Meissner: Carolina Kostner comes full circle

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Torino Olympian and 2006 world champion Kimmie Meissner is working as a researcher for NBC Olympics during the Sochi Games. Here, her take on what struck her most from the ladies’ competition.

Looking at the ladies event Thursday night, one of my favorite moments came from Carolina Kostner, a veteran competing in her third Olympics. She has always been one of the most exquisite skaters on the ice, using her long arms and legs to create stunning lines, as well as her picturesque jumps. But skating aside, Carolina earned my admiration off the ice by being genuine and thoughtful to all of her fellow competitors, regardless of the outcome, which can be a rarity in such an individualized sport.

RESULTS: Sotnikova, Kim and Kostner top ladies’ podium

I competed alongside Carolina at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, Italy and didn’t know she had skated an underwhelming program until after everything was all over. Watching the event on Italian television back in the village, the look of shock and disappointment on her face has stayed with me to this day.

Perhaps one reason why this moment struck me was because I had seen Carolina before competing myself. She was on her way out of the locker room and stopped to wish me luck, pulling me in for a hug. If I would have looked closer, maybe I could have seen her disappointment, but I was too excited about my own impending competition.

Her track record is spastic: full of moments that you would expect from a skater like herself and other placements that just make no sense. Sometimes the Carolina who won five European Championships shows up and at other times the Carolina who imploded and placed sixteenth in Vancouver does. You just never know.

The pressure of competition affects everyone differently and there is nothing like the pressure of skating in a Winter Olympic Games. You’ve finally reached the pinnacle of sport, most likely the culmination of a lifetime worth of sacrifice, and have trained specifically for just over six minutes to define your career.

RELATED: Kostner skating with new purpose in Sochi

In Torino for Carolina, add in the hometown audience on top of regular Olympic pressure. It’s stifling and terrifying, but also exhilarating and desirable. You want so badly to excel for your country and feel a burning desperation to achieve this. It’s quite the task to shoulder your expectations plus those of an entire country. These were the obstacles Carolina had to face eight years ago in Torino and unfortunately could not overcome.

She suffered a similar mental block in Vancouver and only landed one clean triple, breaking down after the free skate. As a skater, this is the moment of truth. Either commit for another four years or move on and – trust me! – the idea of not competing can be daunting instead of welcoming.

Ultimately, Carolina decided to stay and now finds herself with an Olympic bronze medal, finally able to embrace the pressure of the Olympics and greet it like an old friend. As for those of us who got to witness her earn Italy their first ladies figure skating medal, it is quiet confirmation of what we already knew.

2022 Ironman Kona World Championships results

Ironman Kona World Championships
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2022 Ironman Kona World Championship top-10 results and notables (full, searchable pro and age group results are here) …

Pro Women
1. Chelsea Sodaro (USA) — 8:33:46
2. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) — 8:41:37
3. Anne Haug (GER) — 8:42:22
4. Laura Philipp (GER) — 8:50:31
5. Lisa Norden (SWE) — 8:54:43
6. Fenella Langridge (GBR) — 8:56:26
7. Sarah Crowley (AUS) — 9:01:58
8. Daniela Ryf (SUI) — 9:02:26
9. Skye Moench (USA) — 9:04:31
10. Laura Siddall (GBR) — 9:07:49
16. Heather Jackson (USA) — 9:22:17
DNF. Sarah True (USA)

Pro Men
Race is on Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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Chelsea Sodaro wins Ironman Kona World Championship, ends American drought

Chelsea Sodaro
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Chelsea Sodaro was the surprise winner of the Ironman Kona World Championships women’s race, ending the longest American victory drought in the event’s 44-year history.

Sodaro, a 33-year-old mom to an 18-month-old, prevailed in an unofficial 8 hours, 33 minutes, 46 seconds on Hawaii’s Big Island.

“My mind is a little bit blown right now,” she said in a finish area interview 25 minutes later, standing next to her daughter, Skylar. “This is the culmination of things being right in my life and having perspective. … This is freakin’ incredible, but the greatest gift at the end of the finish line is my little 18-month-old.”

Sodaro was in fifth place after the 2.6-mile swim and 112-mile bike, then recorded one of the fastest 26.2-mile marathon runs in event history (2:51:45) to win by 7 minutes, 50 seconds over Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay.

Swiss Daniela Ryf, who was eyeing her sixth Ironman world title, led after the bike but faded quickly on the run.

MORE: Ironman Kona Race Results

Sodaro, whose lone previous full Ironman was a second-place finish at June’s European Championships (reportedly in the second-fastest Ironman distance debut in history), became the first American to win in Kona since Tim DeBoom in 2002 and the first American to win the women’s race since Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996.

She is the first woman or man to win in their Kona debut since Brit Chrissie Wellington took the first of her four titles in 2007.

Sodaro (née Reilly) was an All-America runner at Cal, then placed 19th in the 10,000m at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

She turned to triathlon in 2017, made podiums on the World Cup circuit (just below the top-level World Series for Olympic hopefuls) and moved up to long-distance racing in 2018.

At the half Ironman distance, she was fourth at the 2019 World Championships, her last major championship start before the pandemic, pregnancy, childbirth and a move up to the full Ironman this year.

“I’m pretty stoked that I think I maybe get to take the rest of the year off and be a mom for a month or so,” Sodaro said.

The pro men’s race is Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.

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