KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Amid dark murmurings and conspiracy theories, Knut Nystad's Sochi Olympics have taken a distinct turn for the worse.
Rather than basking in the glory of multiple gold medals, the head wax technician for Norway's mighty cross-country skiing team has been defending himself after a weekend the ski-crazed country would rather forget.
The equation is simple: Zero medals from two Olympic cross-country relays means 5 million Norwegians want answers.
Why is it that the country with the most Olympic cross-country medals, the most wax technicians, and the biggest budget can't figure out how to prepare a pair of skis? How could the sport's biggest stars suddenly look so inept? And how can they turn things around before the next event on Wednesday?
Nystad is the man who is supposed to provide those answers, but he's struggling — just like the country's skiers struggled on sub-standard skis over the weekend.
"It's a big mystery as to why we're not succeeding," Nystad told a news conference full of hostile Norwegian journalists after the relay failures. "We should be good enough to cope with these conditions. I get perplexed when I can't figure it out."
He hinted that other countries may be getting a head start on Norway's famous skiers.
The team's skiers have all blamed their poor performances in the relays on the wax technicians, saying they couldn't find the right setup for the warm conditions in Sochi. One of the most commonly used words in Norwegian newspapers over the past few days has been "smoerebom," which loosely translates to "waxing failure." Making matters worse is that Scandinavian neighbor Sweden won both relays and they haven't had any problems at all finding the right skis for this type of snow.
Ski waxing is a complex science that involves grinding the skis to create suitable grooves and then selecting the right kind of wax setup to get the perfect glide and grip for the snow conditions. Different setups are used based on the temperature and texture of the snow, and a professional wax technician has about 500 different products to choose from.
That means the wax teams always play a major role in cross-country skiing, and if they get things wrong it can ruin the chances of even the biggest favorites before they get to the start line.
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