Unusually warm and sunny weather again tested skiers at the Winter Olympics in Russia Friday.
The temperature at the cross country ski course in the mountains above Sochi hit 50 degrees during the men’s 15 kilometer classic-style race. The course and the Olympians from the Northwest suffered under the balmy conditions.
“It was really hot, even hotter than I was expecting,” said U.S. racer Erik Bjornsen of Mazama, Wash. “I don’t mind these conditions too much, but the heat got to me. I was falling over after the finish; I could barely stand up.”
Bjornsen finished in 38th place. His former neighbor in Washington’s Methow Valley - and now U.S. Olympic teammate - Brian Gregg placed 47th. Swiss skier Dario Cologna won the event with a time of 38:29.
Cross country skier Roberto Carcelen of Seattle raced for Peru in the Valentine’s Day event. The Peruvian-American has dual citizenship. He has yet to fully recover from breaking one rib and bruising several others in a ski accident in mid-January. Carcelen was the last racer to finish, in 87th place.
It barely cooled off at nightfall when the women’s biathlon 15 kilometer event started. Boise native Sara Studebaker finished in 55th place in the combination of target shooting and cross country skiing.
Studebaker wrote on her Sochi blog Thursday that she felt she was skiing well, but called some of her shooting “rough.” For each missed target, a one-minute penalty is added to the competitor’s time. Studebaker had four penalties on Friday.
“I’ve been pretty relaxed racing here,” Studebaker wrote. “I think my prior Olympic experience is helping me be more calm about these races.”
Weekend highlights to look out for include more action on the cross country ski course. Erik Bjornsen’s older sister Sadie will ski one leg of the women’s 4 x 5km relay, which may represent Team USA’s best remaining chance to win a cross country ski medal.
Also on Saturday, speedskater J.R. Celski of Federal Way, Wash., will go for the gold in the 1000-meters short track event and alpine skier Laurenne Ross of Bend, Ore. navigates the slush on the women’s Super-G.
Here is how Northwest athletes have fared to date.
Sadie Bjornsen - Cross country skiing
Bjornsen had the best U.S. finish in the women’s 10 kilometer classic race held on Thursday. She placed 18th. Bjornsen finished in 31st place in her first Olympic race, the women’s skiathlon on Feb. 8. Sadie is the older half of a sibling duo from Washington’s Methow Valley.
Erik Bjornsen - Cross country skiing
Bjornsen finished in 38th in the slushy 15 kilometer race on Friday. On Tuesday, Bjornsen finished 39th in the men’s individual sprints on Tuesday. At the beginning of the week, he placed 42nd in the skiathlon (15km classic + 15km freestyle on Feb. 9), the first of many races for the younger half of the Methow Valley, Wash., sibling duo.
Brian Gregg - Cross country skiing
Gregg has finished in 47th place twice, first in the in the skiathlon on Feb. 9 and then again in the 15 kilometer race on Friday. The distance racing specialist, who was born and raised in Winthrop, Wash., will have another chance in the 50km freestyle race on the final day of the Sochi Games.
Roberto Carcelen - Cross country skiing
Carcelen sustained several bruised or broken ribs in a ski crash during training in Austria in mid-January. The lingering effects probably contributed to his last place finish in his only 2014 Olympic race, the men’s 15 kilometer event on Friday. Carcelen races for Peru, whose flag the Seattle-based e-commerce consultant carried in the Opening Ceremony.
Holly Brooks - Cross country skiing
Brooks skied to a 35th place finish in the women’s 15 km classic event on Thursday. She finished in 47th place in the women’s skiathlon on Feb. 8. This 31-year-old Seattle native (now living in Anchorage) learned to ski at Snoqualmie Pass.
Christian Niccum - Doubles luge
Niccum, of Woodinville, Wash., finished in eleventh place in the doubles competition Wednesday. The three-time Olympic slider was paired with Jayson Terdiman. On Thursday, that combo had the seventh fastest time in the doubles portion of the team relay event, in which Team USA finished sixth overall. The relay ride was probably the 36-year-old Niccum’s final Olympic appearance.
Kaitlyn Farrington - Snowboarding
Farrington beat three prior Olympic champions to win the gold medal in women’s snowboard halfpipe. The 24-year-old “cowgirl” from Bellevue, Idaho is a product of the Sun Valley ski and snowboard program.
Jackie Wiles - Alpine skiing
The 21-year-old U.S. Ski Team rookie from Aurora, Ore., finished in 26th place in the women’s downhill. “There were some nerves today, but I feel like I channeled that into some good energy,” Wiles said in a team statement Wednesday. Wiles skied for the White Pass, Wash., racing team in her teens.
Hilary Knight - Ice hockey
The medal favorite in the women’s ice hockey tournament is meeting expectations. In a likely preview of the gold medal match next week, Canada edged the USA, 3-2 on Wednesday. Knight scored the first goal of that game. Earlier, Knight chalked up a goal and an assist in an opening 3-1 victory over Finland on Feb. 8. On Monday, the forward from Sun Valley, Idaho, contributed another goal and an assist in a 9-0 shutout of Switzerland.
Kent Callister - Snowboarding
Callister finished in ninth in the men’s halfpipe final Tuesday. That’s the same event that USA superstar Sean White placed an inglorious fourth. Callister competed for Australia in Sochi and was the only Aussie in the men’s final. The teen from Bend, Ore., has dual American and Australian citizenship.
Sara Studebaker – Biathlon
The Boise native started the work week with back-to-back races combining cross country skiing and target shooting. On Monday, Studebaker placed 44th in the 7.5km sprint. Tuesday she finished further back, 51st in the women’s 10km pursuit. On Friday, she missed four targets. The resulting time penalties knocked her back to 55th place in the 15 kilometer event.
Simi Hamilton – Cross country skiing
The Sun Valley Olympic development team alumnus started his campaign in Sochi with a 27th place finish in the men’s individual sprint competition Tuesday. These are Hamilton’s second Olympics.
Torin Koos – Cross country skiing
The four-time Olympian from Leavenworth, Wash., also kicked off his racing in Sochi with the men’s individual sprint. Koos finished in 37th place.
Patrick Deneen - Freestyle skiing
The pride of Cle Elum, Wash., was edged out by the dominant Canadians in freestyle moguls. Deneen finished 6th in the moguls finals on Monday. Still, the result was better than the crash he suffered in the finals of the 2010 Vancouver Games.
J.R. Celski - Short track speedskating
The Federal Way, Wash., native just missed a medal in his first final in Sochi. He finished fourth in the men’s 1,500-meters. Celski remains the top medal hope for the U.S. short track team.
Laurenne Ross - Alpine skiing
Ross finished eleventh on Wednesday in a women’s downhill that was most notable for producing an historic tie for first place. On Monday, the 25-year-old U.S. Ski Team veteran from Bend, Ore., crashed and did not finish the super combined (a morning downhill followed by an afternoon slalom).
Jessika Jenson - Snowboarding
The Rigby, Idaho, snowboarder finished 14th in the debut of women’s slopestyle at the Olympic Games.
The Sochi Games Opening Ceremony took place on February 7. Competition continues through Sunday, February 23.