Sunday, February 9, 2014

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014: Day 3

Day 3 was slightly controversial, but I do enjoy how the medals went to all different countries. What is becoming clear is that certain countries dominate in certain sports. For example, the Dutch are cleaning up in the longer distance speedskating events. Americans clearly enjoy snowboarding and clearly they are good at it. The Russians continue to impress in figure skating as they have for many years now. In a sport that they almost solely dominated, they have risen to dominance again. What is absolutely no surprise to me is how the Olympic Games continue to bring the world together.

Here are the highlights from Day 3....

Let's get the Ladies' Hockey results out of the way first, Sweden beat Japan, 1-0 and Russia beat Germany soundly, 4-1.

In Ski Jumping, men's normal hill individual winner from Vancouver Simon Ammann from Switzerland did not repeat, not even close. In fact, he finished way back in 17th place, a disappointing event for Ammann. This story should be about the gold medalist though, and the truth is that Kamil Stoch of team Poland woke up on Sunday morning with a temperature and a bad headache and ended the day an Olympic champion. When looking at the past year's results, it's not surprising that Stoch won gold as he took first in four World Cup Events this season.

The Results:

Ski Jumping:  Men's Normal Hill Individual

1. Kamil Stoch Poland, 278.0
2. Peter Prevc Slovenia, 265.3
3. Anders Bardal Norway, 264.1

She completed the American sweep for the snowboarding's new event, slopestyle, at 23 Jamie Anderson is at the top of her game, and only stands to improve from here with many viable years left in the sport. Anderson's first run of two wasn't great, but that's the thing about Jamie Anderson, when she knows what she needs to do to win, she goes out there and makes it happen. Of note, 33 year old Jenny Jones from Great Britain finished in third, the former maid at a ski resort is a veteran in this young sport. There was also a scare when newcomer from the Czech Republic Sarka Pacochova wiped out on her 2nd run and hit her head so hard that her helmet cracked in half.

The Results:

Snowboarding: Ladies' Slopestyle

1. Jamie Anderson USA,  1st run: 80.75 (2), 2nd run: 95.25 (1), best: 95.25
2. Enni Rukajarvi Finland, 1st run: 73.75 (4), 2nd run: 92.50 (2), best: 92.50
3. Jenny Jones Great Britain, 1st run: 73.00 (5), 2nd run: 87.25 (3), best: 87.25

photo: NBC Olympics website                                                    

The disappointment was all over Bode Miller's face after he took what was supposed to be a winning run. After the event he spoke to one of the reporters and said, "it just didn't go my way today". Miller will need to deal with that defeat though as he is scheduled to compete in at least two other events in these games. Who wasn't disappointed? Matthias Mayer from Austria at the age of 23 who has never won a major competition and his father, Helmut, won a silver in Super G at the 1988 Calgary Games. Christof Innerhofer from Italy who has been dealing with back problems took silver, the first medal for Italy in this event since 1976. And finally, Jansrud of Norway who had some serious knee issues at last year's World Championships. 

The Results:

Alpine Skiing: Men's Downhill

1. Matthias Mayer Austria, 2:06.23
2. Christof Innerhofer Italy, 2:06.29
3. Kjetil Jansrud Norway, 2:06.33

5. Travis Ganong USA, 2:06.64
8. Bode Miller USA, 2:06.75  

photo: Christophe Ena/Associated Press

In the first time Figure Skating Team Event, it was only fitting that host country Russia, a country consistently dominant in in the sport won the gold. Canada surprised by picking up the silver, and the USA provided perhaps the biggest surprise of all winning a bronze. Many thought Japan was the favorite for the bronze medal leaving the US shut out of a medal in the team event. However, it was the extraordinary two dance programs from Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the odds on favorites to win the gold in Ice Dance. It was Ashley Wagner's solid, yet sexy short and Gracie Gold's impressive Olympic Debut that gave the team a well deserved, hard fought for bronze. 

Make no mistake of it though, Russia earned their gold fair and square. Evgeny Plushenko at 31 truly possessed the heart and strength of a champion. To come back after countless injuries and after three years off the world stage proves his talent is the real thing. He won the men's short as well as the long program. I've learned though to never count Plushenko out over the years, I've also learned to expect nothing less of him than the best.  So perhaps what was even more impressive was the debut of 15 year old Yulia Lipnitskaya wearing a red coat in the long program as she skated to the theme song from Schindler's List, and not only was it technically strong but it was emotionally moving. The Russian ice dance pair, although no Davis and White, achieved a personal best in the free dance. As for the Russian pair of Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov, they are like the many Russian pairs of the past, passionate and dominant. I definitely see them as the favorites for gold in the individual event. This total team effort is something I am going to call, "Russian gold". 

The Results: 

Figure Skating: Team Event

1. Russia: Ekaterina Bobrova, Elena Ilinykh, Nikita Katsalapov, Fedor Klimov, Yulia Lipnitskaya, Evgeny Plyushchenko, Dmitri Soloviev, Ksenia Stolbova, Maxim Trankov, Tatiana Volosozhar 
2. Canada: Patrick Chan, Meagan Duhamel, Scott Moir, Kirsten Moore Towers, Dylan Moscovitch, Kaetlyn Osmond, Eric Radford, Kevin Reynolds, Tessa Virtue
3. USA: Jeremy Abbott, Jason Brown, Marissa Castelli, Meryl Davis, Gracie Gold, Simon Shnapir, Ashley Wagner, Charlie White 

Russia's first Gold! 

photo: NBC Olympics website

What surprised me most on day 3? The 40 somethings at this Olympics continue to dominate! Are they giving hope to athletes everywhere who think their careers are over? Germany speedskater Claudia Pechstein at age 41 just missed the medal podium finishing in 4th place in the Ladies' 3,000 m. Something else happened though, in luge, men's single, two men, Demchenko and Zoeggeler, made it onto the podium at the ages of 42 and 40 respectively and won silver and bronze medals. If anything it gives hope to the 24 year old gold medalist, Felix Loch, that perhaps he could be around for another four Olympics potentially. 

The Results:

Speedskating: Ladies' 3,000 m

1. Irene Wust Netherlands, 4:00.34
2. Martina Sablikova Czech Republic, 4:01.95
3. Olga Graf Russian Federation, 4:03.47

4. Claudia Pechstein Germany, 4:05.26

Luge: Men's Single

1. Felix Loch Germany, 51.764
2. Albert Demchenko Russian Federation, 51.852
3. Amin Zoeggeler Italy, 51.994

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