Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Day 2 Winners and Losers
What a day. The Sochi Games are in full swing now, and Day 2 provided an endless number of twists, turns, falls and triumphs.
From Russia's first medal at these Games to downhill disappointments to the culmination of the inaugural team event in figure skating, the action was nonstop.
Here are the winners and losers from an exciting day of competition.
Winner: Jamie Anderson (USA)—Snowboarding Slopestyle
Team USA did get another gold medal on Sunday thanks to 23-year-old Jamie Anderson, who won the debut of women's snowboarding slopestyle in the Olympics.
Anderson was the favorite headed into the event, but seemed out of medal contention before her final run. However, she turned it on when it mattered the most and hit two 720s on jumps in her final run to clinch her spot at the top of the podium.
The snowboarder, who loves meditation and is known to hug trees before competitions, is now the official poster girl for snowboarding slopestyle.
Loser: Sarka Pancochova's Helmet
These Olympic athletes compete in dangerous events and definitely rely on their equipment to help them as much as possible. It's not very comforting when said equipment malfunctions.
Sarka Pancochova of the Czech Republic was in contention for a medal in the women's snowboarding slopestyle final before taking a terrible fall on her final run. Medical personnel rushed to her side, but she was luckily able to get up and finish the run.
However, when she reached the bottom of the hill, it emerged that the back of her helmet had been cracked in the fall. Luckily, Pancochova seemed to come out unscathed, though she did finish off the podium in fifth place.
Winner: Gracie Gold (USA)—Figure Skating
Gracie Gold made her much-anticipated Olympic debut today, skating in the free program for Team USA in the figure skating team competition. She was flawless.
Clearly carrying over the momentum from her win at the national championships last month, 18-year-old Gold hit all of her jumps with ease and skated with power and artistry beyond her years. She ended up getting a personal-best score from the judges and established herself as a possible dark horse in the individual competition.
She was a bit overshadowed by the continued brilliance of Russia's 15-year-old sensation Yulia Lipnitskaya, but Gold was impressive in her own right.
Loser: Figure Skating Team Event
Don't get me wrong—there were a lot of highlights in the inaugural Olympic year for the team event. It produced some beautiful skating, and it was a lot of fun to see the skaters cheering on their teammates in the boxes. I'm totally supportive of keeping the event as a part of the Games.
However, the medals for the team competition were already decided before the ice dancers even began their free dance, and performance after performance it felt like the top competitors were holding back just a bit.
Having the final round be an exhibition took all of the drama straight out of it. The event could be greatly helped by tweaks to the scoring system and perhaps even a change in the schedule—many think the team competition belongs after the individual competition.
The hometown team had plenty of chances to shine on Sunday. The figure skaters won the first gold medal for Russia in the team competition, and President Vladimir Putin was in the house to cheer them on.
In addition to the figure skating team, their women's hockey team beat Germany 4-1 in their debut, and they won two silvers and a bronze from luge, biathlon and speedskating.
After being shut out on the first day of the Games, it was good for Russia to finally get on the board. There are certainly many more medals to come.
Loser: Bode Miller (USA)—Alpine Skiing, Downhill
The stage seemed set for Bode Miller to win a sixth Olympic medal here in his fifth Olympics, but alas, it was not to be.
The 36-year-old American had been the best downhill skier in both days of training runs and looked like the man to beat. But in a sport as speedy and fickle as downhill skiing, anything can happen. Miller lost his speed coming around a tricky turn in the middle of the course and just faded the rest of the way.
Miller ended up eighth and now just has to look forward to his upcoming races at these Games. "I'm disappointed I didn't get a medal," he told reporters afterwards, "but I brought huge intensity and skied aggressive and I was pushing the lines."
Winner: Underdogs in Men's Downhill
With Bode Miller finishing eighth and pre-event favorite Aksel Lund Svindal finishing fourth, fresh faces filled the podium in men's Alpine downhill.
The winner was Matthias Mayer, a young Austrian who had never won a World Cup race and was thought to be an Olympics away from winning a medal. In fact, he'd never even finished higher than fifth in downhill in his international career before winning gold on Sunday.
His podium mates were Christof Innerhofer of Italy, who was 0.06 seconds away from winning the gold, and bronze medalist Kjetil Jansrud of Norway. Innerhofer in particular had quite the celebration. When the favorites falter, there are always other Olympians waiting to fill their shoes.
Loser: Robert Kranjec (SLO)—Ski Jumping
Injuries are a part of sport, sure, but there are few things as excruciating as getting an injury on the Olympic stage.
Robert Kranjec, 32, competes in the highly dangerous ski jumping event, and on Saturday he had a disastrous fall during a qualification run that was captured by the cameras. He was widely praised for being able to limp off the course on his own merit, but the extent of his injury was unknown.
On Sunday, it was confirmed that Kranjec's knee injury was too severe to keep him from competing in Sunday's normal hill event. There's still a small chance that he will be able to compete in the large hill competition in six days, and we certainly hope that's the case. Everyone who qualifies deserves a chance to compete.
Winners: Defending Olympic Champions
It was a very good Sunday for a couple of defending Olympic champions, Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia and Felix Loch of Germany.
Kuzmina successfully defended her biathlon title in the women's sprint in defining fashion, beating the silver medalist by nearly 20 seconds. Back in Vancouver, Kuzmina was the first-ever Winter Olympics gold medalist from Slovakia.
Loch, meanwhile, was the youngest luge champion ever in Vancouver, and he proved that win was not a fluke when he took the title in Sochi on Sunday. Some say that backing up a victory is often more difficult than getting the victory in the first place, but Kuzmina and Loch handled the pressure with ease.
Losers: U.S. Luge Team
Believe it or not, the United States has never won an individual medal in luge. That streak continued on Sunday in the men's event, where Chris Mazdzer's 13th-place finish led all Americans.
Luge has been in the Winter Olympics since 1964, yet there has never been an individual man or woman from Team USA to make it onto the podium at any Games. There have been four American medals in the luge doubles race, but none of them gold.
If Erin Hamlin fails to medal for the women, the United States will have to wait another four years to turn its luge fortunes around. At this point, it's getting pretty embarrassing.
Winner: Tucker West's Father
The biggest highlight for the American luge team on Sunday came from someone who was across the world and not even on the team: Tucker West's father.
West's father Brett went on the Today show on Sunday to talk about his son, who is the youngest member of the luge team. He told the show's hosts that his son was "very single" and also very shy, via NBC OlympicTalk. As the Internet blew up with this revealing information, Brett later wrote on Facebook, "I am in so much trouble with Tucker."
It's always good to know that even elite athletes can be embarrassed by their parents.