Katharina Althaus shed tears after silver, Claudia Pechstein celebrated her last place like a victory: Team Germany started the Winter Games in Beijing on Saturday with their first medal and an Olympic record.
Ski jumper Althaus even managed to win gold, while Pechstein, who has now taken part in the Olympic Games eight times, first wants to tour the arenas of the games as a fan. The first German gold on Sunday could be provided by the luge oldie Johannes Ludwig, who was leading at halftime.
Silver for ski jumper Althaus
“I was kind of annoyed and happy at the same time, and that was a bit much,” explained Althaus. “I don’t think I can blame myself for anything today.” After jumps of 105.5 and 94 meters, Althaus was only 2.2 points short of the big coup, which the Slovenian Ursa Bogataj managed instead. Bronze was won by their compatriot Nika Kriznar, while the other German starters had nothing to do with the awarding of medals.
Pechstein with an eighth start at the Winter Games
Claudia Pechstein didn’t even begin to do that over 3000 meters. But she didn’t care at all. “That was a victory for me. With the start on the 3000 meters, I officially set this record,” said the five-time Olympic champion. She has set the record of the Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai. “You can only walk across the line with a cheer.”
It didn’t even bother the exceptional runner, who is known for being enormously ambitious, that she only finished last and also lost her Olympic record. In 4:17.16 minutes, Pechstein took 20th place among 20 starters. The Olympic champion was the Dutch European champion Irene Schouten in 3:56.93 minutes, breaking the Olympic record of the Berlin woman, who won gold 20 years ago at the Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 3:57.70 minutes.
Francesca Lollobrigida from Italy finished second in the National Speed Skating Oval in Beijing in 3:58.06 minutes ahead of Isabelle Weidemann from Canada (3:58.64).
Frustration among biathletes and combined athletes
On the other hand, the biathletes and combined athletes Eric Frenzel were clearly frustrated. The ski hunters, spoiled by success in the past, blundered in the team mixed event as fifth place when Norway won. “I have to let the race sink in first,” said start runner Vanessa Voigt. “This is certainly not how I imagined my debut. I just know now that nervousness plays a big role for me here.” The Thuringian had to run two penalties, which Denise Herrmann, Benedikt Doll and Philipp Nawrath could not make up for.
Frenzel, on the other hand, will not even come to his first assignment. The Olympic champion is in corona quarantine after his positive test – and is badly hit. “I’ve never seen him mentally in such a situation,” said team doctor Stefan Pecher, who claims to have been looking after Frenzel for 17 years. “Not in defeats, not in unlucky situations at World Cups or World Championships or Olympic Games. Mentally he was really exhausted.”
Tobogganer Ludwig on course for gold
On the other hand, luger Johannes Ludwig may be close to the end of his career, but definitely close to the gold medal. The 35-year-old Thuringian is 0.039 seconds ahead of Austria’s former world champion Wolfgang Kindl after two of four runs. The three-time Olympic champion Felix Loch still has a good chance of bronze after a mistake in the first round in fourth place, Max Langenhan is seventh.
“Everything is always possible. A new race starts for me tomorrow. The distance to Wolfgang is actually not a distance. I have to keep attacking, I can’t rest on anything,” said Ludwig and revealed his gold plan: “In the end, play the distances don’t matter much. I just have to do my job. That sounds trite, but that’s how it is as a competitive athlete.”
First gold of the Beijing Games to Johaug
Norway’s Therese Johaug already has her gold – and it was the very first of the Beijing Games. The 33-year-old won the skiathlon in Zhangjiakou on Saturday ahead of Natalia Neprjajewa from Russia and Teresa Stadlober from Austria. As expected, the German cross-country skiers could not intervene in the fight for the medals. Katherine Sauerbrey from Hallenberg, as the best athlete from team manager Peter Schlickenrieder’s team, took 13th place in the extreme cold.