Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Biggest Surprises from Day 11
Since it's Day 11 of the Sochi Games, many of these athletes have several runs over their respective courses. Many have medals. So, one may think, surprises won't be as likely this late in the Games since the athletes have had time to settle in and let the nerves dissipate.
Not so on Tuesday.
A heavy gold-medal favorite hit the wall, as did a contender. The Chinese won a medal and then lost it. The U.S. bobsled team set two records, and an American who spends much of his time waxing snowboards can now spend that time buffing his new medal.
Read on for all of those surprises and more from Day 11 in Sochi.
Gold-Medal Hopeful Hamelin Crashes in Qualifying
Charles Hamelin, who already has a gold medal in these Sochi Games in the 1,500 meters, was the favorite to defend his Vancouver gold in the short-track 500 meters. Instead, he crashed, skidding along the ice and smashing into the padded walls of the arena.
His untimely exit in the qualifying heat of the 500 opens the door in an event where he was all but assured to secure the gold medal. Afterward, he said, via TheStar.com:
I don't know what happened. I could feel my skate give out a little bit. It's like the ice was breaking under my blades just then, but everything up until that moment was really smooth. Short track can be a rude sport. It doesn't take much to make a person fall. My gold medal will be my memory. I've felt great this whole Games. It's been a great experience.
Hamelin also crashed in the 1,000 meters, which was another event he was favored to medal.
Shiffrin off the Podium in Giant Slalom
Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States is the world's No. 1 skier in slalom at the age of 18, but her Olympic debut didn't go quite as planned. The field was deep, but despite that she was expected to medal.
Instead, she finished fifth.
Tina Maze threw down punishing runs to win the slalom, with Anna Fenninger taking silver and Viktoria Rebensburg winning bronze.
Shiffrin is the defending world champion in slalom and, despite finishing fifth, skied like one. The problem was that she had to contend with a skier in Maze, who already has a gold under her belt at these games in the downhill.
Confidence is a killer.
Shiffrin made an honorable Olympic debut but still fell short of the expectations begat by her own precocious abilities. How precocious? Read what she said, per USA Today's David Leon Moore:
I wanted a gold, but I think this was meant to happen. I believe I wasn't going to win my first World Cup slalom until I was ready, because if I won it a minute early I wouldn't be able to continue to win. I think it's the same with GS. I was really thinking that my first GS win would be at the Olympics, and that would be such a cool thing to accomplish. But it's something I accept. I got fifth today. There are four girls who skied better that I did.
She still has a shot at the slalom, where she is also a favorite.
China Penalized, Stripped of Silver Medal in Women's 3,000 Meters
The Chinese women's 3,000-meter short-track speedskating relay team, led by Kexin Fan, appeared to have the silver medal locked up. Their neighbors to the south, South Korea, had won gold. South Korea and China going one-two in short-track would not be a surprise.
But when the Chinese were penalized for not getting out of the way in time, officials dropped them from silver to fourth. It was a crushing verdict for a country that is very proud about its speedskating.
Canada moved up to silver, and Italy was awarded the bronze.
Deibold Seizes Bronze Medal in Cross
Alex Deibold, a 27-year-old whose best finish was 26th in the 2011 FIS World Championships, was the only American in the big final of the snowboard cross on Tuesday, and he came away with the bronze.
It was a photo finish for gold and silver, with gold going to France's Pierre Vaultier and silver going to Russia's Nikolay Olyunin.
Many of the America favorites in cross didn't advance through qualifying, but Deibold carried all their hopes on his back and won the medal.
He has had to wax boards, being low on the snowboarding totem pole. All that hard work and grudge work paid off. He said afterward, per USA Today's Lindsay Jones:
There's definitely been times where I've doubted where I'm at. At the end of the season, when you're broke and trying to figure out how you're going to pay rent and figure that out, I've never done it for the money. I've always done it for the love, and to do something that I love every day is a really fortunate thing for me. I know how lucky I am to be here.
Alvarez Goes Down Again
Eduardo Alvarez, short-track speedskater for the U.S., bit it in the 500-meter heats. He had fallen twice already in these Games, but he could have threatened in the 500. It was the event he was most looking forward to, per ABC News.
He has a third-place finish in a World Cup in the 500, and to see him go down again puts all the pressure on J.R. Celski. Alvarez shouldn't feel too bad. After all, the gold-medal favorite, Charles Hamelin, crashed as well.
"I tested out most of (the pads) this week," Alvarez said, according to ABC News. "Who hit the pads more than me? Do you get a medal for that?"
U.S. Women's Bobsled Sets Start and Track Record
Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams, the U.S. No. 1 women's two-man bobsled team, were one of the favorites heading into Tuesday's competition, but in case people failed to take notice, they let their time do the screaming.
On the first run, the pair set a start record and a track record to send a message to all those chasing them: Only the silver medal is up for debate.
The start record went in a time of 5.14 seconds, and their overall time in Heat 1 was good for 57.26 seconds.
For all the hype that was shoveled toward Lolo Jones (who is on USA No. 3 and a Summer Games track star), Meyers and Williams took the day.
Olympic Record for Maltais in 1,000-Meter Qualifying
When 32 racers were cut down to 18 in the women's 1,000-meter short-track qualifying, it was Canada's Valerie Maltais who stood above them all.
The 23-year-old set an Olympic record with a time of 1 minute, 28.771 seconds. Many of her competitors, including South Korea's Suk Hee Shim, Italy's Arianna Fontana and China's Kexin Fan, also advanced.
It could have been her heat, but being forced to go that hard could have negative implications as the 1,000-meter race plays out Saturday. Still, she has several days to rest up and will have the confidence that comes with being the fastest in the world at something, even if it is just for four more days.
Yater-Wallace Crashes out of Halfpipe
Torin Yater-Wallace, an X Games champion in the ski superpipe, crashed during qualifying for the ski halfpipe.
The crash ranked him 26th of 28 skiers in the competition, and he failed to advance to the finals. He was expected to be a serious threat to medal. Where he stumbled, his teammate David Wise excelled, winning the gold over Canada's Mike Riddle.
Throwing salt in the proverbial wound, Yater-Wallace then tweeted that he locked himself out of his room.
Norway's Svendsen Nearly Blows Biathlon
Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen nearly blew the finish to the men's 15-kilometer mass start in biathlon on Tuesday. He hit all his targets, and coming down the lane, he threw his hands in the air. He didn't know just how close France's Martin Fourcade was.
Even though he says he did, per The Associated Press, via the Boston Herald.
Their finishing time was officially the same—42:29.1—but Svendsen didn't miss his targets, while Fourcade missed once. That one hiccup cost him valuable time and ultimately the gold medal.
The two are friendly rivals, and for this to come down to the final inches after skiing and shooting for 15 kilometers made for a memorable finish.
Latvia Ice Hockey Beats the Swiss
Latvia, one of the weaker teams in ice hockey group play, defeated Switzerland, 3-1, on Tuesday.
The Swiss have two wins heading into the elimination round by riding strong goaltending from Jonas Hiller (66 saves) and Reto Berra (30 saves). They have only scored three goals all tournament, so they've been leaning on the goalies to keep the games close.
Punching in three goals was impressive for the Latvians. However, the win pits Latvia against Canada in the quarterfinals.