Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Day 7 Winners and Losers
Friday was yet another drama-filled day in the Sochi Games.
The men took the figure skating Olympic stage for the last time this year, and they put on a show, although it wasn't always of the highest quality.
Elsewhere on the snow and ice there were plenty of tales of surprise, heartache and Olympic spirit as champions were born and others went home empty-handed.
Here is a look at the letdowns and show-stealers from a memorable Day 7:
Loser: The Showdown Between Bode Miller and Ted Ligety
The super combined race was billed as a showdown between American stars Ted Ligety and Bode Miller, but it turned out to be anything but.
Miller, who finished a disappointing eighth in the downhill event earlier in the week, came in sixth place. His downhill run was once again the portion of the race that let him down.
Ligety, meanwhile, was the favorite heading into the event, but he finished a staggering 12th.
Andrew Dampf of The Associated Press (via The Boston Globe) reported that Miller told the press that ‘‘the tactics were there and the skiing was there, but you can’t make mistakes like I did today,’’ while Ligety simply said that he "choked."
Ligety and Miller are running out of time to earn a medal in Sochi.
Winner: Sandro Viletta (SUI)—Alpine Skiing: Super Combined
The super combined wasn't supposed to belong to him, but that didn't stop Sandro Viletta from taking the gold.
As favorites such as Bode Miller, Ted Ligety and Aksel Lund Svindal got caught up in the slushy snow, Viletta, who has only won one World Cup race in his life, grabbed the top spot on the podium.
The 28-year-old from Switzerland was in 14th place after the downhill portion of the event and a complete afterthought to challenge for a medal. But he had a dazzling slalom run and ended up winning the first super combined Olympic gold in Switzerland's history.
With course conditions that frustrated the pre-event favorites, it was anyone's day. Viletta decided it was his.
Losers: Swedish Men's Hockey Team
They might have won their game on Friday 1-0 over Switzerland, but Sweden's golden hopes took a major blow when their captain Henrik Zetterberg withdrew with a back injury.
Combined with the previous scratches of other Swedish stars Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen, Zetterberg's absence makes it an uphill battle for Sweden to make it to the top of the podium.
Zetterberg came into the Games with a nagging back injury, but he felt that he would be healthy enough to compete. However, he was in considerable pain after Sweden's first game—a 4-2 win over the Czech Republic—and announced on Friday that he was done. James O'Brien of NBC's Olympic Talk reported that Zetterberg has a herniated disc in his back that might require surgery.
His departure leaves Sweden a man down as it goes for gold.
Winner: Noelle Pikus-Pace (USA)—Skeleton
Noelle Pikus-Pace capped off what has been a momentous two-year comeback by winning the silver in skeleton on Friday. Along the way she might just have become one of the best stories of these Games.
This is the first Olympic medal for Pikus-Pace, and it has been quite a journey for the 31-year-old. Back in late 2005, she was looking like a front-runner for the Turin Games, but a runaway bobsled crashed into her in practice and broke her leg.
In 2010 in Vancouver, she came in an agonizing fourth place and decided to retire from the sport. But in 2012, devastated by a miscarriage and still hungry for more, Pikus-Pace came back to skeleton again, this time with her two kids and husband traveling with her.
She was the favorite for gold, but that went to Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain. However, Pikus-Pace didn't look the least bit disappointed with her silver, which is that much sweeter after all she's been through.
Loser: Lanny Barnes (USA)—Biathlon
This feels harsh, but it is what it is. After being a part of the story that captivated the hearts of the world before the Olympics, Lanny Barnes finished what was supposed to be her best race, the 15-kilometer individual, in 64th place.
Lanny became famous before the Olympics when her twin sister Tracy gave up her spot in Sochi so that she could compete. Lanny had been ill and unable to compete in many of the qualifying events, but Tracy thought that Lanny would have a better chance to do well in the Olympics.
Tracy made it to Sochi the evening before the race, but a 64th-place finish is certainly not what either of them had in mind.
According to John Peel of The Durango Herald, the U.S. biathlon coach has not yet said whether Lanny will be competing in any of the remaining events.
Winner: Belarusian Female Athletes
It was a good day for Belarus.
Darya Domracheva won her second Sochi gold medal on Friday in the women's biathlon 15-kilometer individual race, and this time she had a countrywoman on the podium with her, as her teammate Nadezhda Skardino picked up the bronze.
Alla Tsuper of Belarus also won a gold medal in the women's aerials, making it a landmark day for the small country. Coming into the Sochi Games, Belarus had only won nine medals total, and only one of them was gold. With four medals already this year, the nation is picking up some steam.
Loser: Ashley Caldwell (USA)—Freestyle Skiing Aerials
Ashley Caldwell performed well enough on Friday to win a surprise medal in women's aerials, but she just didn't do it at the right time.
The 20-year-old absolutely creamed the competition during her qualification round, getting a 101.25. Nobody else scored over an 87. Lindsay Jones of USA Today reported that Caldwell was the first American woman to land a "full full full" in competition.
Unfortunately, Caldwell was unable to repeat her success when it mattered the most. After struggling on her next jumps, she didn't make it to the final round. She peaked just moments too early for a medal.
Winner: Dario Cologna (SUI)—Cross Country
Dario Cologna won his second gold medal on Friday in the men's 15-kilometer race, but it was what he did after the race that really made him a winner.
After finishing his race in an impressive 38 minutes, 29.7 seconds, Cologna then hung around for almost a half hour to congratulate the last-place finisher as he crossed the finish line.
Cologna surely had media obligations and golden celebrations to get to, but his moment of sportsmanship is an Olympic moment for the ages.
Losers: USA's Curling Teams
It was not a good day for the men or women of the U.S. curling teams.
The women in particular had a brutal day, losing 9-2 to the previously winless team from Denmark. The devastating loss puts the struggling U.S. team in a terrible position to make it out of the qualification rounds.
The men, after winning their previous match over Germany, 8-5, just couldn't pull out a close one over Russia, losing 7-6.
Neither team was a strong medal contender coming into the Games, and the qualification rounds have certainly solidified that. So much for curling catching on in the United States.
Winner: Jeremy Abbott (USA)—Figure Skating
Often times in the Olympics the medal podium is just a small part of the story, and that was certainly the case in men's figure skating.
Jeremy Abbott didn't win an individual medal, but he finished off his Olympic skating career in style, scoring 160.12 in his free skate, which is a career best for him.
On Thursday, the 28-year-old was part of a memorable but drama-filled short program. He fell on his first quad attempt and looked like he wouldn't be able to get up and continue, but he then carried on to the delight of the Russian crowd, creating his own Olympic moment.
He carried that positive momentum into Friday, where he fought through pain and once again made Team USA proud. What a way to go out.
Losers: Men's Figure Skating Fans
Sure, medals were won on Friday in the men's individual figure skating event, but nobody in the last group skated anywhere close to his best.
There were a handful of contenders for bronze after Thursday's short program, including Jason Brown from the U.S. and Javier Fernandez from Spain. But of the group, only Denis Ten from Kazakstan nailed his performance. His great performance got him onto the podium.
The contenders for gold didn't fare much better, though.
Yuzuru Hanyu, the leader heading into Friday's competition, was far from perfect in his free skate, opening the door for pre-event favorite Patrick Chan to take the gold. But Canada's Chan couldn't muster anything close to his best and ended up with the silver.
Overall, it was a disappointing showcase for men's figure skating and a frustrating day for the people who love the sport.
Winner: Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN)—Figure Skating
The 19-year-old figure-skating sensation from Japan did just enough on Friday to hold off favorite Patrick Chan for the gold medal in men's figure skating.
After his record-breaking short program on Thursday, Hanyu was firmly in the lead heading into the free skate on Friday. He was shaky throughout his final performance, but had a big enough lead that after Chan bobbled as well, it didn't matter.
Hanyu, who broke onto the world stage with a bronze at the World Championships last year, is now an Olympic champion.