KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Dario Cologna has given notice that he's again the man to beat in the cross-country events at the Sochi Olympics. His traditional rival Petter Northug, meanwhile, has only showed he's still far from his best.
The two biggest stars of the sport delivered vastly different performances in the first event of the games on Sunday, with Cologna using an impressive burst of energy toward the end to win the 30-kilometer skiathlon race ahead of defending champion Marcus Hellner of Sweden. Northug couldn't keep up, getting left behind on the final uphill section and then skiing lethargically toward the finish at little more than a walking pace.
The contrast between the two shifted expectations for the remaining events in Sochi.
Cologna of Switzerland and Northug of Norway have dominated men's cross-country skiing over the last five years but both have had this season disrupted by health issues. Cologna had ankle surgery in November, and Northug struggled with a persistent illness, meaning both were unsure of what they could accomplish here.
Only Cologna seems to have recovered. And now the Swiss skier suddenly finds himself as one of the main favorites again for the remaining individual events, starting with the freestyle sprint on Tuesday. Monday is an off-day for both the men and women.