Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Team USA Highlights for Day 7

Brendan O'MearaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 14, 2014

Noelle Pikus-Pace of the United States starts her final run during the women's skeleton competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 14, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Pikus-Pace won the silver medal. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

On this Valentine's Day—Day 7 of the Sochi Games—there were no chocolate and roses for the Americans. There were, however, some medals amid the fumbles, and Team USA should be proud of its effort.

The day started off poorly, specifically for Ted Ligety and Bode Miller in the super combined. Highly favored going in, temperatures in the 50s and difficult course conditions made for a disappointing event.

Read on for highlights of Team USA's Day 7 of the 2014 Olympics.


Biggest Disappointment: Ted Ligety and Bode Miller

Ted Ligety came into the men's super combined as the heavy favorite to win gold. After a devastating run on the slalom course—where eight of the top 30 didn't finished—Ligety could only manage a 12th place finish, losing to Sandro Viletta of Switzerland, Croatia's Ivica Kostelic and Italy's Christof Innerhofer.

Ted Ligety down and out.
Ted Ligety down and out.Gero Breloer/Associated Press

Ligety was the 2013 world champion in the super combined and recently came off an impressive World Cup victory in the same event. He, along with some other heavy hitters, failed to get on the podium. Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal tanked on his run, and even the defending gold medalist, Bode Miller, couldn't party like it was 2010 and summon the Vancouver magic. Miller finished a respectable sixth.

Ligety and Miller were 18th and 12th, respectively, after the downhill, which prompted this year's women's bronze medalist in the super combined, Julia Mancuso, to rally them on.

The slalom portion hurt many skiers, and course conditions were far from ideal. But Miller took the high road, congratulated the victors and, in true Miller fashion, went for it on the slopes at the behest of logic. While the aggressive approach has been Miller's signature during his career, it did not work for him this time. 

When the snow settled, Ligety said it best:


Biggest Pressure Situation: Jason Brown

Nineteen-year-old figure skater Jason Brown performed last in the men's free program. With many of the top skaters failing to complete clean routines, including Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu and Canada's Patrick Chan, Brown had a shot at the medal stand. 

He needed a 169.1 in the free skate to tie for the bronze medal, but he could only muster 152.37 points from his trademark Riverdance routine to move up to ninth place.

At such a young age and without a quadruple jump in his arsenal, it's unsurprising that Brown wasn't able to dominate. But his future is bright, and an Olympic medal in four years is certainly within reach.

"It (the quad) is definitely something that is really important," said Brown after the competition, per USA Today. "I'm working on it every day. When I do land it, it will be in that program."

The future outlook is not nearly as rosy for Brown's veteran teammate, Jeremy Abbott. Abbott finished 15th after sustaining a hip injury in a hard fall in the short program. After the event, he had some harsh words for those who have criticized his inability to deliver on the international stage. The 28-year-old plans to retire after this season. 

And so it was Hanyu, on this V-Day, who won gold with a most appropriate song. Where was Mercutio?


Best Swan Song: Noelle Pikus-Pace

Noelle Pikus-Pace was second after Thursday's first two heats of women's skeleton, and that's where she remained through Heats 3 and 4 Friday. The 31-year-old mother of two, who came out of retirement to compete, won the silver medal behind Great Britain's Lizzy Yarnold. 

Pikus-Pace tried to keep herself composed on her final run, knowing that it would be her last. 

She nailed it to bring home the silver, an improvement over her fourth-place performance at the Vancouver Games. Any time you hit the podium in the Olympics you're a winner, and Pikus-Pace went out like 1998 Michael Jordan.


Looking Ahead: Men's Skeleton

Team USA's men's skeleton team, led by John Daly (not this John Daly, though that would be hysterical) and Matthew Antoine, are third and fourth heading into Saturday.

Daly is 1.59 seconds back of Russia's Alexander Tretiakov. Daly finished 17th in the Vancouver Olympics, and a medal here would make having to spend Valentine's Day with these broads boards totally worth it.


Still Looking Ahead: USA vs. Russia

It's hard to mention those two teams without conjuring images of the semifinals from the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics and Al Michaels' oddly high-pitched voice. But we're not dealing with amateurs any longer. And even though this game is in a preliminary round, it promises to go full tilt.

The U.S. steamrolled Slovakia on Wednesday, 7-1, while Russia handled Slovenia, 5-2. The Russians are led by Alexander Ovechkin, forward for the Washington Capitols. The U.S. are powered by Paul Stastny, who scored two goals in the win over Slovakia, and Jonathan Quick in goal. 

The game will undoubtedly be fueled by the rich history these two teams share. 


The Medal Count: Team USA in First Overall

Thanks to Noelle Pikus-Pace's silver medal in women's skeleton, Team USA is tied for first with Norway with 13 medals: four gold, three silver, six bronze. Germany sits atop the list, however, due to its seven gold medals—four of which were in luge alone. 

Riding its success in speedskating, the Netherlands has 12 medals, tied with Russia for third.

For the States, it will have to lean on its stars in the women's Super-G, short-track speed skating and, of course, summon all it's got in hockey to keep pace with the world and finish atop the standings as it nears the halfway point in these Games.