaders., he found himself 10 seconds down. Up to 9th now was van den Haar but some 29 seconds behind the group containing Walsleben. On the third lap Albert put in a bit of a kick and Bina and Walsleben were not able to respond immediately, so the gap continued to grow, especially when Bina hit a rut on the turn after the off camber section. The wind and rain started up again during lap 3 making an already tough course even harder. Albert had opened up a 13 second lead by the end of that lap but Mourey had caught the other two up. The chase group behind them was now up to four having been joined by Dutchman Thijs van Amerongen, but just 4 seconds behind them was Lars van den Haar looking to limit and indeed reduce his loses to Walsleben and Albert.

The group containing Lar van den Haar had caught the second group on the switch backs and he was was soon up into 5th place on the fourth lap before they tackled the hurdles. Soon he was kicking on by himself chasing after Bina and just ahead of him Walsleben.

Walsleben fourth pursued by van den Haar
However, by the them they next took the hurdles Bina had been wheeled back in my Mourey and Walsleben but worringly for the German his Dutch nemesis was on his wheel. Shortly after though Mourey put in an attack and only Bina could stay with him, but van den Haar survived better than Walsleben. But the Dutchman was not giving up and Bina soon lost the wheel of Mourey and then was passed by van den Haar. Walsleben meanwhile continued to drop back into the field. At the line at the end of the lap Walsleben had lost half and minute and was now 7 places behind van den Haar, with three laps to go.

On the next lap as Walsleben dropped the group that had caught up with him on the line van den Haar went away from Mourey but the Frenchmen would let him get away and they crossed the line about 2 seconds loser to Albert than the lap previously. Next lap in it was Mourey's turn to have a little dig, and the World Champion Sven Nys was now up to fourth place having caught and dropped Bina.

Taking the bell Albert recorded a slightly slower lap, and was only 13 seconds ahead of Mourey who was only 4 seconds ahead of Nys and van den Haar and the chase was on to see if they could catch Albert. They were closing and closing but in the end the Belgian hung on my five seconds as van den Haar just took Nys in a photo.


1. Niels Albert BEL 1:06:33
2. Lars van den Haar NED +5
3. Sven Nys BEL+5
4. Francis Mourey FRA  +11
5. Martin Bina CZE +41
6. Rob Peeters BEL +46
7. Thijs van Amerongen NED +51
8. Tom Meeusen BEL +1:02
9. Corne van KesselNED +1:16
10. Bart Wellens BEL +1:20
11. Philipp Walsleben GER +1:33

So Lars van den Haar who took the leaders jersey of the world cup after the first race will wear it through to the last race, extending his lead. Niels Albert's win leapfrogs him into second place in the standings and Sven Nys has earned his first podium wearing his rainbow jersey. However, only a disaster will surely deny Lars van den Haar the World Cup win when they travel to Nommay, France for the final round on 26th January; indeed there are only 3 riders who even stand a chance.

World Cup Standings

1. Lars van den Haar NED 407
2. Niels Albert Bel 353
3. Philipp Walsleben GER 344
4. Kevin Pauwels BEL 313
5. Klass Vantornout BEL 279
6. Francis Mourey FRA 270
7. Thijs van Amerongen NED 267
8. Sven Nys BEL 264
9. Bart Aernouts 264
10. Rob Peeters 248

Compton secures World Cup with one race to spare

The penultimate and 6th round of the Cyclo-Cross UCI World Cup came to a wet and cold course in Rome this afternoon.

Compton and Vos in Action Picture captured from UCIChannel livestream
In the women's competition Katie Compton USA was on 290 points well clear of Nikki Harris GBR 225, Sanne Cant BEL 186 and Marianne Vos NED (who had missed two rounds due to surgery) on 160. But it would surely need some sort of disaster fro Compton to loss the championship this year, she has four wins, only failing to win the first round where she was second to Vos. But if she finished with more than a 60 point lead at the end of today Compton could not be overtaken.

Today's course was a mixture of mud, bricks, sand, gravel and water (lots of water) with the hurdles. However, by the end of the first lap of the women's race it was clear than Ellen Van Loy, Harris, Vos and Compton were the strongest riders of the day and they were pulling clear. But by the end of the lap it was Vos and Compton out by themselves looking set to go woman to woman to the finish. On the second lap Vikki Harris started to struggle making it look like as long as Compton could keep up with Vos the World Cup would have been hers.

Italian Champion Lechner Picture captured from UCIChannel livestream
Soon as well as the two fighting for top spot there was local heroine Eve Lechner taking on Pauline Ferrand Prevot FRA by themselves for the last podium place catching and dropping Van Loy. On the final lap finally Compton managed to snap the elastic tying her to Vos and opened up a gap.

Compton came home alone to secure the 2013-14 UCI World Cup title but behind her the cheers rang out as Eve Lechner started to pull away herself in third. But the sprint finish really came in behind Cant for sixth place and it went to European Champion Wyman over taking Van Loy who had started so well in the final metres.


1. Katie Compton USA 36:46
2. Marianne Vos NED +24
3. Eve Lecher ITA +1:10
4. Pauline Ferrand Prevot FRA +1:24
5. Sanne Cant BEL +1:33
6. Helen Wyman GBR +1:35
7. Ellen Van Loy BEL +1:37
8. Sophie de Boer NED +1:41
9. Nikki Harris +1:56

World Cup Standings (after round 6)

1. Compton USA 350
2. Harris GBR 249
3.Cant BEL 221
4. Vos NED 210
5. Wyman GBR 164
6. Van Loy BEL 160

If you want to see the action you can catch up on the UCI YouTube channel

Germans sweep the 4-man podium at home

The second event in Winterberg today, following on from the 2-woman bob, is the second 4-man bob. Yesterday it was the young Germans Max Arndt and Francisco Freidrich topping the standings on home ice.

With a couple of crashes on turn nine yesterday today's competition didn't look like it was going to get much better as the second sled down the course in heat one Oskars Melbardis of Latvia hit the end of the turn and flipped over. But his crash was to prove the only one as everyone else managed to get through that turn, some more neatly that others.

The former World Cup leader American Steven Holcomb who was one of those who flipped on the second run yesterday seemed to be more cautious today on his first run only recording the 
sixth fasted time. Meanwhile ahead of him the top four after the end of run one were the same as they finished yesterday Arndt, Freidrich, Alexandr Zubkov RUS and Thomas Florschütz GER.

One thing that is up for grabs as we head towards Sochi is the third placed nation to pick up that third sled for the men's competition. After yesterday the Russians had edged ahead of the Americans in that race. Germany  lead on 2023 points from Canada 1870, Russia 1866, USA 1559. The American's were hoping for better today and thankfully kept all three sleds upright and into round 2, only two of them were behind the 3rd Russian.

After the first heat USA had Holcomb 6th, Nick Cunningham 16th and Cory Butner (who crashed in heat one yesterday) 19th. But the Russians had Zubkov 3rd, Alexandr Kasjanov 8th and Nikita Zakharov 11th.

In the second heat there weren't that many major climbers one exception was USA's Butner who stayed in the leaders box for quite some time and eventually would climb to 13th, sadly the only one of the six that really mattered in the USA v Russia match up to slip below his was his team mate Cunningham. Beat Hefti SWI repeated his performance of yesterday in climbing from 9th to 6th, which relegated Holcomb one place. But the only other significant change was Thomas Florschütz overcoming a 0.03 deficit behind Zubkov into a 0.03 advantage and taking the final podium slot.

German clean sweep


1. Maximillian Arndt GER 55.02 + 55.07 = 1:50.09
2. Francisco Freidrich GER 55.05 + 55.27 = 1:50.32 +0.23
3. Thomas Florschütz GER 55.21 + 55.28 = 1:50.49 +0.40
4. Alexandr Zubkov RUS 55.18 + 55.34 = 1:50.52 +0.43
5. Chris Spring CAN 55.32 + 55.51 = 1:50.83 +0.74
6. Beat Hefti SWI 55.47 + 55.55 = 1:51.02 +0.93

Selected others

7. Steven Holcomb USA 1:51.03
8. Nikita Zakharov RUS 1:51.12
9. Rush Lyndon CAN 1:51.17
10. Alexandr Kasjanov RUS 1:51.18
11. Justin Kripps CAN 1:51.22
13. Cory Butner USA 1:51.54
16. Nick Cunningham 1:51.67

World Cup Standings

1. Arndt  GER 1038
2. Zubkov RUS 922
3. Holcomb USA 911
4. Spring CAN 904
5. Florschütz GER 864
6. Kasjanov RUS 816
7. Freidrich GER 756

Team points

Germany  2658
Russia 2362
Canada 2342
USA 1943

Kiriasis receives late birthday present win

Sandra Kiriasis of Germany turned 39 yesterday bidding for her fourth Oympics having won gold in 2006 and silver when the women made their bobsleigh debut in 2002. With her age she is giving some start time to the younger athletes but what she makes up in start speed she make up from here experience with driving.

In the first run Kallie Humphries of Canada had set a track record start time of 5.51, Kiriasis and her brakewoman Franziska Fritz had given then a quarter of a second at the end of those first 50m. But by the end of the run they were 0.05 ahead enough to put them in third place.

There was another American pair driven by the Olympic bronze medalist from Vancouver in 2010 Elana Meyers, which had pushed Kiriasis out of the medals, who was sitting in fifth after the first run that was going to first major move within the top five. With top class hurdler Lolo Jones as her brakewoman she got off to a flying on the second run. 5.52 only just behind the start record set by Humphries in the first run and she drove flawlessly to record a time of 57.52secs at the finish, some 0.24 seconds that the fastest run in the first heat.

Sandra Kiriasis in action today Picture captured from IBSF Live stream
Humpries came next but was unable to capitalise on another fast start. She ended up 0.21 secs slower over all. Kiriasis was the next down the track, the 0.07 second advantage she had over Meyers was wiped out in the start giving up 0.17secs at the top. But it was Kiriasis driving that slowly eeked away at that lead keeping the momentum through all the tough curves but it wasn't until the very last bend that she over took Meyers and that just at the line by 0.01secs.

Anja Schneiderheinze of Germany looked like she might be able to steer her way to the win but lost her smoothness at the bottom of the run, being up at the penultimate check point but with her speed down to come in 0.07secs back on Kiriasis. The leader from the first run Jamie Gruebel from the USA was the last person who could affect proceedings, but while she too gained time at the top of the circuit it was in turns 9 and 10 that she made errors that would eventually not only cost her the win but also a place on the podium, despite posting exactly the same time as her leading time from heat 1.

Final result

1. Sandra Kiriasis/ Franziska Fritz GER 57.83 + 57.58 = 1:55.41
2. Elana Meyers/ Lolo Jones USA 57.90 + 57.52 = 1:55.42 +0.01
3. Anja Schneiderheinze/ Stephanie Scheider GER 57.79 + 57.69 = 1:55.48 +0.07
4. Jamie Gruebel/ Aja Evans USA 57.76 + 57.76 = 1:55.52 +0.11
5. Kallie Humphries/ Heather Moyse CAN 57.88 + 57.75 = 1:55.63 +0.22

World Cup standings

1. Meyers USA 1080 pts
2. Humphries CAN 1012
3. Gruebel USA 1002
4. Kiriasis GER 889
5. Cathleen Martini GER 872
6. Jazmine Fenlator USA 850
7. Schneiderheinze GER 784
8. Caroline Spahni SWI 784

You can catch up on the action on YouTube heat 1 and heat 2

Today in sport 5th January 2014

Today see's the sixth round of the UCI world Cyclo-Cross World Championship coming from Rome. You can even watching it on a live YouTube stream from 12:30 GMT.

In Winterberg, Germany the 4-man bob continues from yesterday as well as the 2-women bob (heat 1 and heat 2). In race one German world champion Max Arndt drove a near perfect run to take the lead off Steven Holcomb USA. Holcomb however became the second American to crash in competition following Cory Butner's tip over in heat 1. However the shock was that the young 23-year-old German pilot Francisco Friedrich climbed up to take the silver medal behind Arndt. But new race today and new points up for grabs.

There are 22 women's teams up for the race today on the same course.

In quick succession from yesterday in ski jumping the men take on the final of the Four Hills when they move to Bischofshofen.

In Alpine Skiing the Italian resort of Bormio is playing host to both the men and women's slalom today. There are only 2 points separating top two women at the moment with Mikaela Shiffrin USA having the narrowest of margins over Mariles Schild of Austria. For the men Mario Matt AUT has a more comfortable lead in the world cup over Mattias Hargin SWE then a tie for third between Austrian Marcel Hirscher and Italy's Patrick Thaler

4 January 2014

Koivuranta creates history in a weather shortened Four Hills win

Anssi Koivuranta started his career as a Nordic Combined competitor and indeed was rather good at it. He won the 2008-9 world cup in the discipline. At the 2006 Olympics he was part of the Finish Nordic Combined team that picked up a bronze medal, upgraded to gold at the following year's world championships. That year he also secured an individual Nordic combined bronze medal at those same world championships. However, he always was far superior in his ski jumping and was always working at improving his cross-country skiing in order to not lose all of his advantage. So from 2011 he has focused only on trying to get into the Finnish ski jumping team.

Well events today may well suggest that he has arrived.

Yesterday there were fears about the weather affecting today's third round of the Four Hills tournament. However, the weather didn't close in until all the competitors had fortunately completed their first round. At the end of that round Koivuranta had jumped 132.5m the second longest of the day 1m down on Simon Ammann SWI, but with 127.5 points to 126.3 he was ahead on points.

The result which saw Polish tour leader Kamil Stoch complete the podium made history as the first occasion that someone had been on the podium in a World Cup ski jumping and Nordic combined event during their career. Ammann himself was making a little bit of history with his third podium of this years four hills he joins five others who have secured three or more wins in the fours hills in at least three sessions.

Koivuarnata's previous individual best in a World Cup ski jumping event had been in 2011 at Lillehammer where he came 7th. It is his second top ten finish in this year's Four Hills having come 10th at Garmisch-Partenkirchen on New Year's Day.

Takanashi is beatable in day of two hills

Ski jumping was occurring on two hills today, firstly the women's world cup was travelling to Russia and Chaikovsky, while the men this evening take on the third of the traditional festive Four Hills at Innsbruck, Austria.

Takanashi in action
Entering this fifth event of the women's season Japan's Sara Takanashi had been unbeaten, including in the first event on this hill yesterday. However, today it was the home favourite Irina Avvakumova who not only managed to secure the first defeat of Takanashi all season but also her first win and that on home snow. In the first round she jumped 100m the same distance as first round leader France's Caroline Mattel, but the Frenchwoman had the edge on style marks, but a disappointing 97m on her second jump saw her drop to 5th.

Avvakumova meanwhile leapt to 101.5 in the second round for a total of 249.2 points it was enough to secure the win, while Carina Vogt how had come second to Takanashi yesterday found herself there again with 101m and 99.5m for a total of 244.9 points.

World Cup leader very nearly failed to make the podium, she jumped 98.5m in each round which was only the 5th longest in the first round was good enough for 3rd farthest in the second. But German Katrina Althaus with only 97m in each round almost overtook the Japanese jumper on points due to superior style marks. Takanashi had 243.1 to Althaus on 243.0.

More on the men's competition later.

Lizzy Yarnold secures third win of the season

Team GB had two great performances in the women's skeleton at Winterberg, Germany this afternoon.

The first was a great run from Rose McGrandle who climbed from her position of 15th after the first leg and as more and more women came down the run she wasn't bettered until Russian Olga Potylitsina in 10th place went ahead of her, but she didn't have to wait long to secure that top ten slot when the next slider Elena Nikitina RUS finished with a combined time that was 4 hundredths of a second down on the Brit.

The next person to make major gains on their first run was Germany's Marion Thees who was 6th after the first run, she saw the next two sliders unable to overcome her aggregate time. So with only the top three sliders to come she had a chance of a medal. However, those to come were three of the best in the world last year's world championship bronze medalist Sarah Reid CAN, and the co-leader silver medalist from last year's worlds Noelle Pikus-Pace USA and world leader this year Lizzy Yarnold GBR.

Yarnold in action today Picture from Bobsleigh and Skeleton TV
Reid first of all went into the leader's box after completing her run, though slower this time than Thees she had enough in hand from the first run. The co-leaders were both going for their third win in this season's world cup. Pikus-Pace opened up a gap over Reid of over half a second on the top before seeing it edge away from a few errors at the bottom. Her third of a second buffer after the first heat was reduced to a mere 6 hundredths by the time she crossed the line.

Then up stepped Yarnold in the yellow world leader's bib. Her start was faster than anyone else on the day, equaling the one Sarah Reid managed on the first run. But then she hit every timing split down the run in a time that was faster than anyone, including her first run had managed. In the end she was clean and smooth 0.35 secs faster on here second run and strengthening her grip on that worlds cup leader's position.

German 1-2 in Winterberg Bobsleigh

The first 4-man bob event of the weekend in Winterberg certainly proved spectacular.

In the first run the sled of American driver Cory Butner flipped in turn nine and self righted further down the track. While the home crowd favourite Maximillian Arndt took the lead off the world cup leading American Steven Holcomb.

In the second run with the ice cutting up as the top sleds went off last there were some of those who didn't do so well on the first run making progress on the second. Beat Heaft was one of those he started 22nd on heat, had the 11th best time and ended up climbing into the top five. But it was the battle between the Germans that ended up being interesting U23 world Champion Francisco Freidrich came out of the start gate aiming for the time of his compatriot Thomas Florschuetz, after a good start he lost some time on the top half, but miraculously gained it back at the end. Then he watched as one of the Russian favourites for their home track in the Olympics went ahead of him on intermediate times to end 0.03 secs behind him on the finish line.

Next up was Holcomb, who started well and was looking good before getting high in turn nine. His upper runners leaving the track and by the time force pushed them back unto the ice it was too late and his men followed the same misfortune has they had in training earlier in the week and at Butner has earlier.

Final sled down the track was that of Arndt who consolidated his lead in the first leg by recording the second fastest time in run two, only 0,02 behind his younger countryman Freidrich

Today in Sport 4th January 2014

Today there are 200 days until the start of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

The FIS Cross Country Skiing Tour de Ski travels to Val de Fiemme for the weekend. Today it is the men's 10km followed by the women's 5km. Russia's Nikita Kriukov is currently leading the men's sprint rankings and Germany's Denise Herrmann leads the ladies.

In ski jumping the men move to Innsbruck for the third competition in this year's Four Hills Competition. Thomas Diethart of Austria is currently leading the competition but didn't lead qualification, that honour went to Swiss jumper Thomas Fannamel. The women meanwhile are preparing for their debut at next month's Winter Olympics with a trip to another Russian hill at Chaikovsky. Sara Takanashiof Japan won the first of two events there this week yesterday, she has won all four of the events so far and has maximum points on the women's world cup tour. Behind her the competition is between Daniela Iraschko (AUT), Carina Vogt (GER) and Irina Avvakumova (RUS).

Today in Freestyle skiing the women are taking on the Moguls in Calgary.

In Winterberg Germany the 4 men bob (heat 2) and women's skeleton (heat 1 and heat 2)are taking place. Current leader of the 4-man bob world cup is Steven Holcomb USA, from Max Arndt GER, Chris Spring CAN and Alexander Kasjanov RUS. While in the women's skeleton Liz Yarnold GBR leads from her compatriot Shelly Rudman then Anja Huber GER and Noelle Pikus-Pierce USA.

Meanwhile athletics in the form of Cross Country comes to Northern Ireland with the Antrim IAAF International event. The men's field is headed by World Champion Japhet Korir KEN, he will face tough competition from his countryman Emmanuel Bett and Ugandan Thomas Ayeko. In the women's race Ireland's Fionnula Britton is looking to defend her title against opposition that included Gemma Steel GBR and Bahrain two time 1500m world champion Maryam Jamal.

3 January 2014

Debut nations at the 2014 Winter Olympics

When the Winter Olympics roll into Sochi next month there will be some nations that for the first time will be wrapping up warm for the opening ceremony. So who are they and who is representing them:


The tiny Caribbean island nation with a population of under 72,000 is sending its first team to the Winter Olympics and they are keeping it in the family. Husband and wife duo Gary and Angelica di Silvestri are taking part in the cross country skiing. They have taking part in ski camps in Oregan in the USA since 2005. He played American Football and wrestled at High School in New York and will be 47 by the time he competes in his first Olympics. They were approached by the NOC in November when the IOC noticed a lack of nations from the Caribbean who had entered delegations for Sochi.


The tiny islands state in the Mediterranean rarely if ever sees snow, but it is sending a skiier to take part in the women's Alpine programme. Elise Pellegrin was born in France, although it was her great grandfather who was Maltese born who moved to France to seek work. See was born in May 1991 so will be only 22 when she realises her Olympic dream. She finished 80th in last year's World Championships.


The South American nation, which like Malta is not a snowy nation, are taking benefit from one of the new sports appearing in 2014 to make their Winter Olympic debut, slopestyle skiing. The women who parade one of only two flags in the world with two distinct sides is Julia Marino. She was born in Paraquay, but adopted at the age of six months by a family in the USA and lived in Winchester, Massachusetts. She trains alongside the American team and is a serious contender for a medal. If she were it would be her nations second and first by a woman to go alongside the men's football team's silver in


For the first time since they became independent Timor-Leste have a qualified athlete coming to any Olympics rather than as the result of a wild card. The man who successfully qualified in the last slalom race of 2013 in Serbia is 19-year-old Yohan Goutt Goncalves whose father is French but through his mother qualifies for Timor-Leste. It was growing up in France that he developed his love for the slopes. He started competing at the age of 14 and while told his parents that he wanted to take part in the Olympics. They thought he meant as part of the French team which would have been a hard ask, but he knew how important it was for his mother who fled her homeland when she was 12 as a refugee to establish her newly independent nation on the world stage. With no snow in Timor the newspapers refer to what he does as snow skating, but hopefully by the end of Sochi they will know a little more about just what it is he does as he takes part in the men's slalom.


One of the smallest African nations a thin slither between Ghana and Benin, Togo will have a competitor in the cross-country skiing. No jokes about finding a small nation to be able to ski across it please. Their competitor is Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean who lives in France. She was born on 19 February 1994 meaning that when she lines up in the 10km classical start on the 13th February she will 6 days shy of her 19th birthday. She is actually going quite well in the junior women's events this year and while not likely to feature in the medals this time around could be one to watch in 2018 in Pyeongchang.


The Pacific island Kingdom of Tonga is sending their first delegation to the Winter Olympics thanks to a top 38 finish in the 2013-14 Luge World Cup by Bruno Banani. Banani, whose was born Fuahea Semi in December 1987, was one of two athletes chosen by the Tongan Olympic Committee to try and qualify for the 2010 Games in luge. He did however qualify for the 2011 World Championships and picked up a sponsorship deal with German company Makai. It was they who introduced him as Bruno Banani (the name of a racy German underwear company) and he has been part of the World Championships ever since. He trains in Germany alongside some of the best lugers in the world where they are fascinated by the Tongan.Thomas Bach, the new IOC President said the name change was in bad taste but that if the name on his passport was Banani and he qualified there was would no option but to accept him by that name, in 2013 he legally changed his name and now Bruno Banani is heading to Sochi.


A second African state will be making their debut at this year's Winter Olympics and like the majority of the nations who are doing so it is in the skiing disciplines. Unlike some of the other nations making their debut there has been snow recorded in Zimbabwe, though that was last in the 60s. Harare born Luke Steyn was first introduced to snow at the age of two, and since the age of nine has been training from his father's European base for Alpine skiing. He has more recently gone to the University of Bolder Colorado in the USA where he joined their racing team, but is on a year out as first he set about qualifying and now competing the the Games.

Disclaimer: The author does not condone Russia's record on human rights particularly on LGBT rights, but does recognise the skills and abilities of all athletes who have qualified for the XXII Winter Olympics and will covering their acheivements.

2 January 2014

Olympians we lost in 2013 Part 2 July to December

As I said in part 1 I love the Olympics and the various sports that only really get highlighted then. However, last year as most years saw the sad demise of many Olympians. Here is a record of those we lost from July to December under the years they competed, details are under first medal, or year if not a medalist.


Basil Dickinson (Aus) 25 April 1915 - 7 October 2013 Athletics 16th in Triple jump was oldest surviving Australian Olympian and last of their 1936 delegation


Nilo Floody (CHI) 16th July 1921 - 2 July 2013 Modern Pentathlon 9th
Erik Ahldén (SWE) 4 September 1923 - 6 July 2013 Athletics 4th men's 5,000m
Jimmy McColl (GBR) 1924 - Aug 2013 Football beaten in the bronze medal men's team match
Gianni Rocca (ITA) 13 June 1929 - 11 August 2013 Athletics finalist in men's 4x400m relay and flag bearer
Henny ter Weer (NED) 7 August 1922 - 12 August 2012 Fencing competed in mens's team foil and sabre
Christopher Barton (GBR) 21 November 1927 - 18 August 2013 Rowing silver medalist men's eight
Dezső Gyarmati (HUN) 23 October 1927 - 18 August 2013 Water polo silver medalist men's team
Wacław Kuźmicki (POL) 27 April 1921 - 19 August 2013 Athletics 16h in decathlon he was last member of his nation's 1948 delegation
Henry Rebello (IND) 17 November 1928 - 27 August 2013 Athletics failed to record a mark in the triple jump
Bob Kurland (USA) 23 December 1924 - 29 September 2013 Basketball gold medalist men's team
Branko Vidović (YUG) [Croatian] 1922 - 5 October 2013 Swimming 5th men's 4x200m freestyle
Rodolfo Rivademar (ARG) 19 October 1927 - 15 October 2013 Sailing silver medalist 6m class
Thomas Summers (GBR) 3 January 1924 - 21 October 2013 Swimming competed in men's 100m backstroke
Ettore Perego (ITA) 11 April 1913 - 23 October 2013 Gymnastics 5th men's team, 12th pommel horse
Ebbe Parsner (DEN) 6 June 1922 - 24 October 2013 Rowing silver medalist double sculls
Hakon Barfod (NOR) 17 August 1926 - 4 November 2013 Sailing gold medalist Dragon class
McDonald Bailey (GBR) 12 August 1920 - 4 December 2013 Athletics 6th men's 100m
Harry Boland (IRE) 1925 - 18 December 2013 Basketball competed in men's event
Wilbur "Moose" Thompson (USA) 6 April 1921 - 25 December 2013 Athletics gold medalist men's shot put


Nilo Floody (see above) Modern Pentathlon 17th
Torbjørn Falkanger (NOR) 8 October 1927 - 16 July 2013 Ski jumping silver medalist individual large hill, also took the athletes oath.
Gianni Rocca (see above) took part in the men's 4x400m relay
Judit Temes (HUN) 10 October 1930 - 11 August 2013 Swimming gold medalist women's 4x100 freestyle relay, bronze medalist 100m freestyle
Dezső Gyarmati (see above) gold medalist men's team
György Gurics (HUN) 27 January 1929 - 10 September 2013 Wrestling bronze medalist middleweight
James Bradford (USA) 1 November 1929 - 13 September 2013 Weightlighting silver medalist heavyweight
Jack Britto (PAK) 16 August 1926 - 16 September 2013 Hockey beaten in the bronze medal match
Birger Kivelä (FIN) 24 December 1920 - 27 September 2013 Diving 13th 10m platform
Bob Kurland (see above) Basketball men's gold medalist 
Noel Harrison (GBR) 29 January 1934 - 20 October 2013 Skiing 58th downhill, 71st giant slalom, DNF slalom
Viktor Tsybulenko (USR) [Ukrainian] 13 July 1930 - 19 October 2013 Athletics 4th in men's javelin
Ebbe Parsner (see above) eliminated in repechage in double sculls
Arne Johansen (NOR) 3 April 1927 - 25 October 2013 Speed skating bronze medalist  men's 500m
Hakon Barfod (see above) sailing gold medalist Dragon class
Carl Lovsted (USA) 4 April 1930 - 8 November 2013 Rowing bronze medalist coxed four
André Filippini (SWI) 13 September 1924 - 19 November 2013 Bobsleigh bronze medalist 4 man bob
Baldassarre Porto (ITA) 19 January 1923 - 30 November 2013 Athletics competed in men's 4x400m relay
McDonald Bailey (see above) bronze medalist men's 100m
Eero Kohelmainen (FIN) 24 March 1918 - 7 December 2013 Cross-country skiing silver medalist men's 50km
Raymond Paul (GBR) 21 November 1928  - December 2013 Fencing quarter finalist foil men's individual and team


Nilo Floody (see above) Modern Pentathlon 24th
Gordon McKenzie (USA) 26 June 1927 - 19 July 2013 Athletics DNF men's 10,000m
Bob Bignell (AUS) 14 March 1922 - 11 August 2013 Football beaten quarter finalist men's team
Dezső Gyarmati (see above) gold medalist men's team
Wellington Burtnett (USA) 26 August 1930 - 21 August 2013 Ice hockey silver medalist men's team
Kauko Hänninen (FIN) 28 January 1930 - 26 August 2013 Rowing bronze medalist coxless four
Lennart Risberg (SWE) 16 April 1935 - 4 September 2013 Boxing KO in first round of light heavyweight
Faith Leech (AUS) 31 March 1941 - 14 September 2013 Swimming gold medalist women's 4x100m freestyle relay, bronze medalist 100m freestyle
Denis Brodeur (CAN) 12 October 1930 - 26 September 2013 Ice hockey silver medalist men's team
Noel Harrison (see above) 47th slalom, 54th giant slalom
Viktor Tsybulenko (see above) bronze medalist javelin
Albie Thomas (AUS) 8 February 1935 - 27 October 2013 Athletics 5th men's 5,000m
Raimondo D'Inzeo (ITA) 8 February 1925 - 25 November 2013 Equestrian silver medalist individual show jumping, silver medalist team show jumping
Vladis Muižnieks (USR) [Latvian] 22 February - c. 29 November 2013 Basketball silver medalist men's team
Yevgeny Yatsinenko (USR) [Russian] 8 January 1925 - 15 December 2013 Canoeing silver medalist men's K-2 1,000m, 5th men's K-2 10,000m
Pyotr Bolotnikov (see below) 9th men's 5,000m
Raymond Paul (see above) 8th men's foil individual, 4th men's épée team, tied 5th men's foil team, tied 7th men's sabre team


Gordon McKenzie (see above) 48th in the Marathon
Bill Hoskyns (GBR) 19 March 1931 - 4 August 2013 Fencing silver medalist men's team épée
Anatoly Albul (USR) [Russian] 1 June 1936 - 13 August 2013 Wrestling bronze medalist men's light heavyweight 
Dezső Gyarmati (see above) bronze medalist men's team
Kauko Hänninen (see above) semi-finalist coxed four
Carl van Gerber (SWE) 23 August 1931 - 8 September 2013 Canoeing semi-finalist K-1 4x500m relay
Josef Němec (CZE) 25 September 1933 - 10 September 2013 Boxing bronze medalist heavyweight
James Bradford (see above) silver medalist heavyweight
Owe Lostad (SWE) 27 June 1922 - 12 October 2013 Rowing cox in coxed pairs, coxed four and eight
Viktor Tsybulenko (see above) gold medalist javelin
Imre Nagy (HUN) 21 February 1933 - 20 October 2013 Modern Pentathlon gold medalist men's team. silver medalist individual
Albie Thomas (see above) competed in men's 1,500m and 5,000m
Walt Bellamy (USA) 24 July 1939 - 2 November 2013 Basketball gold medalist men's team
Nikolai Karpov (USR) 8 November 1929 - 7 November 2013 Basketball bronze medalist men's team
István Telegdy (HUN) 4 December 1927 - 11 November 2013 Sailing 12th Star Class
Raimondo D'Inzeo (see above) gold medalist individual show jumping, bronze medalist team show jumping
Paul Gnaier (GER) 8 March 1926 - 25 November 2013 Fencing 4th individual épée, 5th team épée
Attilio Bravi (ITA) 9 September 1936 - 27 November 2013 Athletics 10th men's long jump
Vladis Muižnieks (see above) silver medalist men's basketball
Pyotr Bolotnikov (USR) [Moldovian] 8 March 1930 - 20 December 2013 Athletics gold medalist 10,000m
Eero Mäntyranta (FIN) 20 November 1937 - 30 December 2013 Cross-country skiing gold medalist men's 4x10km


Claude Arabo (FRA) 3 October 1937 - 3 July 2013 Fencing silver medal individual sabre
Hassan Pakandam (IRN) 19 May 1934 - 16 July 2013 Boxing participated in lightweight division
Bill Hoskyns (see above)  silver medalist individual épée
Dezső Gyarmati (see above) gold medalist men's team
Kauko Hänninen (see above) eliminated in repechage coxless four
Stanislav Stepashkin (USR) [Russian] 1 September 1940 - 4 September 2013 Boxing gold medalist featherweight -57kg
Carl van Gerber (see above) 5th K-4 1000m
Masae Kasai (JAP) 14 July 1933 - 3 October 2013 Volleyball gold medalist women's team
Imre Nagy (see above) bronze medalist men's team modern pentathlon
Albie Thomas (see above) competed in men's 1,500m and 5,000m
Raimondo D'Inzeo (see above) bronze medalist team show jumping
Taisia Chenchik (USR) [Ukrainian] 30 January 1936 - 19 November 2013 Athletics bronze medalist women's high jump
Paul Gnaier (see above) 17th individual épée, 6th team épée
Vladis Muižnieks (see above) silver medalist men's basketball
Pyotr Bolotnikov (see above) 25th men's 5,000m
Eero Mäntyranta (see above) gold medalist men's 15km, gold medalist men's 30km, silver medalist men's 4x10km relay
Eleanor Montgomery (USA) 13 November 1946 - 28 December 2013 Athletics 8th women's high jump


Saturnino Rustrián (GUA) 29 November 1942 - 14 July 2013 Cycling 21st Road Race, 22nd Individual Time Trial 
Ahmed Ishtiaq Mubarak (MAS) 6 February 1948 - 9 August 2013 Athletics competed in 110m hurdles
Vladimir Vikulov (USR) [Russian] 20 July 1946 - 9 August 2013 Ice hockey gold medalist  men's team
Petr Kment (CZE) 20 August 1942 - 22 August 2013 Greco-Roman Wrestling bronze medalist heavyweight
Kauko Hänninen (see above) eliminated in repechage coxless pair 
Viktor Zinger (USR) 29 October 1941 - 24 September 2013 Ice hockey gold medalist men's team
Igor Romishevsky (USR) 25 March 1940 - 28 September 2013 Ice hockey gold medalist men's team
Sergei Belov (USR) [Russian] 23 January 1944 - 3 October 2013 Basketball bronze medalist men's team
Vladimir Musalimov (USR) [Ukrainian] 31 December 1944 - 3 November 2013 Boxing bronze medalist welterweight
Stephen Rexe (CAN) 26 February 1947 - 12 November 2013 Ice hockey bronze medalist men's team
Paul Gnaier (see above) 4th team épée
Eva Davies (GBR) 25 December 1924 - 2 December 2013 Fencing women's team foil
Eero Mäntyranta (see above) silver medalist men's 15km, bronze medalist men's 30km, bronze medalist men's 4x10km relay
Eleanor Montgomery (see above) 19th women's high jump


Flemming Hansen (DEN) 11 September 1948 - 14 July 2013 Handball 13th in men's team
Paul Côté (CAN) 28 January 1944 - 19 July 2013 Sailing bronze
Ahmed Ishtiaq Mubarak (see above) competed in 110m hurdles
Vladimir Vikulov (see above) gold medalist  men's team
Edith Master (see below) 9th Team Dressage and 18th= individual
Matti Murto (FIN) 9 April 1949 - 19 August 2013 Ice hockey 5th men's team
Stanisław Szozda (POL) 25 September 1950 - 23 September 2013 Cycling silver medalist 100km Team Time Trial
Igor Romishevsky (see above) gold medalist men's ice hockey
Sergei Belov (see above) gold medalist men's basketball
Raimondo D'Inzeo (see above) bronze medalist team show jumping


Ahmed Ishtiaq Mubarak (see above) competed in 110m hurdles and Malaysia's flagbearer
Edith Master (USA) 25 August 1932 - 18 August 2013 Equestrian bronze medal team dressage
Matti Murto (see above) 4th men's ice hockey
Stanisław Szozda (see above) silver medalist 100km Team Time Trial
Sergei Belov (see above) bronze medalist men's basketball
Jindřich Balcar (CZE) 22 March 1950 - 21 November 2013 Ski jumping 27th individual normal hill
Jörg Spengler (FDR) 23 December 1938 - 26 November 2013 Sailing bronze medalist Tornado class
Nadezhda Ilyina (USR) [Russian] 24 January 1949 - 7 December 2013 Athletics bronze medalist women's 4x400m relay


Sergei Belov (see above) bronze medalist men's basketball and cauldron lighter
Ian Davies (AUS) 1 January 1956 - 7 November 2013 Basketball 8th men's team


Ibrahim Youssef (EGY) 1 January 1959 - 10 July 2013 Football quarter-finalist in men's event
Todd Bennett (GBR) 6 July 1962 - 16 July 2013 Athletics silver medalist men's 4x400m relay
Det de Beus (NED) 18 February 1958 - 21 July 2013 Hockey gold medalist in women's team
Marco Bucci (ITA) 29 November 1960 - 6 August 2013 Athletics injury prevented him throwing a qualifying distance in discus
 Ian Davies (see above) 7th men's team basketball


Todd Bennett (see above) 5th in men's 4x400m relay 
Det de Deus (see above) bronze medalist in women's hockey
Lázaro Rivas (see below) 5th mne's 52kg Greco Roman wrestling


Alexander Rennie (RSA) 28 September 1959 - 4 December 2013 Slalom 36th men's K-1 


Lourembam Brojeshori Devi (IND) 1 Jan 1981 - 21 July 2013 Judo semi-finalist in the women's 52kg 
Shinya Taniguchi (JAP) 23 March 1981 - 4 September 2013 Swimming 8th men's 400m individual  medley
Kazem Sarikhani (IRN) 5 April 1978 - 10 October 2013 Judo beaten in semi-final repechage men's Half-Middleweight -81kg
Lázaro Rivas (CUB) 4 April 1975 - 22 December 2013 Greco-Roman wrestling silver medalist men's 54kg


Meskerem Legesse (ETH) 28 September 1986 - 15 July 2013 Athletics competed in women's 1,500m
Wang Kenan (CHN) 3 August 1980 - 5 October 2013 Diving 8th synchronised 3m springboard ]


Christian López (GUA) 30 March 1984 - 6 November 2013 Weightlifting 16th -105kg
Iryna Charnushenka-Stassiuk (BLR) 9 March 1979 - 5 December 2013 Athletics 18th women's long jump
Besik Kudukhov (RUS) 15 August 1986 - 29 December 2013 Wrestling bronze medalist men's 55kg


Billy Ward (AUS) 16 July 1993 - 4 August 2013 Boxing beaten in first men's light flyweight bout
Abdelrahman El-Trabely (EGY) 7 September 1987 - 19 August 2013 Greco-Roman Wrestling competed in men's super heavyweight category
Christian López (see above) 15th +105kg weightlifting
Besik Kudukhov (see above) silver medalist men's freestyle wrestling 60kg

As I said before there are bound to be more, but history does only tend to record those who win (or come close to it) or have longevity in thier sport of a starrling short life.