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Sochi Report, Alaska edition: Studebaker finishes strong, Wagner speaks out, Paralympians get ready for their turn in Sochi

Beth Bragg

FINISHING STRONG

Sara Studebaker and her American teammates went out with a bang Friday in the final women's biathlon race at the Winter Olympics.

They placed seventh in the relay race, a result that is the best Olympic finish in history for a U.S. women's team.

Studebaker, an Idaho athlete who trains in Anchorage, was part of a team that included Susan Dunklee and Hannah Dreissigacker, both of Vermont, and Annelies Cook of New York.

They finished 2 minutes, 11.7 seconds behind the gold-medal winners from Ukraine, who won in 1:10:02.5.

Studebaker, skiing the third leg, shot cleanly. "Today was a really great day to make it happen," she said. "Seventh is our best finish ever, so to do that at the Olympics, that's pretty good. To finish up this Olympic experience together with a solid result is fantastic."

WAGNER ON JUDGING

Team Asterisk's outspoken Ashley Wagner says the right skaters took home medals in Thursday's women's figure skating competition but the judging system needs an overhaul.

Wagner, who learned to skate and began competing while growing up in Eagle River, made her remarks on NBC's Today Show, a day after a controversial decision awarded gold to Russia's Adelina Sotnikova and silver to defending champion Yuna Kim of Korea. (Bronze went to Italy's Carolina Kostner, who in Sochi Report's opinion performed exquisitely.)

"I think that the ladies in the top three, absolutely hands down, belong in the top three. I don't even question that," Wagner said.

What she does have a problem with is a judging system that she said is "too opaque."

"It's not clear enough to the audience and it needs to be more fan friendly so that we can get a wider fan base," Wagner said. "I think we need to get rid of the anonymous judging."

Nearly 1.7 million people and counting signed an online petition demanding an investigation into the judging -- the most traffic for any petition in the history of change.org, the website said. Olympic officials said no investigation is planned because no official complaint has been filed.

WHO'S ON DECK?

All times Alaska

Saturday

Cross-country skiing -- Women's 30-kilometer mass start freestyle, 12:30 a.m. (Kikkan Randall, Holly Brooks)

Cross-country skiing -- Men's 50-kilometer mass start freestyle, 10 p.m. (TBD)

IT'S OFFICIAL

Old news that bears repeating: Two alpine skiers from Alaska will compete in the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi two weeks after the Winter Olympics end.

The U.S. Olympic Committee official announced the U.S. Paralympic team on Friday, an 80-member team that includes Andrew Kurka of Palmer and Joe Tompkins of Juneau.

Kurka, a Paralympic rookie, and Tompkins, a four-time Paralympian, are among 17 men on the alpine squad.

The Paralympics run March 7-16 in Russia.

Russia 101

Figure skating has been part of every Winter Olympics, and it's even been part of two Summer Olympics -- 1908 in London and 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium.

Written and compiled by Daily News sports editor Beth Bragg, with contributions from wire services and Nat Herz, who is in Sochi for fasterskier.com and the Daily News.

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By BETH BRAGG
bbragg@adn.com