What a day in Sochi.
There were photo finishes after premature celebrations. A typical result in the men's long-track was nonetheless surprising. The first-ever gold was awarded in men's ski halfpipe. A short-track relay team was vindicated.
And that was just from the events that awarded medals on Tuesday.
From beginning to end, Day 11 provided a breathless day of action. Let's recap the medal winners and take a look at the updated medal standings.
Superstar-in-the-making Mikaela Shiffrin couldn't get the United States on the podium in the women's giant slalom, finishing a respectable fifth. Instead, Tina Maze earned gold, her second in Sochi.
After the race, Shiffrin had the following perspective on her result, via David Leon Moore of USA Today:
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.
Silver medalist Anna Fenninger took her second medal of these Games—she won gold in the super-G—while Viktoria Rebensburg snagged a bronze.
|Gold||NOR||Emil Hegle Svendsen||42:29.1|
Emil Hegle Svendsen nearly blew it.
Engaged in an epic sprint to the finish with Martin Fourcade—who has already won two gold medals in these Games, mind you—Svendsen thought he had pulled away from Fourcade enough to celebrate. The only problem was that Fourcade had closed the gap and stretched his ski at the finish line to force a photo finish.
From NBC Olympics:
In the end, Svendsen just crossed the line ahead of Fourcade. But his premature celebration nearly cost him the gold, and nearly made him Norway's version of Nate Newton.
David Wise of the United States now owns a very distinct honor in Olympic history: He is the first-ever gold-medal winner in the men's ski halfpipe.
From SportsCenter on Twitter:
Mike Riddle of Canada took the silver, while France's Kevin Rolland nabbed the bronze.
|Silver||NOR||Magnus Hovdal Moan|
In arguably the most exciting finish of the day, Norway's Joergen Graabak raced a group of skiers down the stretch and earned the gold medal, just edging out fellow countryman Magnus Hovdal Moan and Fabian Riessle of Germany.
Graabak made up a 42-second deficit after the jumping portion, joining a pack of several skiers that raced into the stadium tightly bunched. Germany's Johannes Rydzek led for much of the stretch run but tragically fell on a turn, ending his chances at a medal.
The gold was Norway's first in the event since 2008, and the one-two finish was its first in 78 years.
For the second Olympics in a row, the South Koreans finished first in the 3,000-meter short-track relay. This time around, however, they'll be taking home a gold medal.
From The Associated Press, via ESPN:
Four years ago in Vancouver, the South Koreans finished first, but were disqualified, leaving the skaters weeping as China was awarded the gold.
China found itself off the medals podium in Sochi on Tuesday, crossing the finish line second but getting disqualified for impeding.
"I just feel for them," [Seung-hi] Park said through a translator. "They will have another opportunity four years later."
Shim Suk-hee passed Li Jianrou coming out of a turn on the last of 27 laps to clinch gold for her and teammates Cho Ha-ri, Kim Alang and Park, who are the world's top-ranked women's relay team. South Korea has won five of seven Olympic titles in the short track relay.
Canada took home the silver, while Italy won the bronze. But it was China's disqualification, after Yang Zhou was deemed to linger on the track too long and disrupt her opponents after pushing forward a teammate, that was the major talking point afterward.
Add that to the list of bizarre finishes in short-track speedskating—one of the most hectic and exhilarating events at the Winter Games.
Nikolay Olyunin did everything he could to catch up to Pierre Vaultier, but in the end the Frenchman was able to hold off the surging Russian.
American Alex Deibold held off teammate Trevor Jacob to earn a spot in the final and eventually the bronze. For Deibold, the medal was his reward for hustling to ensure he could continue to compete in the sport he loves.
It's hard for anyone on the U.S. team to feel anything but great for Deibold, who has never quit his day jobs of painting, construction, bike tech, you name it.
"There's definitely been times when 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," he said. "But I've never done it for the money. I've always done it for the love."
After the finish, [Nate] Holland, [Nick] Baumgartner and Jacob interlocked their arms and lifted Deibold onto a makeshift victory chariot.
"It's cool because you have Seth Wescott, Nate and Nick and all these guys who are always kind of in front of him," U.S. snowboardcross coach Peter Foley said. "But he's always right there. He puts in as much or more work than anybody. And it's cool to see it pay off. Magic."
A well-earned medal, indeed.
|Bronze||NED||Bob De Jong||13:07.19|
It wasn't a surprise that the Dutch swept the medals in the men's 10,000-meter long-track race. They've dominated speedskating at these Games, after all, earning 19 long-track medals (six of them gold) and one short-track.
Heck, it wasn't even surprising that an Olympic record was set in the process.
But it was surprising that it was the Netherlands' Jorrit Bergsma, and not Sven Kramer, who did it.
Kramer was the story coming into this race, as he had already taken a gold in Sochi and was trying to make up for a blunder in the 10,000-meter race four years ago in Vancouver, when his coach Gerard Kemkers absent-mindedly told him to skate in the wrong lane. When Kramer complied, he was disqualified.
But Bergsma wasn't particularly interested in Kramer's redemption story, telling Paul Newberry of the Associated Press, via ABC News: "I understand that people really wanted to see Sven win here. But I skate for myself. I came here to win gold. I wasn't going to give away the gold for Sven's story."
Even Bob De Jong, the bronze medalist, provided a compelling storyline. He is 37 years old, after all, making him the oldest speedskating medalist in 86 years, according to Newberry.
God bless the Dutch—they don't just dominate in short-track, they give you something to talk about, too.
Wednesday is an exciting day in Sochi, as eight gold medals will be awarded, the quarterfinals of the men's hockey tournament will take place, the semifinals of both men's and women's curling will be contested, and the women's free skate will commence.
Russia vs. Finland will be the top matchup for hockey enthusiasts, while the United States vs. the Czech Republic should be a competitive contest. If there is a day to stick to the couch and binge on these Olympics, it is Wednesday.