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February 18, 2014 - Chris Knight
Just over two weeks after we first arrived here in Krasnaya Polyana, and I'm finally seeing some precipitation, including the first snowfall.
The first week and a half of our stay here was marked by day after day of clear, sunny skies and warm, above freezing, temperatures. I wasn't necessarily complaining, as it allowed for amazing views, and photography, of the mountain landscape that surrounds us.
After a while, though, I started to wonder if it was ever going to rain or snow. We've had cloudy and foggy conditions over the last two days, but still no precipitation.
Then came this morning. At our hotel in Gorki village, and down in Gorki city, it was raining, pretty steadily at times. Wearing my rain parka, I hopped on the bus, then took the gondola up to the Laura Cross Country Ski and Biathlon Center, the site of today's men's biathlon 15-kilometer mass start.
As the gondola climbed the mountain slopes, the rain changed over to snow. I was so happy to see it. After all, this is the Winter Olympics, right? It actually looked like it had been snowing pretty good up high, with an inch or two covering the trees and cars.
It looks like today's race is finally a go. The mass start was supposed to be held Sunday night and has been postponed four times. It's still quite foggy up here, but I just talked to the venue press manager and it looks like it's still on.
The mass start features the top 30 athletes, based on their results in other Olympic events and on the World Cup tour, all starting simultaneously. Competitors ski five 3-kilometer loops, interspersed with four bouts of shooting (prone – prone – standing – standing). For each missed target, the athlete must ski a 150-meter penalty loop immediately after shooting. The first competitor to cross the finish line is the winner.
Of course, I'll be keeping my eye on Lowell Bailey and Tim Burke. They're wearing bibs 29 and 30, respectively. I've also got one eye on what's happening at the RusSki Gorki Ski Jumping Center, where Bill Demong is competing in the event in which he won a gold medal at the Vancouver games. Lou is there to follow him today. Hope the rain is not affecting the competition.
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