Feb. 15th, 2014
If the other day I wrote about Aino-Kaisa Saarinen’s missing the medal by two secs, yesterday was even worse for Finland.
First we had Iivo Niskanen. Guy nobody raved about before the games and suddenly he is leading the 15km race.
He got to sit on the seat reserved for the leader like ten minutes.
Sure, he had to be beaten, it was just too good to be true… but that the bronze medal was taken away from him by 0.2 seconds, that’s hard.
Translates to something like one meter of difference on the finishing line. But: his first Olympics, I am sure we will here more about him later.
The flower ceremony was delayed for quite a while. I got curious why and went asking what was going on. I was told that “the peruvian” was still on the course.
And then I saw this one lady shouting: “Roberto, Roberto…”
I went over and asked with my very broken Spanish if she spoke any English and she said yes. She told me that Roberto Carcelen, the only athlete from Peru was still skiing, ten minutes after the penultimate skier had crossed the line.
She also told me that this was his second olympics and that he had broken three ribs in training but was too proud to withdraw as his country had sent him over to compete here.
So there he came, lonely figure alone on the tracks with the remaining audience giving him a well deserved cheer. He even picked up a flag from the spectators and waved it as he did the last hundred meters home.
Dario Cologna, the Swiss winner was the first one to congratulate him.
I don’t know. Sometimes one feels stories like this are almost too fabricated, like… too touching? But there was something so solemn about him, you really could feel it. He wasn’t joking around, looking for media attention, fishing for empathy or anything like that. No, he really believed in what he was doing, it meant the world him.
And he was definitely the second winner in yesterdays race.
If for Iivo it was a question of 0.2 secs, to Kaisa it was about two millimeters. The circumstances were like designed for her i.e. wet and heavy, and she skied well. And she shot well… until the fourth and last (standing position) where she missed the second and the last shot. By approximately 2 millimeters somebody said. I didn’t do the math all the way but she was placed second before those last shots so I think it’s safe to say those couple of millimeters cost her the medal. The color of which we can only guess.
I think she was placed 9th in the end.
I met her last week and although she has been often accused of being distant and cold (the word “diva” has been thrown around on several occasions) she was everything but that. Smiling, joking, talkative. Even stopped to pose for me in the middle of the training (so much so that the security came to pull me away from the tracks as I was shooting her against the Olympic rings).
Here’s a small slideshow we made the other day before the games started (I am not allowed to shoot video nor record audio while on the accredited areas) so I gave my journalist an H1 when he went to interview her in the evening.
And then used some images I shot in the World Championships of Nove Mesto last spring and the training images I shot here.
It’s very simple, far from brilliant, but you can hear the tone of her voice: she is relaxed and sure of herself. She would have deserved a medal.
But: as I’ve said earlier, this is sports. One more competition remaining – the mass start.
I wish her the best of luck for that.