Sochi Winter Olympics Day 6 Winners and Losers
We saw the first American sweep in freestyle ski slopestyle, and thanks to some hometown support, a mom got to see her son win gold.
We also saw a career come to an end for aging Russian figure skating superstar Evgeni Plushenko.
In between, there was a hot day on the cross-country scene and notable splats in American figure skating and speedskating.
All in all, a day of Olympian ups and downs. Take a look.
Winner: Joss Christensen (U.S.), Ski Slopestyle
Nothing like winning gold to prove you belong.
Joss Christensen, who led a U.S. sweep with Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper winning silver and bronze, respectively, was the final selection to make the Olympic freestyle skiing slopestyle team.
He was a controversial coaches' pick over others who some felt were better skiers.
But Christensen decisively put that idea to rest when he dominated the rest of the field.
Loser: Jeremy Abbott, Men’s Figure Skating Short Program
Jeremy Abbott, the U.S. men’s national champion and leading skater, took a big fall in the short program and is in 15th place going into the free skate. Teammate Jason Brown is a surprising sixth.
Abbott has now gone 0-for-2 in big moments at the Sochi Olympics, skating poorly in the opener of the team competition and putting the U.S. in a hole.
The Americans, behind strong skates of Gracie Gold and ice dancers Charlie White and Meryl Davis, managed to salvage bronze in that competition, but Abbott is on his own here.
Winner: Park City, Utah
Like her son Joss, Debbie Christensen wasn’t supposed to be in Sochi either.
Residents in their hometown of Park City, Utah, which hosted snow events at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake, donated airline miles and about $10,000 to send her to watch her son compete. She’s sharing a room with Nancy Logan, mom of ski slopestyle silver medalist, Devin Logan.
Christensen’s gold medal and the community support are bright spots for a family fallen on hard times: Debbie lost her husband JD, Joss’ dad, when he died in August of congestive heart failure.
Loser: American Speedskaters at 1,000 Meters
Many expected Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe to duke it out for gold on the big oval, where they ranked first and second. The Americans were counting on the pair, having been shut out of the medals so far.
The training partners finished together, all right—in seventh and eighth, respectively.
That only adds to the United States' speedskating woes, as star Shani Davis remains empty-handed with only the 1,500 meters to go.
China’s Zhang Hong won gold in the women's 1,000 meters, and two Dutch skaters, Ireen Wuest and Margot Boer, took silver and bronze, respectively.
Winner: Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan), Men’s Figure Skating Short Program
Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu set a world record with 101.45 points in a stunningly executed skate to lead the men going into the free skate.
Prior to Thursday, no male had broken the 100-point mark. He leads Patrick Chan of Canada, who skated well, posting a 97.52 score, but still trails Hanyu.
Hanyu got some momentum from a sparkling performance during the team skate, when he defeated Evgeni Plushenko, whom Hanyu admired.
How Hanyu will do in the free skate is up in the air. He did not skate it during the team competition, only competing in the short.
Loser: Evgeni Plushenko (Russia), Men’s Figure Skating Short Program
Just days after gritty and inspired performances in the team short and free skates, helping Russia to gold in the new event, Plushenko’s body had had enough.
What was supposed to be the men’s short program wound up what is likely a final farewell for Plushenko, who appeared to injure his surgically repaired back in warm-ups.
With all eyes on him, spectators in the Iceberg arena were subdued into silence when he skated to inform the judges that he was done. Turning to the crowd, he gestured, palms up, put his hands over his heart and waved goodbye. A cool, if sad, Olympic moment.
Winner: German Lugers
Has there ever been a team so dominant in one Olympic sport?
No surprise Germany won gold in the Olympic inaugural luge team event, with Russia taking silver and Latvia bronze.
In Sochi, German lugers have pretty much smoked the field on the luge track, sweeping gold in every category: men’s, women’s, doubles and now team.
Not only that, but they’ve won five of the possible 12 medals in luge.
The U.S. team finished sixth despite Erin Hamlin's run, the second-fastest in the women's field. Hamlin won a bronze medal in singles, the first Olympic individual luge medal in U.S. history.
Loser: Winter Olympic Weather
Cross-country skiers in the women’s 10-kilometer classic raced in 54-degree temperatures (12 degrees C) with winner Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland calling it “the hardest 10k of my life.”
Part of that was skiing with a broken foot numbed by a (hopefully legal) painkiller. But more painful was trying to race in heavy, wet snow that saw most of the field, some in shirtsleeves, trudging to the finish.
“In the last 30 meters I was almost walking. I was so tired,” she told The Associated Press.
Kowalczyk finished in 28 minutes, 17.8 seconds. Charlotte Kalla of Sweden won silver, and Norway’s Therese Johaug took bronze.
Sadie Bjornsen was the top American in 18th, with Sophie Caldwell finishing 32nd, Ida Sargent 34th and Holly Brooks 35th.
Winner: USA Men's Hockey
Taking a page from the women’s hockey tournament, the men routed Slovakia, 7-1. Hard to tell what this means for the team’s chances for gold, but you have to like the fast start.
Phil Kessel had a goal and two assists for the U.S.
Defending Olympic champion Canada is the tournament favorite. Russia, which also won today, will be formidable on home ice.
The men's victory helps mitigate the sting from the U.S. women losing to archrival Canada in pool play on Wednesday. But not by much.
Loser: Japanese Women’s Curling
We weren’t sure it would happen, but it did: A curling team, for a day at least, proved worse than the U.S. The Americans had gone 0-4 prior to Thursday, when they defeated Japan, 8-6, to drop it to 2-2.
On the brink of elimination, the U.S. team lives to throw the rock another day.
Maybe this is the start of something...well, if not big, at least something.
Winner: Noelle Pikus-Pace (U.S.), Women’s Skeleton
We hope we're not jinxing her here, but a a medal would finally fulfill promise from a long three Olympics ago. Noelle Pikus-Pace is in silver-medal position halfway through the skeleton, with tomorrow’s final two heats to go.
She was the gold-medal favorite before the 2006 Turin Games. The World Cup overall champion the season before, Pikus-Pace was hit by a runaway bobsled (yes, bobsled) following a training run, suffering a gruesome broken leg, and couldn’t fully recover in time for the Games.
Then in Vancouver, she finished fourth and retired before coming back for another go. But the heartbreak continued when she suffered a miscarriage in 2012. She comes to the Games with two kids and a sled-builder husband to cheer her on to, hopefully, a medal on Valentine's Day.
Loser: U.S. Nordic Skiers
Lowell Bailey’s surprising eighth place in the men’s 20-kilometer biathlon, the best finish in U.S. biathlon history at the Olympics, underscores the heightened expectations we have for even one Olympic cross-country or jumping medal. Just one.
Tim Burke, the World Cup multi-medalist and best hope in biathlon, has been sick and finished 44th Thursday in the event, won by Martin Fourcade, who collected his second gold of these Games.
U.S. women ski jumpers, Kikkan Randall and Nordic combined (the ski jumping/cross-country sport that won four medals in Vancouver) are all empty-handed so far.