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Greatest respect reserved for cross-country skiers

Posted by Bob Ryan, Globe Staff  February 27, 2010 02:54 PM

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- There are all kinds of amazing and wonderful athletes here, and I am especially dazzled by all those men and women who launch themselves skyward, proceed to do all manner of flipping, spinning and twisting, and then land adroitly on a pair of skis or a snowboard.

But when it comes to sheer fitness, and I am a thousand percent sure all the other athletes would agree, the people who take the prize are the cross-country skiers. Therefore, the two athletes who deserve our greatest respect of all at these Winter Games are Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk, who won today's Ladies' 30 K race in a desperate finish-line lunge to defeat Norway's Marit Bjoergen, and the man who wins the grandaddy of them all, Sunday's 50K extravaganza.

There is a reason why the Marathon is the tradition final event of the Summer Games. And there is a similar reason why the 50K is the final individual event at the Winter Games. But there is also a difference. As my colleague Scott Thurston says, "The 50K makes the Marathon look like the Jingle Bell Run."

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