Sweden picked up four medals in the first week of the 2010 Winter Olympics, with Anja Pärson making history when she took a bronze in Alpine skiing.
Kalla claims first gold for Sweden
Charlotte Kalla claimed gold in the women's 10km freestyle cross-country event Feb. 15 to give her country its first medal of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The 22-year-old, who claimed a bronze in the relay at the world championships last year, captured her first Olympic medal with a winning time of 24 minutes 58.4 seconds.
"It feels crazy right now, I can't believe I am a gold medalist," said Kalla. "It felt good the whole race, I just tried to focus on my plan and be patient. It feels great."
Estonia's Kristina Smigun-Vaehi, who won gold in the classical four years ago, claimed second after setting the early pace with a time of 25 minutes 05.0 seconds before Kalla shaved six seconds off her time.
Norway's Marit Bjoergen, who was bidding for her first gold after silver medals at Salt Lake City in 2002 and Turin in 2006, had to settle for bronze as she finished 15.9 seconds behind.
"I was a bit nervous before the race and I didn't feel so good in the beginning," said Bjoergen. “This is very good for me. It has been a long time since I was on the podium.”
Women’s hockey into semis
The Swedish women’s hockey team cruised into the semifinals with a 6-2 win over Slovakia Feb. 15.
Pernilla Winberg scored four goals, Elin Holmlöv had a goal and two assists, and Jenni Asserholt also scored for Sweden.
The Olympic rookies from Slovakia almost made Sweden regret their decision to rest starting goalie Kim Martin, scoring twice on just five shots in the first period against backup Sara Grahn.
"We knew it would be a hard game because we've never played them before, and we didn't know what to expect at all," said Winberg, who made the Swedish team in Turin as a 16-year-old.
The crowd thought Winberg completed a hat trick with 6:40 left to play in the game, sneaking into the crease and batting home a loose rebound. In fact, she knew she deserved credit for a first-period goal initially awarded to Daniela Rundqvist, and the Olympic scoring crew awarded it to her more than 45 minutes after the game ended.
Winberg still finished well short of the single-game Olympic goals record, set when Canada's Danielle Goyette scored eight in 1998. Sweden got nearly all of its offense from Winberg's line alongside Holmlöv and captain Erika Holst, who had three assists.
"I love playing with them, because we're really good (together)," Winberg said.
Sweden eventually settled in for a comfortable win with Grahn, who made 14 saves.
With two preliminary-round victories apiece, Sweden and Canada clinched their places in next week's semifinals.
‘Homer’ misses Games
Tomas Holmström won’t have the chance to win a third hockey gold medal. The Sweden and Detroit Red Wings forward aggravated a knee injury Feb. 13 playing in an NHL game and is out the Olympic Games.
Sweden hockey coach Bengt-Åke Gustafsson replaced Holmström with his Detroit teammate Johan Franzén, who is still working his way back from a knee injury he suffered in October.
Holmström missed 13 games in January because of a broken foot and another game Feb. 16 because of his banged-up knee. Franzén had an assist Feb. 16 in his first game since having surgery on his left knee four months ago.
Ferry wins Sweden’s second Olympic gold
Björn Ferry of Sweden kicked up his right leg at the last moment and glided across the finish line on one ski, his poles stretched out in triumph.
The same could not be said for the timing system.
Race officials are supposed to make sure the competitors start on time. But two men, including American Jeremy Teela, went off too early in the men's 12.5-kilometer biathlon pursuit Feb. 16. Earlier, three women went off too late in their 10K.
The International Biathlon Union called the blunders an embarrassment.
Ferry, however, was pure gold. He delivered the first gold medal for the Swedish men at the Winter Games since Klas Lestander won the 20K race at Squaw Valley in 1960.
"I'm 31, and I've waited for this my whole life," Ferry said after winning the race.
Ferry took the lead on the final lap after his fourth shoot and had a winning time of 33 minutes, 38.4 seconds—16.5 seconds faster that silver medalist Christoph Sumann of Austria.
Swedes cry foul over clock snafu
An incorrect timing might have cost a medal in the women's biathlon pursuit to Sweden's Anna-Carin Olofsson-Zidek, the national team's head coach told Swedish media.
During pursuit, athletes start the race according to the results they showed in the sprint event. At the beginning of Tuesday's race, three women were allowed to start their race with a larger interval. 2006 Olympic Champion Olofsson-Zidek had to begin her pursuit 14 seconds later.
"It might have cost us a medal. It is a huge scandal. It is unheard of," Wolfgang Pichler told daily Aftonbladet.
Sweden lodged an official protest immediately after the race, but withdrew it soon after the International Biathlon Union issued an apology and subtracted 14 seconds from Olofsson-Zidek's result, promoting her to the fourth place.
“It was a big mistake from our side, we apologize to Anna-Carin,” IBU technical delegate Norbert Baier said.
He also apologized to Germany's Simone Hauswald and Ukraine's Valj Semerenko, who were also affected by incorrect timing.
Pärson survives crash to take bronze
Anja Pärson wore her bruises with pride Feb. 18 after skiing on battered legs to a record-equaling sixth Olympic Alpine medal.
The day before, the Swede flew nearly 60 meters off the final jump in the women’s downhill before landing hard on her backside and pitching face first into the snow.
She took another dive on Thursday—this time in jubilation after fighting back to take bronze in the super combined.
Pärson knew when she crossed the slalom finish that she had done something special, raising her arms to the skies and clenching her teeth.
The medal equaled Croatian Janica Kostelic’s women’s Alpine record, adding to a personal haul of one gold, a silver and three bronzes from 2002 and 2006.
“The biggest bruise is on my butt, and then my left calf that’s internal bleeding,” she grinned. “I don’t think I look that beautiful, maybe I will post something soon on my Webpage. Normally I never bruise, so I am pretty proud that I have some bruises sometimes and I can show everyone, but maybe not here. I am too shy for that.”
Pärson’s bronze was a bonus that Swedes could hardly have expected on Feb. 17 when her chances of participation in the combined, another downhill and a slalom leg, were rated as no more than 50-50.
She took part in the pre-race inspection and warm-up but kept everyone guessing until minutes before the start about her intentions.
After completing the downhill run with the seventh best time, she was not certain to continue to the slalom but her Viking fighting spirit carried her through.
“At nine o’clock I was pretty much stressed,” said the 28-year-old. “I tried to manage but I felt in too much pain. I think my physio and service man was pretty scared of me because I tried to be as angry as possible before the start. It worked. I thought if I could make the first jump after 10 seconds, then I could make the whole course.
Equaling Kostelic’s record was an achievement she said she had not considered until a reporter pointed it out as she headed to the post-race news conference, surrounded by fans and exchanging hugs with her family.
“Yesterday I was up for the medal but this night I was very nervous that I wouldn’t enter any more races here,” she said. “But I was very determined to win one more medal here and now that I did it I feel very proud. If I can be next to Janica then that will be great. Me and her, we have been on and off pushing each other for perfection in skiing. She was a really perfect and great skier.”
Anna Haag wins surprise silver
Cross country skier Anna Haag sped past reigning world champion Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland to claim the silver medal Feb. 19 in the women’s 15-kilometer pursuit.
Norwegian superstar Marit Bjorgren became the first double-gold winner as she took first place. Bjorgen pushed the pace much of the way to distance herself from her rivals midway through the freestyle portion of the race. Although her victory never looked in doubt after that, there was plenty of drama surrounding the other medals.
In a three-way fight for the silver medal, Haag pulled away from pre-race favorite Kowalczyk and Kristin Stormer Steira of Norway in the final sprint for her first Olympic medal.
Kowalczyk then took the bronze in a photo finish—even though Steira's name initially came up as the third-place finisher on the scoreboard. After reviewing footage of the finish, race official determined that the front of Kowalczyk's boot had passed the line a fraction of a second before the Norwegian's, as both lunged their legs forward at the last moment.
"Normally, I'm very bad at the finish line," Kowalczyk said. "But I have long legs ... I'm very sorry for Kristin."
Charlotte Kalla, the gold medalist in the 10K freestyle race, got tangled up and fell midway through the classical section. She got right back up to rejoin the leaders, but soon dropped back and was 28 seconds behind going into the freestyle portion.
"I don't know exactly what happened, but I was sitting on my back and then I lost a little gap to the others," Kalla said.
Staff and wire reports