By Mike Maltais
Sadie and Erik Bjornsen of Mazama and former Winthop resident Brian Gregg squeezed the final drops from their first Olympic experiences during the closing ceremonies of the XXII Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, on Sunday.
Along the way all three found opportunities to compete against the world’s best Nordic cross country athletes and can now reflect in the afterglow of those encounters as they look ahead to next season.
Sadie Bjornsen got an early start at Sochi, passing up the lavish opening ceremonies to compete in the women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon, a combination 7.5K classic plus 7.5K freestyle on Feb. 8. Bjornsen’s 31st-place finish in that event was eclipsed by her best ranking, ninth place in the women’s 4x5K relay seven days later. In between, Bjornsen added an 18th-place finish in the women’s 10K classic on Feb. 13.
Erik Bjornsen competed in a total of six events at Sochi. His best results came Feb. 19 when, as a part of Team USA, Bjornsen finished fifth in the team sprint classic semifinals with a time of 23 minutes, 29.14 seconds. Later that same day Team USA would place sixth in the classic final in 23:49.95.
Bjornsen also helped Team USA finish 11th in the men’s 4x10K relay on Feb. 16.
In individual events, Bjornsen placed 38th in his best event, the men’s 15K classic, 39th in the men’s sprint free qualifier, and 42nd in his first event of the games, the men’s 30K skiathlon.
Distance specialist Brian Gregg competed in one of the last events of the games, the men’s 50K mass start freestyle, where he crossed the finish line in 51st place with a time of 1:55:02.3.
Nine days earlier, Gregg placed 47th in the men’s 15K classic to match his 47th-place finish in the men’s 30K skiathlon on Feb. 9.