Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Day 9 Winners and Losers
The ninth day of competition in Sochi was a fun one from start to finish.
There was nonstop drama in the snowboard cross event, as a favorite fell and a mustached heroine emerged.
Elsewhere, the Dutch dominance and American agony continued on the speedskating track, a biathlon event was postponed due to inclement weather and the American alpine skiing team finally put it together.
As Sochi soars into the final week of competition, it's becoming more and more difficult to keep up with all the happenings. Keep clicking for your Day 9 cheat sheet.
Winner: U.S. Alpine Team
Finally, thanks to the super-G, the U.S. Alpine skiing team has a reason to smile.
Through the first eight days of competition, Team USA only managed to win one Alpine medal, a bronze by Julia Mancuso in the super combined. The men, led by Bode Miller and Ted Ligety, had been majorly disappointing.
But on Sunday, an emotional Miller took the bronze—a record-setting sixth Olympic medal for an American Alpine skier. He shared the podium with surprise silver medalist Andrew Weibrecht, a 28-year-old who won the bronze in this event in Vancouver, but had struggled mightily since.
Together they gave the Alpine team a boost. With the slalom and giant slalom events coming up, the U.S. outlook is good for Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin to medal. Things are certainly looking up.
Loser: Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR)—Alpine Skiing: Super-G
One of the biggest upsets of these Games so far is that Aksel Lund Svindal, the Norwegian Alpine star, still doesn't have a medal.
That continued on Sunday in the super-G, the event that Svindal was most heavily favored in. He had won six of the last nine super-G World Cup races that he'd entered, but in Sochi, he could only manage a seventh-place finish.
Overall, he's been fourth in downhill and sixth in the super combined, a long way from the podiums he was supposed to frequent. Only the technical slaloms remain, and time is running out to salvage this Olympic experience.
Winner: Phil Kessel (USA)—Men's Hockey
There was no letdown for the U.S. men's hockey team the day after their dramatic win over Russia. You can thank Phil Kessel for that.
The right wing scored a hat trick in Team USA's 5-1 rout over Sweden, including two in the first period.
Overall, Kessel has four goals and three assists during the Games and has helped lead the U.S. team to a 3-0 record that gives them a bye into the semifinals.
David Backes, the center of the U.S. team, told Kevin Allen of USA Today that the team is riding Kessel's coattails right now.
"He's a guy who is pouring them in the net and when you have a guy like that, you ride him as long as you can," Backes said.
Loser: Norwegian Men's Cross-Country Team
Norway has always been known for its cross-country prowess, but that reputation has taken quite a hit in Sochi.
Sure, they have seven individual medals in cross-country events, but the deep team was supposed to sweep the relay events as well. In fact, The Associated Press predicted them to take the gold in three of the four cross-country team events.
But a day after the women finished a shocking fifth in the 4x5-kilometer relay, the men finished fourth in the 4x10 and had to watch the Swedish team celebrate on the top of the podium.
According to the AP, the Norwegians blamed their skis for the failures in the race:
'I've been working very hard for many years to do well here. When the skis are that bad, it's just awful,' said Chris Andre Jespersen, who went the second leg for Norway. 'It's a horrible feeling. I'm angry, but I did everything I could.'
Winner: Eva Samkova (CZE)—Snowboard Cross
Eva Samkova absolutely stole the show in the women's snowboard cross event on Sunday, and she took the gold medal along with her.
The 20-year-old from the Czech Republic dominated from start to finish, and as the favorites tumbled, she was able to ride aggressively and stay on her board to cross the finish line first and become an Olympic champion.
To make things even more awesome, she did it all with a mustache painted above her lip for good luck. Apparently she's been doing this since 2011 because it's fun for her.
Hey, whatever works—everything looks good with a gold medal.
Loser: Lindsey Jacobellis (USA)—Snowboard Cross
It happened again.
Lindsey Jacobellis has been synonymous with Olympic disappointment for the past eight years, and that continued on Sunday, as she fell in her semifinal heat and failed to make it to the medal race in her signature event, snowboard cross.
Jacobellis has been the gold-medal favorite in the last three Olympics, but only has one silver medal to show for it. That was from 2006, when the then 20-year-old showboated at the end of the final that she was leading, fell and lost her gold medal. In Vancouver, Jacobellis crashed out in the semifinals as well.
Despite a dominating eight golds at the X Games in this event and three world championship titles, Jacobellis will once again go home without Olympic gold.
Winner: Dutch Women Speedskaters
This might be getting repetitive, but it's impossible not to continue lauding the Dutch speedskating dominance. It's just that incredible.
This time it was the female speedskaters ruling the rink, as all four women from the Netherlands finished above the rest of the field in the 1,500 meters. It was the third podium sweep in Sochi for the Dutch, the first by women.
Jorien Ter Mors jumped for joy as she took the gold medal in Olympic-record time. She is a former short-track star who only picked up long-track two years ago.
Joining her on the podium was Ireen Wust, who has now won three medals in Sochi, and Lotte Van Beek. Their teammate, Marrit Leenstra, finished in fourth.
Loser: U.S. Speedskating Team
This is about so much more than just the suits.
At this point, the Sochi Games are completely unsalvageable for the American speedskaters even if they do manage to eke out a medal in a relay. It simply wasn't supposed to come down to that.
The latest blow came for the women, as they all failed to medal in the 1,500 meters. Heather Richardson—who was supposed to have a breakout Olympics but will go home without an individual medal—finished seventh, over four seconds behind the leader. Brittany Bowe finished 14th.
They were both wearing the old Under Armour suits, the ones they wore when they had so much success on the international circuit earlier in the season. It didn't help.
Now, the entire speedskating team will have to wait another four years for redemption, if it comes at all.
Figure skating has triple axels and quadruple loops. Ice dancing has twizzles.
If you tuned into the first day of the ice-dancing competition to watch the short programs, you likely heard that word a lot. That's because it was a big day for twizzles, an intricate move in ice dancing that can make or break a program.
Eric Freeman of Yahoo Sports explains the component in detail:
For a twizzle, a skater executes a one-foot turn and also moves across the ice, keeping the turning movement continuous....
When looking at twizzles, judges assess the difficulty of the position, the closeness of the partners to each other, and various other factors.
Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White had perfect twizzles on Sunday, earning them a score of 78.89 and a first-place position headed into the free skate on Monday. Canadians and defending champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir closely trail them in second place. Their short-program twizzles were on point as well.
The first bobsled medals will be handed out on Monday, but so far in Sochi, the story of the sport has been crashes and letdowns.
On Saturday, the top U.S. women's sled was damaged after a fast practice run, and they had to take the rest of the training day off for repairs.
On Sunday, the bobsled troubles continued. The Brazilian women's team was in a horrific crash in training that involved a sled flip. Thankfully, they walked away from the incident and will be able to compete on Tuesday.
Also, the much-loved Jamaican team finished in last place in both of their runs in the first day of the two-man bobsled competition. Jamaican pilot Winston Watts' visor even broke off at the beginning of his second run—nothing went their way.
With the Jamaicans, Lolo Jones and plenty of World Cup winners taking part in bobsledding in Sochi, the hype for the event was at a fever pitch. But unfortunately, it's off to a rocky start.
Yeah...that doesn't look so good.
The men's biathlon 15-kilometer mass start was supposed to happen on Sunday morning in Sochi, but the fog was so bad that it was postponed first until later in the afternoon, and later all the way until Monday at 1 a.m. ET.
Hopefully then the conditions will be safer and saner for the athletes.
There are a lot of great storylines in the event, as Martin Fourcade of France seeks his third gold medal in Sochi and Ole Einar Bjoerndalen or Norway attempts to become the most decorated athlete in Winter Olympic history.
But for now, the only winner is the fog.
Loser: John Shuster (USA)—Men's Curling
Once again, it all came down to the very end for the U.S. men's curling team. Once again, they didn't have what it takes.
The men joined the out-of-contention U.S. women on Sunday when they lost to the team from Canada 8-6. It all came down to the final shot, but skip John Shuster's draw shot just didn't quite have it.
The U.S. curling team has only won two matches in Sochi, and they can no longer advance to the medal round. For a group that came into Sochi hoping to sneak onto the podium, it was a devastating defeat.
It certainly wasn't the ending that Shuster had hoped for—if only he could have that last shot back.