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Olympic Failures Compete for Best Excuses With Missed Medals

India's Himanshu Thakur
Indian skier Himanshu Thakur competes during the Men's Alpine Skiing Giant Slalom Run 1 at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center during the Sochi Winter Olympics on Feb. 19, 2014. Photographer: Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images

Athletes at the Winter Olympics in Sochi are outdoing each other in one area even after events have finished and the medals have been handed out: excuses.

Olympians are explaining why they weren’t as fast or as accurate or as good as their rivals by blaming the condition of courses, equipment choice, the type of wax they use or personal hygiene.

“It’s rough, sometimes our spikes hit each other in the legs,” Latvian bobsledder Helvijs Lusis said after training heats yesterday.“Once you’re in the sled you have to sit still.”

With 76 medals awarded from Sochi’s 98 events, athletes are running out of time for success as the Winter Games are entering their last four days.

“Maybe we made the wrong choice in terms of the conditions,” said French cross-country skier Celia Aymonier, who finished sixth in the sprint classic semifinals. “Because of the wetness of the snow a different waxing might have made a difference.”

Himanshu Thakur, an Indian who finished last in the men’s giant slalom yesterday, said he would have been much faster than his three minutes, 37.55 seconds if he was using gold-medal winner Ted Ligety’s equipment. The American’s time was 2:45.29.

“It’s very difficult to buy good equipment in India,” said Thakur, who trains near the Himalayan mountains. “It’s the first time I’ve competed in the Olympics. I was a little bit nervous.”

Having finely tuned equipment has been a source of complaints for the U.S. speedskating team, which voted to change out of a more technical skinsuit made by Under Armour Inc. to a previous model after being shut out of medals. The Americans, who won four speedskating medals in the 2010 Games, still haven’t mustered a podium finish.

New Suit

“If you have a bad performance at a World Cup because of a suit then it’s OK, you switch the suit,” Shani Davis, the two-time defending silver medalist, told reporters after finishing 11th in the 1500-meter speedskating race Feb. 15 while wearing the less-technical suit. “You can’t do that at the Olympics. There’s too much riding on it.”

Meanwhile, Canadian cross-country skier Daria Gaiazova blamed her equipment for her performance in the women’s team sprint classic. The country failed to advance.

“I took the wrong skis in the first lap; I had no grip,” Daria Gaiazova told reporters. “There was a moment of panic because I needed so much energy, staying with everyone and laboring my way up the hill with my arms. The time and energy I lost in the first lap made a huge difference. I made a mistake.”

Bad Weather

German Alpine skier Felix Neureuther said whiplash sustained in a car crash less than a week ago made his run in the giant slalom yesterday more of a training run for Saturday’s men’s slalom than an actual competition.

“I really tried to attack but you can tell that I have been lying down for the last five days,” Neureuther told reporters after finishing eighth in the giant slalom. “It was absolutely the right decision to start this way. It was a good practice run ahead of Saturday. I said before that there would be no excuses.”

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