Winter Olympics 2014 Results: Biggest Surprises from Day 1
After months of speculation and criticism about the host site, the world on Saturday finally turned its full attention to the actual athletic portion of 2014 Winter Olympics.
Though some events had already gotten a running start, competition in Sochi began in earnest in the wake of Friday night's opening ceremony, with medal rounds in men's slopestyle, 10 km sprint biathlon, women's moguls and speed skating, among others.
Some dreams were realized, while others were dashed.
As always, there were a few shockers along the way.
Here's a look at the biggest surprises during the first full day of events.
Sage Kotsenburg Wins Gold for Team USA
Leading up to Sochi, much of the intrigue surrounding the inaugural men’s slopestyle event focused on the gold medal hopes of American Shaun White and Canada’s Mark McMorris.
Nobody bargained for Sage Kotsenburg.
The laidback 20-year-old from Park City, Utah busted out a brand new trick—a backside 1620 with a Japan grab—and scored a 93.50 on his first run of the finals to nab first place for the United States.
"I dropped in, no stress, just having fun and doing stuff I normally do. And it ended up working out," Kotsenburg told NBC Sports after the win.
Not too shabby for a last-minute addition to Team USA who failed to qualify for the final during Thursday's opening round. Instead, Kotsenburg finished second in the semifinal round earlier on Saturday, before crafting his best run a few hours later in the final.
Team Canada Underwhelms in Men's Slopestyle
Our neighbors from the north were expected to dominate men’s slopestyle, with a trio of medal hopefuls in Mark McMorris, Max Parrot and Sebastien Toutant. Perhaps they even got a bit big for their snow britches this week, publicly questioning Shaun White’s decision to bypass the event.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go Team Canada’s way during Saturday’s final round.
Despite competing with a broken rib, McMorris was the only Canadian to make the medal stand. He grabbed the bronze, behind American Sage Kotsenburg and Norway's Staale Sandbech.
Parrot was in contention for gold after being the top performer during Thursday’s qualifying round, but he failed to land the second of two triple corks he tried during his first run in the final.
Parrot finished in fifth, while Toutant was ninth.
Americans Surge into Team Figure Skating Final
After a mediocre first day in the inaugural team figure skating competition, the United States needed a strong performance on Saturday to get back into medal contention.
Team USA managed to rebound on the strength of solid performances across the board, led by world champion ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
Davis and White moved America off the bubble and within striking distance when they took first. Team USA also got steady performances from Ashley Wagner in the women's short program and Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir in the pairs free skate.
The Americans sit in third with 34 points headed into Sunday's final day of competition, though the Russian team may have an insurmountable lead at 47.
Canada is second with 41.
Russia's Yulia Lipnitskaya Shines in Short Program
Figure skating aficionados may not have been shocked by Yulia Lipnitskaya's excellent performance during Saturday's women's figure skating short program.
As for the rest of the world? Yeah, go ahead and color us impressed.
And a little bit surprised.
The 15-year-old Lipnitskaya didn't shrink from the moment in her first Olympics. In crafting a clear victory in the short program, she bested two-time world champion Mao Asada of Japan and five-time European champion Carolina Kostner of Italy, while boosting Russia into the lead in the team competition.
Lipnitskaya is already a decorated figure skater and a mainstay of international competition, but casual viewers were likely awestruck to see her slugging it out with the best in the world at an age when the rest of us were just learning to drive the family car.
Sister Act Takes Gold, Silver in Women's Moguls
In her final Olympic games, American Hannah Kearney hoped to defend the gold medal she won in women's moguls at Vancouver in 2010.
Instead, she conceded both gold and silver to a pair of Canadian sisters.
Kearney faltered in her final run on Saturday, finishing third behind gold medalist Justine Dufour-Lapointe and sister Chloe Dufour-Lapointe.
Kearney finished with a score of 21.49, while Justine Dufour-Lapointe tallied 22.44 and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe totaled 21.66.
The 27-year-old American had been the favorite to repeat, after ending the qualifying round in first place. Though she has not yet formally announced her retirement, she is not expected to be back in 2016.
A third Dufour-Lapointe sister, Maxime, also skied for Team Canada in the women's mogul event, but did not medal.
Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen Has Still Got It
It’s not exactly a newsflash that Ole Einar Bjoerndalen is pretty good at biathlon. The Norwegian skiing legend won at least two medals at each of the last three Winter Olympics, after all.
At age 40, however, expectations were tempered a bit heading into Sochi.
Bjoerndalen hadn’t won gold in the 10 km sprint since 2002 and finished No. 17 in Vancouver in 2010. Bleacher Report’s official medal predictions had him slated for the silver, while both the Associated Press and Sports Illustrated expected a bronze.
Once again, Bjoerndalen was the man to beat. He overcame a penalty during the shooting portion of the competition on Saturday to win yet another gold, with a time of 24:33.5.
The victory made him the oldest athlete ever to win an individual medal at the Winter Olympics and upped his overall total to 12, tying countryman Bjorn Daehlie for the most winter medals all time.
USA’s Sarah Hendrickson Not Looking Good in Training
Approaching the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sarah Hendrickson was regarded as the United States’ best chance to win a medal in the Games’ first-ever women’s ski jumping competition. In fact, some saw her as a lock for the silver, behind Japan’s Sara Takanashi.
Those predictions came with an important caveat, however: Her health.
Hendrickson badly injured her right knee in training last summer and has only been back on the women’s normal ski jumping hill since last month. As a result, her medal hopes may well be tied to her recovery.
Early indications are not positive. Hendrickson finished last and next-to-last on her first two training jumps in Sochi on Saturday. A report by NBC Sports described her effort as “cautious” and “unrewarding.”
Team USA is obviously hoping Hendrickson is saving her best for the competition.
Can Austria's Daniela Iraschko-Stolz Push Sara Takanashi?
Seventeen-year-old Sara Takanashi of Japan has so thoroughly dominated women’s ski jumping during this year’s world cup season—winning eight of the nine events she entered—that she’s considered one of the most obvious gold medal favorites in Sochi.
After Saturday’s training jumps, however, the gap between her and the field may have narrowed a bit.
Takanashi out-distanced the competition during the first round of jumps, but Austria’s Daniela Iraschko-Stolz bested her in the next two. The surprising performances left Takanashi in an unfamiliar position—second place.
Can Iraschko-Stolz keep up the torrid pace?
Bobsledder Johnny Quinn Breaks Out…Literally
Much has been made of the accommodations greeting athletes and media in Sochi.
On Saturday, one of the 2014 Winter Olympics' most surprising performances occurred not on the slopes, but in one of the Russian resort town's much-talked about bathrooms.
When Team USA bobsledder Johnny Quinn found himself stuck in a restroom due to a faulty lock on the door, he hulked-up and smashed his way to freedom.
Then, he posted the results on his Twitter account.