The 2014 Winter Olympics have been rolling right along, with over a week of competition in the books and a number of medals doled out to deserving athletes.
Day 8 was no different, as a wide array of speedskaters, skiers, skeleton sliders and more superstars took to the snow and ice in an attempt to bring gold and glory back to their native countries.
Their performances in the various Day 8 finals would end up having a major impact on the medal standings, which currently include extremely close battles for both the most gold medals and most overall medals in Sochi.
Let's take a look at the latest precious metal tallies at the 2014 Winter Olympics, recap some of Saturday’s top events and look at what will be on the line come Day 9.
|Women's Alpine Super-G||Anna Fenninger (AUT)|
|Women's Cross-Country 4x5 Relay||Sweden|
|Women's Short Track 1,500 Meters||Zhou Yang (CHN)|
|Men's Short Track 1,000 Meters||Victor An (RUS)|
|Men's Speedskating 1,500 Meters||Zbigniew Brodka (POL)|
|Men's Skeleton||Alexander Tretjyakov (RUS)|
|Men's Ski Jumping Large Hill||Kamil Stoch (POL)|
|Rank||Country||Leg 1||Leg 2||Leg 3||Leg 4||Time||Behind|
Team Sweden was more than fortunate to win the ladies' relay portion of cross-country at the Sochi Games. It was downright blessed, as Charlotte Kalla, the Swedish anchor, turned a 25-second deficit into a gold-medal performance through sheer skill, will power and determination.
Kalla surged from behind in the 4x5-kilometer event, blitzing past Krista Lahteenmaki of Finland and Germany's Denise Herrmann to put her side atop the podium. The Finnish team settled for silver, while the Germans would slide back to a bronze spot.
Kalla put on a skiing clinic that will go down in Olympic lore, something the anchor chalked up to just believing in herself, as per The Associated Press (via the Boston Herald): "I just wanted to go for gold. I knew that if I fight really hard it was possible to cross the finish line first."
The ladies' relay represented the fifth total medal of the 26-year-old star's career. She took home her first gold during the 2010 Vancouver Games, winning the 10-kilometer freestyle event.
Kalla also became the first athlete to win three medals in Sochi, having earned silvers in the 15-kilometer skiathlon and 10-kilometer classical, as well as having a silver in her trophy case from the team sprint event four years ago.
This Swedish skier is quickly becoming one of the most decorated Winter Olympians around and has brought great pride to her home country with her performances in Sochi.
Host Russia earned a much-needed gold due to the efforts of star slider Alexander Tretjyakov in the skeleton event.
The 28-year-old represented his home country well across four dangerous and exciting heats, finishing 0.81 seconds ahead of the next closest competitor—Martins Dukurs.
The United States earned a bronze thanks to Matthew Antoine's efforts. He finished his four heats with a composite time of 3:47.26.
This was the second straight medal for Tretjyakov in the skeleton competition, as he took home a bronze four years ago in Vancouver. He was dominant from the get-go, finishing his first heat in a blazing 55.95 seconds and setting the pace for the rest of the competition.
John Daly was hoping to medal for the Americans but ultimately came up short with a poor showing on the final heat. He finished that run with a time of 58.54 seconds and ultimately submarined his chances of reaching the podium.
Daly would come in 15th place with an overall time of 3:49.11 and told Jay Busbee of Yahoo! Sports that he will think about this failure for the next four years:
John Daly on skeleton failure: "I had a mile of ice to think about what happened, and now I have four more years to wait."— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) February 15, 2014
Regardless, the Stars and Stripes earned another valuable medal thanks to Antoine's efforts and continued their ascent toward the top spot in Sochi.
The 1,500-meter race was one of the most thrilling races of the 2014 Sochi Games. It came down to a photo finish, as Polish star Zbigniew Brodka edged Koen Verweij of the Netherlands by .003 seconds.
Adam Feuerstein of TheStreet.com was absolutely blown away by the fact that this small margin of time decided the difference between a gold and silver medal:
Difference between gold and silver in 1500m speed skating was .003 seconds. Incredible. 1:45.006 vs 1:45.009. Mind blowing.— Adam Feuerstein (@adamfeuerstein) February 15, 2014
As per Paul Myerberg of USA Today, fans in the arena had to wait until an announcement was made after a brief review, as the scoreboard in the arena only calculates results to the nearest hundredths of a second.
It was finally decided when officials determined that Brodka compiled a time of 1:45.006, while Verweij crossed the line in 1:45.009.
Third place was a bit more clear-cut, as Denny Morrison of Canada finished with a respectable and still very competitive time of 1:45.22.
It just goes to show that the smallest of mistakes can be the difference between reaching the podium and going home empty-handed, as the United States did in this competition.
Team USA switched back to their World Cup uniforms after struggling in the opening speedskating events but still placed just as poorly as they have since the start of the 2014 Winter Games.
Roxanna Scott of USA Today noted that the suits may not be the culprit for the disappointing showing:
Shani Davis, regarded as the American's best hope of capturing a gold medal in Sochi, compiled a time of 1:45.98, good for 11th out of the 40 competitors. Brian Hansen had the best showing of the Yankees, finishing in eighth with a time of 1:45.59.
There are still a handful of medal events left that the United States can target to break out of its slump, but it has to turn things around in a hurry.
Day 9 Preview
This Sunday is going to be a big one for athletes in Sochi. A handful of medal sets are up for grabs in a variety of sports that could help some of these countries at the top of the leaderboard separate from the rest of the pack.
Will you watch Day 9?
There will be finals for the men's super-G in the Alpine skiing discipline, the men's mass start in biathlon, the cross-country men's relay, the ladies' snowboard cross and the ladies' 1,500-meter speedskating.
In addition to these medal competitions, a variety of ice hockey and curling matches will take place, as well as the always-popular figure skating and bobsled.
Make sure you tune in throughout the day and check back with Bleacher Report often to find the medal standings, recaps, instant analysis and more.