Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Biggest Surprises of Day 8
With Day 8 officially in the books, the thick of the competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics crosses the halfway point.
Eight days down, eight to go.
If it's halftime in Sochi, certain members of Team USA could probably use a pep talk, as more disappointing performances in speedskating and skiing paced Saturday's action.
Perhaps someone on the American squad can channel his or her inner Herb Brooks?
On the other hand, some parts of the United States delegation are flying high after the American men's hockey team trumped Russia in a shootout.
Somehow, despite a few setbacks, Team USA's 14 medals are good enough for a second-place tie with the Netherlands in the overall medal count, just one back of Russia's 15.
Ah yes, and there were surprises. Here are the biggest ones from Day 8.
World, Meet T.J. Oshie, Olympic Superstar
One of the reasons U.S. Olympic hockey coaches wanted St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie on their squad in Sochi was for his uncanny ability in shootouts. On Saturday, Oshie showed the world exactly why.
After a hotly anticipated game between the United States and Russia ended in a 2-2 tie, Oshie took six of Team USA's eight shots during the shootout, scoring on four of them, including the game-winner.
His effort boosted the Americans to a 3-2 win and made him the hero of Day 8 at the Sochi games.
Not a bad introduction for casual fans who, before today, probably hadn't heard of the 27-year-old Everett, Wash., native, despite the fact that he once was named in a song by the punk rock band Bouncing Souls.
It also made U.S. hockey coaches look downright prescient.
"You know at some point we are going to end up in a shootout, and we are going to want T.J. Oshie," general manager David Poile told USA Today before the games began.
Guess he was right.
Woes Continue for Shani Davis, Team USA Speedskaters
American speedskaters made a last-minute wardrobe change Saturday after the Under Armour racing suits they'd been wearing came under fire amid disappointing performances.
It didn't help.
Four-time medalist Shani Davis continued Team USA's substandard skid through Sochi, finishing 11th in the men's 1,500 meters. The top American finisher was Brian Hansen, who ended in seventh.
Davis was unable to break out of his individual rut. He's now failed to medal in his best events—the 1,000 meters and 1,500 meters—after taking gold and silver, respectively, in those events at the last two Olympics.
It's been a frustrating and inexplicable performance for the United States on the track thus far in 2014. The Americans won 10 medals in speedskating at the 2010 games.
This year? Zero.
With just the men's 10,000 meters, women's 5,000 meters and team pursuit competitions remaining, Team USA needs to find some answers quickly to avoid an unthinkable shutout.
Julia Mancuso Just 'Happy to Make It to the Finish' in Women's Super-G
Instead, Mancuso ended the day by telling CBS News she was just "happy to make it to the finish" of a course the television network described as "tricky and uneven." She finished in eighth place.
Conditions were not ideal for anyone, and the day had its share of wild falls, as favorites Lara Gut of Switzerland and Slovenia's Tina Maze finished fourth and fifth. Meanwhile, Anna Fenninger became the third consecutive Austrian woman to win the women's super-G.
"When you are fourth I think it is the worst place you can be at the Olympics," Gut said, via CBS.
Hard to say if Mancuso would agree with her.
J.R. Celski Gives the Media the Heisman
Like Shani Davis, J.R. Celski was considered one of Team USA's best hopes to reach the medal stand in men's speedskating during the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Instead, the 23-year-old short-track racer from Monterey, Calif., has become just another surprising disappointment in the United States' bafflingly bad overall performance.
Celski himself? He has no answers.
After crashing during the quarterfinal race of the 1,000-meter short-track event Saturday, the double-bronze medalist from 2010 refused to face reporters at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
"So effusive before the Games when asked about his Olympic hopes," wrote Yahoo Sports' Martin Rogers, "Celski suddenly lost his appetite for talking and sped past reporters with his head down."
The wipeout in the 1,000 meters followed Celski's fourth-place finish in the 1,500 Friday.
The United States speedskating team does not sound like a happy group at the moment.
It's Matt Antoine, Not John Daly, with Bronze in Men's Skeleton
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi have been so wild and wooly that perhaps it qualifies as a minor surprise that the men's skeleton event played out almost exactly as predicted on Saturday.
Except one thing: The wrong American won the bronze
OK, maybe not the "wrong" American, per se. Just not the American we expected.
When Russia's Alexander Tretiakov took the gold and Martins Dukurs of Latvia nabbed the silver, it was thought that American John Daly would be in third place. Instead, Matt Antoine slid his way to the bronze medal when Daly got off to a poor start on his fourth run.
It was Team USA's second medal of the games in skeleton and the United Sates' first in the men's event since Salt Lake City in 2002.
Norway Gets Shut Out in Women's 4x5-Kilometer Relay
As the defending world and Olympic champions and with skiathlon gold medalist Marit Bjoergen skiing the anchor leg, Norway was thought to have the gold medal in the bag in the women's 4x5-kilometer cross-country skiing relay.
But as one of America's favorite college football analysts might say: Not so fast, my friend.
A late surge by Charlotte Kalla on Saturday erased a 25-second deficit and lifted Sweden to the gold—that country's first of the Sochi games and its first-ever medal in the event since the women's 4x5 relay was established in 1976.
The Norwegian women's team had not lost a relay since 2009, but it was already 33 seconds back by the time Bjoergen began her ski. With seemingly insurmountable ground to make up, she didn't even try, shutting it down in order to save energy.
Kalla, however, did not shut it down. After gradually trimming the lead, she turned the final 100 meters into a sprint with Finland's Krista Lahteenmaki and Germany's Denise Herrmann, eventually passing both.
"I just wanted to go for gold," Kalla said, via the Associated Press' Mattias Karen (h/t ABC News). "I knew that if I fight really hard it was possible to cross the finish line first."
Finland finished second, with Germany in third. Norway ended up in fifth.
Slovenia Stuns Slovakia for First Men's Hockey Win
Slovenia's men's hockey team was not expected to make much noise in Sochi as it participated in its first Winter Olympics.
But if you were paying attention Saturday, the distant scratching sound you heard was Slovenia tallying up its first-ever hockey win at the Olympic level, defeating Slovakia 3-1.
It was a major upset, but it was no fluke. Slovenia led the entire way, outshooting Slovakia 31-28 en route to the historic victory.
While the win doesn't exactly make Slovenia a medal contender—prior to this the country's Olympic hockey highlight was making things look respectable in a 5-2 loss to Russia—but it was the day's best feel-good story.
41-Year-Old Noriaki Kasai Wins Silver in Men's Ski Jump
Ski jumping at the 2014 Winter Olympics has largely been a young man's game—especially Saturday, as 26-year-old Kamil Stoch of Poland won the men's large hill competition to claim his second gold medal in Sochi. But while Stoch was joined by bronze medalist Peter Prevc of Slovenia, who is 21, they had some unexpectedly older, more distinguished company on the medal stand as well.
That's because Japan's Noriaki Kasai won the silver, nabbing his first Olympic hardware since he took second place in the team competition in...1994...in Lillehammer.
It's true. Kasai is 41 years young and competing in his record seventh Olympics.
Previous to this, his best individual effort was a fifth-place finish in the large hill event, also in 1994. In 2010, Kasai finished eighth on the large hill.
On Saturday, he was in the lead with only one jumper left before the end of competition. Unfortunately, that jumper was Stoch, who knocked him into second place.
As pointed out by Sochi2014.com, Stoch became just the third man ever to win both the normal and large hill competitions at the same Olympics.
Still, not too shabby for Kasai.