Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Day 8 Winners and Losers
And on the eighth day, they rested.
While Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski and the wonderful sprites on ice got a day off, the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games somehow soldiered on.
With no figure skating with which to contend, the spotlight shined on the slopes, where the Americans faltered and the Europeans reigned supreme.
Then it was back to the rink, where history hung over an epic hockey match between the Americans and Russians.
As always, four long years of trouble and toil boiled down to a single opportunity for these amazing athletes. Some rose to the challenge, while others faltered.
Let's take a peek at some of each.
Loser: J.R. Celski (USA)
J.R. Celski, 23, was supposed to be the next Apolo Ohno, the future of American short-track speedskating. If that's true, it's a dystopian future, bleak and dark.
Celski fell in the quarterfinals of the 1,000-meter short track, tripping over one of the markers on a turn. He was the only one who failed to finish in the quarterfinals, leaving the gold to Russia's Victor An.
Celski's Olympics will continue in the 500-meter and 5,000-meter races over the next week. But his best races have already come and gone—and so too have his chances at making a splash in Sochi.
Winner: Jonathan Quick (USA)
Much of the praise for America's thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the host nation in hockey will go to T.J. Oshie, a right wing for the St. Louis Blues. He scored the winning goal in a shootout that lasted forever, and certainly deserves some credit.
But let's avert our gaze from the glory boys on the offense for a moment and pay attention to the true hero of the game—Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. He shut down the powerful Russian trio of Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk and Yevgeni Malkin in the final stanza to win the game for the U.S.
Quick stopped five shots in the shootout to keep his country in the game.
"You have a decent idea of what they are going to do," the soft-spoken Quick said after the game on NBCSN. "But those three are three of the best players in the world."
The win puts the U.S. in the driver's seat in both Group A and in the race toward Sochi gold.
Loser: Patrick Kane (USA)
Patrick Kane owes Jonathan Quick and T.J. Oshie a round or 10 at the bar tonight in Russia. Kane, the 25-year-old Chicago Blackhawks forward, was all set to be the game's goat despite an assist earlier in the evening.
In overtime, Kane broke from the pack with a breathtaking suddenness. It was him, open ice and the goal, just one man standing in the way of glory. Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovski was the loneliest man in the world, solo on a deserted island, the thousands inside the Bolshoy Ice Dome unable to help him no matter how much they willed it.
A glove save later and Bobrovski could have unseated Vladimir Putin if Russia held an election in that moment. Oshie, who took six of the American's eight penalty shots in a thrilling shootout, would later redeem Kane, eventually out-dueling Bobrovski to carry Team USA to victory.
But that can't erase the overtime—when Kane had the chance to be a hero and failed.
Winner: Charlotte Kalla (Sweden)
Charlotte Kalla of Sweden had some ground to make up in the women's cross-country relay. Skiing the anchor leg, she started in third place, 25.7 seconds behind the leaders. Against some of the best skiers in the world, winning the gold was a seemingly impossible task.
Close on her tail was Marit "Iron Lady" Bjoergen, the Norwegian legend who won her fourth gold medal earlier in the Games. Perhaps inspired by, or in fear of, one of the all-time greats, Kalla skied the race of her life. She left Bjoergen in the dust and, on the final turn, won a race to the finish against Finland's Krista Lahteenmaki.
Kalla was humble after the race, but teammate Anna Haag put it all into perspective, telling reporters (via The Washington Post), "Charlotte was skiing like a god."
Loser: Shani Davis (USA)
After finishing just eighth in the 1,000-meter race, speedskater Shani Davis sought redemption in the 1,500 today in Sochi. But his destiny in these games, it seems, is disappointment, as he was only the 11th-fastest man on the ice.
While age may be the true culprit, yesterday much of the blame shifted to his new Under Armour cutting-edge suit. The company's innovative vents meant to shift the air have been called a bust. Today he was back in the same suit he had significant success in during the World Cup in January.
It made little difference. The Davis era is over.
Winner: Anna Fenninger (Austria)
Austrian Anna Fenninger took advantage of her competitors' epic failures to ski her way to gold in the super-G.
It was a truly treacherous course. Eighteen of the 49 competitors failed to finish the race. Fenninger, however, learned from the carnage and steered clear of trouble, beating German star Maria Hoefl-Riesch by just over half a second.
American medal hopeful Julia Mancuso finished a disappointing eighth.
Loser: John Daly (USA)
Some athletes handle defeat with grim stoicism. John Daly is not one of those men.
Daly, on the precipice of scoring an Olympic medal, slipped out of the groove at the start and limped his way to a 15th-place finish in skeleton.
"I popped out of the groove. It's happened only a handful of times in my career," Daly said on NBCSN afterward, eventually breaking into tears. "I guess that's what happens when you go for it. I left it all out there on the ice tonight. I don't regret anything, but I wish I could get that last run back for one more chance."
It was heart-wrenching to see, especially later as he realized that redemption was four years away, if it was coming at all. For most athletes, there's always the next game, the next season. Olympians don't have that luxury, adding gravitas to every single run and each and every event.
Latvian behemoth Martins Dukurs was expected to glide to a gold medal in the men's skeleton in Sochi. After all, winning was becoming a habit for the 2010 silver medalist. He had won 24 of the past 28 World Cup races, and Latvia's first gold medal seemed well within his reach.
Instead, Russia's Alexander Tretjyakov, sliding on his home track, won gold over the course of four runs, beating Dukurs by just .81 seconds. Tretjyakov, along with the rest of his team, skipped the final World Cup race of the season to return home and practice specifically for the Olympics. It's a decision that paid off smartly—in gold.
There's something liberating about flying through the air, all your troubles a distant memory as the world shrinks to just you, your skis and the snow. But that freedom can come with a deadly cost, as the slightest error can have devastating consequences.
An accident in practice reminded the freestyle skiing world of that harsh reality. Russian skier Maria Komissarova crashed in the third and final jump on a practice run and immediately underwent back surgery.
“The operation is over … it's been successful,” Russian ski federation official Mikhail Verzeba told The Associated Press, revealing Komissarova had fractured her 12th dorsal vertebrae in her lower-middle back.