By the time you read this, Sadie Bjornsen, Erik Bjornsen and Brian Gregg will be seasoned XXII Olympic Winter Games veterans in at least one and possibly two events apiece after official competition got underway at Sochi, Russia, on Saturday.
Both the Bjornsens and Gregg opened their Olympic careers with the skiathlon, a 30-kilometer race comprised of a 15K classic leg plus a 15K freestyle for men, and a total 15K distance made up of a 7.5K classic plus 7.5K freestyle for women.
Sadie missed the opening ceremonies to compete in the women’s skiathlon, the first Nordic event of the games, where she finished 31st in the middle of a 61-skier field and third among four Americans. Teammates Jessica Diggins and Elizabeth Stephen placed eighth and 12th respectively. Holly Brooks crossed the line in 47th.
The following day, Erik leveraged a 33rd-place position in the opening 15K classic portion of the men’s skiathlon race into 42nd place overall after the final 15K freestyle was completed.
“My strategy was to go out hard, ski with some fast people and to hold on as long as I could,” Bjornsen, a sprint specialist, told the News on Monday (Feb. 10). “I went into the exchange at the halfway mark in 33rd place, first American. I ended up getting really tired around 20K and slowly fading, but was able to hold onto my 42nd place and get my goal of top 45. I was the second U.S. finisher.”
Teammate Noah Hoffman, in the 35th spot, was the only American to finish ahead of Bjornsen.
Brian Gregg, also entered in the skiathlon, was trailing Bjornsen after the 15K classic, Bjornsen’s better of the two legs.
“Erik was leading Brian by about two and a half minutes at that point,” said Bjornsen’s mother, Mary.
Gregg, a distance specialist, managed to close that gap in the final 15K freestyle and finished 47th, less than a minute behind Bjornsen.
Erik was the only one of the three Methow Valley Olympians to compete in Tuesday’s sprint qualifiers. His 39th-place time of 14 minutes, 38.3 seconds did not make the top 30 cut requisite to advance to the quarterfinals.
Teammates Andrew Newell, 17th, and Simeon Hamilton, 21st, made the quarterfinal round.
Bjornsen described the snow conditions as “very tricky … warm and sloppy. I don’t mind those conditions but they definitely favor the lighter guys.”
Ahead are the women’s 10K classic on Thursday (Feb. 13) and the men’s 15K classic on Friday (Feb. 14).
The women’s 4x5K relay will be held Saturday (Feb. 15) and the men’s 4x10K relay Sunday (Feb. 16).
“I definitely have two more individual races and hopefully at least one relay,” Bjornsen said.
Readers can follow individual results of Northwest Olympians by logging onto King 5′s news site.