Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Day 5 Winners and Losers
The opening salvo of perhaps the 2014 Winter Olympics' greatest rivalry was fired on Wednesday as the United States and Canada met in women's ice hockey.
This time around, the three-time defending champions from Canada left the rink victorious, though only after some questionable twists and turns along the way. As both teams cruised into the next round, the plot remains intriguingly thick.
Smart money says we haven't heard the last of this matchup.
Nonetheless, that game kicked off an up-and-down Day 5 for Team USA, in what has been an altogether unpredictable Winter Olympics thus far.
Who were the real winners and losers on Wednesday in Sochi? Don't worry, we've got you covered...
Winner: Controversy + Canada = Rivalry Renewed
Team Canada won the battle, but it left the impression the war is far from over.
The Canadian women’s hockey team edged the United States on Wednesday, taking a controversial 3-2 victory in what was largely considered to be a preview of the gold-medal game.
The outcome means Canada will finish atop Group A and advance directly to the semifinal round as the top seed. It also gave the team an important W over its archrival, snapping a four-game losing streak to the Americans.
The real winners here, however, may be Olympic hockey fans, as the nature of Team Canada’s victory will only intensify the Sochi Games’ best rivalry if the two teams meet again in the final.
Hayley Wickenheiser broke a 1-1 tie with a goal for Canada early in the third period, but her shot appeared to trickle into the net only after a referee’s whistle sounded to stop play. Confusion ensued, and then—upon further review—the goal was allowed.
Birthday girl Meghan Agosta-Marciano extended the lead to 3-1 with just over five minutes left in the game, and though Team USA fired back with a late goal, the Americans never fully recovered.
Stakes will be high for both Canada and the United States as each automatically advances to the semis. Considering there was no love lost between them heading into this game, a potential gold-medal showdown between the world’s two best women’s hockey teams will be even more hotly anticipated.
Loser: Shani Davis
Add Shani Davis to the list of high-profile American athletes who've come up short in Sochi.
After Shaun White flubbed the halfpipe earlier this week, Davis had a chance on Wednesday to become the first American man to win three straight individual gold medals in the same Winter Olympic event.
Unfortunately, it was not to be.
Davis finished eighth in the 1,000-meter men's speedskate, conceding the 2014 crown to Dutch dominance. This year, the Netherlands' Stefan Groothuis and Michel Mulder won gold and bronze, respectively, while Denny Morrison of Canada nabbed the silver.
After also finishing out of contention in Monday's 500-meter race, the 31-year-old Davis will get one more chance to add to his four career Olympic medals. He'll race in the 1,500-meter competition on Saturday and will look to meet or exceed the silvers he won in that event in Turin and Vancouver.
Winner: Ties! Wonderful Ties!
Everybody loves a tie, right?
OK, perhaps only amid the mirth and camaraderie of the Olympic spirit would a tie for first place be acceptable, but it did actually pass as a feel-good moment on Wednesday when Slovenia's Tina Maze and Switzerland's Dominique Gisin finished all knotted-up for gold in the women's downhill skiing race.
It seemed like an impossible outcome, but Gisin and Maze turned in matching times—right down to the hundredth of a second—at 1 minute, 41.57 seconds.
It was the first gold-medal tie in any Alpine event in Olympics history, Bill Pennington of The New York Times reported, though in 1998 athletes from Austria and Switzerland tied for the silver in men's super-G.
Overall, it was just the eighth time in Winter Olympics history that two gold medals have been awarded in the same event.
Moral of the story? Yay, everybody wins!
Except maybe the silver medal, since nobody won it at all.
Loser: Julia Mancuso
While Tina Maze and Dominique Gisin shared the gold, things were not so rosy for American Julia Mancuso.
Hopes were high for Mancuso in the women's downhill skiing race after she dominated the downhill portion of Monday's women’s super combined, eventually winning the bronze medal.
However, Wednesday's race did not go nearly as smooth for Mancuso, and her medal hopes evaporated quickly.
Mancuso took a bad approach into a jump near the top of the hill, caught too much air and lost some speed. In an event where winners and losers are sometimes decided by a fraction of a second, that was all it took.
She finished eighth.
After the event, she explained to The Washington Post's Barry Svrluga where things went wrong:
I lost focus a little bit after that jump, and (was) thinking too much. ... I’m more of an instinct skier, and just thinking too much kind of takes me out of my game, and I forget what to do with my body. It needs to come more natural, and that’s when I ski better.
Winner: Kaitlyn Farrington
American Kaitlyn Farrington was not named among the favorites in women's snowboard halfpipe headed into the 2014 Winter Olympics, but she was there when it counted: At the end, on top of the medal stand.
Farrington won a surprise gold in the halfpipe for Team USA on Wednesday, putting together a pair of final runs that left the event's last three Olympic champions in her dust.
Coming in, Torah Bright of Australia (the 2010 winner) and America's Kelly Clark (first place in 2002) were considered the best bets to win gold again. Hannah Teter of the United States, the 2006 gold medalist from Turin, was also in the mix.
When it was all done though, it was Farrington putting together a 91.75 on her second run to grab the top spot. Clark rebounded from a tough early run to score a 90.75 on her final chance and slip onto the podium with the bronze.
Bright took home the silver, at 91.50.
Teter, who had been sitting in third before Clark made her last run, ended just out of the medals, but scored well enough to give Team USA three of the top four placers.
Loser: Arielle Gold
No, "loser" doesn't feel like exactly the right word here, does it?
Maybe more like, bummer.
It was considered one of Team USA's better human interest stories when siblings Taylor and Arielle Gold both qualified to compete in the snowboard halfpipe this year. Regrettably, Taylor finished eighth in the men's semifinal on Tuesday, and 17-year-old Arielle wasn't able to compete at all.
After suffering a shoulder injury during a training run on Wednesday, she was ruled out for Sochi, per The Associated Press.
Gold won last year's FIS Snowboarding World Championship in the halfpipe and was considered a medal threat for the United States. Instead, she was forced to watch from the sideline.
Winners: Germany's Silders
Germany took its dominance over the luge to new heights on Wednesday, when Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt captured gold in the mixed doubles event.
Though it is a perennial power in the sliding sport, the 2014 Games now mark the first time since 1998 that Germany has won men's and women's singles, as well as the doubles event at the same Olympics. It puts the nation in position to sweep all the luge events in Sochi, if it can win the new team relay event when it debuts on Thursday.
Wendl and Arlt added their first-place finish to 2014 golds already won by Felix Loch (men's singles) and Natalie Geisenberger (women's singles).
Loser: Japan's Akito Watabe
At this point, Akito Watabe is getting used to being behind Eric Frenzel.
It has been the story of much of this year's World Cup circuit—Germany's Frenzel finishing first, with Watabe close on his heels—and it happened again in Sochi on Wednesday.
Watabe and Frenzel traded the lead for much of the 10-kilometer cross-country race portion of the men's 10-kilometer Nordic combined. The two men left the rest of their competitors behind, working as a team for the bulk of the race.
Then, as they neared the finish line, Frenzel pulled away to win by 4.2 seconds and capture gold, while relegating Watabe to yet another second-place finish.
Watabe began today's race six seconds behind Frenzel after finishing second to the German in the ski jumping portion as well.
"He’s too strong,” Watabe told reporters after the race. “I tried to break away from him in the long uphill on the last lap, but I was really tired after that. He was stronger than me in the end. I think I had no chance today.”
Winners: Russia's Skating Pairs
The host nation continued to dominate the figure skating competition on Wednesday in Sochi.
Russia's two skating tandems took home both gold and silver in the pairs event, as Germany won the bronze and America's best hopes were left out of medal contention.
Reigning world champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov continued to wow the crowd, running away with gold with a total score of 236.86.
Teammates Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov crafted the biggest surprise of the event, landing the silver with a total score of 218.68.
The German duo of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy finished in third with 215.78 points.
Team USA's top finishers, Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, finished ninth with 187.82.
Losers: Where You At, Olympic Sponsors?
It's no secret that the lion's share of America's Olympic athletes depend on sponsors to pay for necessities like travel, lodging, equipment and training time.
That makes the story of U.S. slopestyle skier Keri Herman all the more harrowing.
According to a report this week from her hometown's newspaper, The Denver Post, the 30-year-old first-time Olympian ended up paying her own way to Sochi and borrowing equipment from teammates after her search for sponsors proved fruitless.
I can't get a sponsor. I can't get an agent. I've been told—over and over—I'm too old. Everyone says they don't care about the Olympics and they want to base their team around younger athletes. It's so frustrating for me because I can win. I can do everything that I should be doing as a pro and I'm struggling. It's so hurtful and it's so hard. I need to find another job.
If Herman's story is accurate, for shame, Olympic sponsors, for shame.
Winner: Todd Lodwick Photobombs...Himself?
Todd Lodwick knows how to have a good time.
The U.S. men's Nordic combined competitor put that on full display on Wednesday as he happened to cross in front of an NBC Sports cameraman just as reporter Randy Moss attempted to file a report about the injury status of...Todd Lodwick.
Naturally, Lodwick stopped to mug for the camera.
As an unsuspecting Moss detailed Lodwick's shoulder injury suffered during crash-landing in France last month, Lodwick stood in the background, nodding and giving a thumbs-up. He then mouthed the words, "Bad jump" as Moss got to the part about his ski-jumping accident.
When it was all over, Lodwick tapped Moss on the arm to let him know he was there. After exchanging pleasantries, Moss gave Lodwick a good-natured pat on the side.
"Hey," Lodwick said. "That's the bad shoulder."
See it in all its glory right here, via NBC Sports.
Losers: Women's Curling Team Drops to 0-4
The U.S. women's curling team lost to China 7-4 on Wednesday, dropping its overall record during the 2014 Winter Olympics to 0-4.
You know it's bad when Marissa Payne of The Washington Post describes the bright side for the team like this:
Thankfully for fans of the Americans...the team went down to China in only mild flames compared to the record-breaking flames it went down in when the British rink burned the U.S. women by scoring seven points in a single end (or on non-curler speak, round). The final score was 3-12 after the mercy rule was invoked and the game was called early.
To qualify for the semifinals, the United States will have to win every game it plays for the rest of its stay in Sochi.
On Thursday, the Americans will face Japan (2-1). If they are to keep any hope of moving on alive, the turnaround must start then.