Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Day 11 Winners and Losers
Day 11 in Sochi saw the Olympics play a game of catch-up with the weather, as postponed events in biathlon and men's snowboard cross were finally held.
That didn't mean the weather cooperated. The Olympic debuts of American skier Mikaela Shiffrin (fifth in giant slalom) and men's freestyle skiing halfpipe were soggy ones.
Indoors, things were a little more predictable. Holland added to its speedskating prowess by sweeping the men's 10,000-meter race with Jorrit Bergsma winning gold, Sven Kramer silver and Bob de Jong bronze.
But the U.S. managed to win medals in snowboard cross (Alex Deibold, bronze) and a ski halfpipe, where David Wise took historic first gold.
Despite the weather, the U.S. has managed to win one medal a day so far in these Games. But with the hits, there were also some misses.
Winner: U.S. Women's Bobsled
American sleds are poised for a possible two medals when women’s bobsled concludes Wednesday.
Elana Meyers and Summer Olympics track star Lauryn Williams, in the USA I sled, lead the field after the first two heats, 0.23 seconds over Canada.
In USA II, Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans are in third, just 0.56 back. The third American sled, Jazmine Fenlator and track Olympian Lolo Jones, are a distant 11th.
Loser: Nate Holland, Men's Snowboard Cross
Not only did medal contender Nate Holland fail to make the finals of men's snowboard cross, he didn’t even manage to advance past the first round in a wet, rainy competition that had been delayed a day due to fog. He finished 25th overall.
Holland is a seven-time X Games champion, including winning X Games gold this year, along with a national championship. He placed fourth in this event at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 and 14th in 2006.
“The Olympic rings, these five rings, they don’t agree with me exactly, apparently,” he said, per Martha Bellisle of the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Every Olympics has ended in a fall and I felt great in all of them. They give me a lot of drive, a lot of joy while I’m here, but also a lot of heartbreak at the end of the race.”
Winner: Norway Biathlon
Norway’s angst dialed down a notch when Emil Hegle Svendsen managed to win the 15-kilometer mass start biathlon gold on Tuesday.
It didn’t make up for losing both men’s and women’s cross-country relays—to bitter rival Sweden, no less—but it will help boost the nation's psyche, which has fallen into an abyss due to poor Nordic results in Sochi.
Still, Svendsen didn’t make it pleasant, almost blowing the victory when he started celebrating too early. France’s Martin Fourcade, who has now won two golds and one silver, came from behind to nearly nip him at the finish.
Loser: Julia Mancuso, Women's Giant Slalom
Julia Mancuso leaves the Sochi Olympics on a down note, failing to finish the first of a two-run giant slalom race in wet, slushy conditions.
She does, however, still leave as the most-decorated American female in Alpine skiing at the Olympics, with four medals (Lindsey Vonn has two). Tina Maze of Slovenia won gold, adding to her downhill title, and American Mikaela Shiffrin vowed she'd learn from a fifth-place finish in her much-anticipated Olympic debut race.
Mancuso, the 2006 Olympic champion in giant slalom, hadn’t finished better than 12th in the World Cup in giant slalom this season.
She wasn’t considered a medal contender in any event coming in to Sochi, but she managed to win an unexpected bronze in the super-combined, blazing through the downhill portion and hanging on in slalom.
Winner: Alex Deibold, Men’s Snowboard Cross
Not the America expected to be on the podium, but that’s OK. Alex Deibold won bronze in the men's snowboard cross, making the final in dramatic fashion.
In the semifinal round, he had to rally to advance after he and teammate Trevor Jacobs crashed just before the finish line. Judges needed a photo finish to determine Deibold's board crossed before Jacobs' did.
Deibold won a medal despite the conventional wisdom that had Nate Holland a pre-race favorite.
Good for Deibold, who didn’t make the Olympic team in 2010, but was invited to be part of the Vancouver Games as a wax technician. He used the experience to motivate him for these Games. Nothing like waxing other guys’ boards to provide incentive.
Loser: China Women's Short-Track Relay
Not only did they get passed by South Korea on the last lap of the 27-lap, 3,000-meter short-track race, judges penalized the Chinese relay team for obstruction on the dramatic final lap.
China finished second, but the penalty pushed them to fourth and out of the medals.
Italy benefited most, moving up to win bronze. South Korea took gold and Canada silver.
South Korea's Park Seung-hi wept tears of joy after the chaotic race ended. In the 2010 Games, the opposite happened: The South Koreans crossed the finish line first but were disqualified as China won gold.
Winner: The Netherlands' Speedskating Marathon Men
There's no stopping the Netherlands in speedskating. Not in the sprints. Not in the middle distances. And certainly not in the marathon.
The boys in orange swept the podium in the 10,000-kilometer race, the final—and longest—men's individual race of the Olympics.
Jorrit Bergsma won gold, Sven Kramer silver and Bob de Jong bronze in an exclamation point to what is perhaps the most dominant team performance in one sport in any Winter Olympics.
Kramer suffered a bitter disappointment by finishing second. This is the same race in which he lost gold four years ago after being disqualified following an improper lane change.
Bergsma set a world record, smashing South Korea's Lee Seung-hoon's mark by more than 14 seconds with a time of 12 minutes, 44.45 seconds.
The Dutch completed their fourth speedskating sweep here, and have won 19 of a possible 27 medals.
Loser: German Bobsledders
Once-dominant Germany is going sideways on the bobsled track.
Not literally, but it almost seems that way.
Germany’s women’s teams are fifth, eighth and ninth after the first two of four heats in the competition. The top sled is 1.14 seconds slower than leading sled USA I, which is a ton of time in bobsled, where hundredths of a second separate teams.
The nation’s bobsled woes extend to the men’s team, shut out of the Olympic two-man medals Monday for only the second time since 1964, per The Associated Press (via ABC News). Germany finished eighth, 11th and 15th, with the four-man race still to come.
Winner: David Wise, Men's Freestyle Ski Halfpipe
American David Wise won the first Olympic gold in ski halfpipe, but had to sweat it out after hitting the lip of the pipe on his first jump.
Wise had to wait to see if Canadian Justin Dorey, ranked world No. 1, was going to beat him.
Dorey fell, and Wise had his gold. Mike Riddle of Canada won silver and France’s Kevin Rolland took bronze.
Wise was a favorite to win the event, but fog and wet conditions made it anyone’s game. He was nicknamed the "undude" by The New York Times, as he was married at 20 and works as a youth pastor. But he has to be considered more of a “dude” now, winning historic gold.
Losers: Justin Dorey, Torin Yater-Wallace and Lyman Currier
World No. 1 Justin Dorey of Canada fell halfway through what might have been a gold-medal final run, finishing 12th, but he wasn’t the only one to suffer on a wet night in the halfpipe.
The U.S. team was considered deep enough to contend for a 1-2-3 sweep of medals in this event, but just one, David Wise, managed to medal.
Granted, he won gold. But teammates Torin Yater-Wallace and Lyman Currier failed to even make it out of qualifying, both falling on their initial runs. The 19-year-old Currier, sadly, suffered a torn ACL on his second run, per Lindsay H. Jones and Rachel Axon of USA Today.
Winner: Norway's Nordic Combined Team
Norway, the birthplace of Nordic combined, won gold and silver in the large-hill event for its first 1-2 finish in the event in 78 years.
Joergen Graabak won gold and Magnus Moan won silver. Graabak, a late add to the Olympic team as a large-hill specialist, is the first Olympic winner for Norway since the 1998 Games in Nagano.
Apparently, both Graabak and Moan felt more than comfortable in the otherwise questionable conditions on Tuesday. Per Reuters (via NBCOlympics.com), "We're a bit used to this kind of weather in Trondheim - rain and a bit grey," Graabak, 22, said. "We were discussing this in the car on the way to the arena today that it was a bit like home, and I guess we took advantage."
Norway has won more Olympic medals in this event, 12, than any other country.
It almost had a tie for first. Moan crossed the finish just 0.6 seconds behind Graabak. Germany’s Fabian Riessle took bronze, just 1.6 seconds back.
Loser: Lolo Jones, Bobsled
Brakewoman Lolo Jones and driver Jazmine Fenlator are in 11th place, well behind the U.S. team’s top two sleds, following two heats of bobsled. The event concludes Wednesday with two more runs.
USA I’s team of Elana Meyers and Olympic Summer Games track medalist Lauryn Williams leads the race, with USA II in third, with Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans aboard.
Jones, an Olympic hurdler, was a controversial pick for the Olympic team. Some members of the national team said they felt she was picked for publicity reasons. While Fenlator and Jones were not medal contenders, it was expected they’d be faster than 11th.
The final two runs will tell.
Winner: Tina Maze, Women's Giant Slalom
Tina Maze managed to ski faster than anyone else through two runs in rain and on mushy snow to add a second gold to her downhill win.
Her wire-to-wire victory was impressive, and she celebrated by belly-flopping into the wet snow and performing the breaststroke.
Maze, of Slovenia, is the first woman since Swiss skier Marie-Teres Nadig in 1972 to win the Olympic downhill and giant slalom in the same Games (per ESPN.com). The double is rare because the two events take radically different skills—sheer speed and big turns in downhill, and tighter, more technical turns in giant slalom.
Teenage star-in-the-making Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. placed fifth in her Olympic debut.