OLYMPICS: Fabjan Takes Bronze in Cross Country Sprint
Sochi, 11 February - Slovenian cross-country skier Vesna Fabjan ran to the bronze medal in the women's cross-country sprint event on Tuesday, taking Slovenia's second medal at the Sochi Games and 13th at winter games to date.
Fabjan was in the medal hunt throughout the final, trailing only Norwegian star Maiken Caspersen Falla into the final straight but was pipped at the line by Falla's compatriot Ingvild Flugstad Oesteberg in a wild finish.
Falla won in a time 2:35.49, 0.38 seconds ahead of Oesteberg, with Fabjan only 0.02 seconds behind second place.
The 28-year-old Fabjan was the better of the two Slovenians to make it past the quarter-finals stage of the competition at the Laura Cross Country and Biathlon Centre, even though Katja Višnar had finished qualifying in second, ahead of Fabjan in fourth.
Whereas Višnar stumbled in the semi-finals despite being in good position for a top two finish all until the final stretch, Fabjan remained composed throughout and convincingly booked a place in the finals by finishing second.
Following the strategy that had proved successful in the previous elimination stages, Fabjan was at the head of the pack in the initial stages of the final, sharing the leading with Falla all until the final descent.
Falla pulled ahead in the final 250 metres, while Fabjan appeared a lock for silver before a final challenge by Oesteberg in the dying stages saw the two dive across the line for a photo finish that went the Norwegian's way.
"All the hard work in training has paid off," said Fabjan after the race, "an Olympic medal is a dream for every athlete and my dream has come true".
With the bronze Fabjan defended the achievement of retired Slovenian compatriot Petra Majdič, who is the head of the Slovenian team in Sochi, from four years ago in Vancouver.
The medal was greeted with excitement in Slovenia, as social networks were flooded with celebrations for Fabjan. Among those rushing to send their best wishes were the country's highest officials.
President Pahor, an avid sports fan, tweeted: "Congratulations to Vesna Fabjan for preparing the surprise of the day. Bronze is ours!"
He was joined by the government and Parliamentary Speaker Janko Veber in sending congratulations over the popular social network.
Meanwhile, Education and Sport Minister Jernej Pikalo contacted Fabjan via e-mail, labelling her achievement a confirmation of Fabjan's hard work. "Your achievement is being celebrated by the whole of Slovenia...The second medal for Slovenia at the games will be additional motivation for other Slovenian athletes in Sochi," he said.