Sochi woke up today ready and raring to go, hosting the penultimate Red Bull 400 event of the 2018 season. Despite perfect weather conditions here in the so-called 'California of Russia', tensions were mounting as athletes felt the pressure to prove themselves in the last two events of the year.
It’s the second Russian stop of 2018 and the second Red Bull 400 race of the year for Danil Ponomarev, a runner from Perm, who finished as runner-up in Chaikovsky. It was incredible to watch as Ponomarev tore past all the competition, giving himself a massive head start and crossing the finish line in a phenomenal 3m 39s. “I improved my time in the final run by one second. Very happy with it! It was the hardest race of my life!“ said Ponomarev after the finish.
Vitaly Chernov from Irkutsk gave everything he had to the race. So much so, in fact, that having secured second place in 3m 45s, he needed a short recovery before jumping back up onto the podium to receive his medal. Alexander Antonov claimed third place in 3m 46s.
The RusSki Gorki Jumping Center usually sees athletes hurtling down and leaping off this mammoth 140m hill on skis for huge events such as 2014's Winter Games. Today however, during the 16th Red Bull 400 event of the season, athletes faced a near-vertical sprint up a gruelling 400m.
It’s always surprising when a debut participant smashes through the competition to claim top spot on the podium. Having never participated in a Red Bull 400 event before, Loubov Novgorodtseva from Nizhny Tagil defied all the odds and sprinted over the finish line in 4m 41s to taking first place in the women’s race and pushing Ekaterina Ryazanova into second place with her time of 4m 59s. “I didn’t know what to expect from this race, because I took part in this competition for the first time,“ said Novgorodtseva after the award ceremony. “I'm very glad that I managed to win. This is a very cool competition, a real overcoming of myself.”
It’s the 52nd event since Red Bull 400 was launched back in 2011 and the event has gone from strength to strength: athletes are faster and more determined now than ever. For third-placed Oksana Stefanishina, one race just wasn’t enough today. Having already claimed a spot on the podium with her time of 5m 4s, Stefanishina was, within a couple of hours, racing again as part of a mixed relay team.
Incredibly, her team took second place, securing Stefanishina her second spot on the podium today. These moments of pure satisfaction are testament to the incredible amount of training and discipline the athletes demand of themselves; the total agony followed by a reward that's totally unique to the Red Bull 400 event.
Before the ski jumps are again finally able to be used for what they were originally intended, Einsiedeln will host the 2018 season finale on October 20. One of five new venues introduced this year, the event in Switzerland is already sold out. It promises to be a spectacular closing competition with the question of who'll claim victory as difficult to predict as ever.
Red Bull 400 Sochi Men's results
Danil Ponomarev (RUS)
Vitaly Chernov (RUS)
Alexander Antonov (RUS)
Red Bull 400 Sochi Women's results
Loubov Novgorodtseva (RUS)
Ekaterina Ryazanova (RUS)
Oksana Stefanishina (RUS)