HUDDERSFIELD cross-country skier Fiona Hughes battled to 68th on her Winter Olympic debut in the ladies’ 10km freestyle but couldn’t hide her frustration that it wasn’t higher.
The 19-year-old from Lindley was the 68th athlete out of the starting gate at the Whistler Olympic Park and looked set for a near perfect run coming into the last corner.
However, Hughes got caught behind Bulgarian Teodora Malcheva and tripped and fell over her ski before battling valiantly to come home in the same position she started.
Hughes – Britain’s only female cross-country skier in Canada – clocked a time of 30min 29.80sec but was left kicking her heels it wasn’t quicker.
“I felt I skied pretty well, I felt really strong out on the course especially on the flatter sections and I worked hard on the uphill parts,” said Hughes. “I was just a bit annoyed because I got caught behind a girl coming on the last corner down into the stadium. I was going a lot faster than she was at that point and she slowed down a lot, more than I thought she was going to do going into it, and I managed to trip on the back of her ski.
“I fell over and that cost me maybe five or 10 seconds but I got up quickly and finished strongly – but it is a little bit annoying after feeling so good out on the course.
“It has been good fun though, I have been quite excited about racing and a little bit nervous but if I wasn’t nervous there would be something wrong with me.”
Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla took gold over five and half minutes head of Hughes, while Kristina Smigun-Vaehi of Estonia and Norwegian Marit Bjoergen claimed silver and bronze respectively.
And Hughes – who made her World Cup debut only over a week ago – has vowed to make the most of being a first-time Olympian.
“I only qualified to do one event so that is me done now,” she added. “It was either the 10km freestyle or the sprint in a couple of day’s time and I am a stronger distance skier so I chose the freestyle.
“So that is my racing done now which is a shame because I have been enjoying it. But now I have the chance to enjoy the Olympic experience.
“I am here until the end of the Games and I will be able to support the other cross-country skiers in the team.”
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