COMMENTARY | It was all over in just 2 ½ minutes. The 1-km sprint, a race in which U.S. cross country ski team veteran Kikkan Randall was a prohibitive favorite, having just won a world championship in it in 2013.
And now, flash back to her years spent as a youth first in Salt Lake City, then in Anchorage, Alaska -- all spent chasing this dream of winning an Olympic gold medal.
At 31 years of age Randall's been through the wars, through all of these Olympics -- through Torino where she finished ninth in her sprint race, and Vancouver, a sixth place, all unprecedented by an American cross-country skier.
And through the heartache, the agony of those defeats and helplessness that accompanies each and every race lost, Randall pressed on, dreaming of gold in Sochi.
Except this time around in the Caucasus Mountains of Russia, she lost by just seven-hundredths of a second in the quarterfinal of the women's 1 km sprint -- a race many believed she was a heavy favorite to win.
"I knew it was going to be a really tough quarterfinal heat with (Denise) Herrmann, (Marit) Bjoergen and (Mona-Lisa) Malvalehto. Those are all women you could easily see in the final. I got into a good position over the top, made a couple good moves and was feeling really good, but that final gear just wasn't there. Unfortunately, I feel apart right before the finish and didn't get a good lunge in," said Randall, who lurched her body and poles out past the finish line in vain, apparently.
Ahead of Randall by just five-hundredths of a second was Malvalehto of Italy, who literally just inched her way into the semifinals, spelling the end to another Olympic sprint race for Randall.
"It's tough," Randall said after the race to reporters. "That's sport, right? You try your whole life for something like this and it's over in 2½ minutes."
Except it's not quite over for Randall at these Olympics.
The sturdy blonde with pink streaks painted into her shoulder-length bob has still the 4x5,000-meter relay on Saturday, February 15 and will wrap up her most action-packed -- and hopefully productive Sochi Games -- with the team sprint on Wednesday, February 19.
Brian Shaw is a longtime reporter, editor and commentator who worked at The Salt Lake Tribune, The Enterprise, Salt Lake City Weekly and The Valley Journals. He is currently the Utah Sports Examiner at Examiner.com.
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