On Day 13, the 2014 Sochi Games reached a fever pitch, with the women taking center stage.
Separated by about an hour, the Olympics produced two stunning results: a dazzling women's hockey game, won by Canada in overtime, and a new figure skating champion, Russia's first ladies' Olympic gold medalist in the sport.
Before that, there was a historic sweep by the French men in ski cross, Canada gold in women's curling, and the Olympics' first women's ski halfpipe event.
Norway took team gold in Nordic combined by a toenail, and a U.S. speedskater pulled back on criticizing her own federation.
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In a game that was unrivaled when it came to high-stakes drama on Day 13, Canada rallied from two goals down in the third period to tie in the closing minute, then handed the Americans a devastating overtime loss.
The common denominator in both goals? Marie-Philip Poulin.
Poulin gave Canada its own miracle on ice, tallying the tying goal, then scoring on a 4-on-3 power play in OT after Canada’s Hayley Wickenheiser was pulled down on a breakaway midway through the extra period.
Poulin is familiar with putting the dagger into the U.S. team’s heart. She scored the game-winner in Canada’s gold-medal victory in 2010, played before Canada’s home crowd in Vancouver.
The game extended a 20-game winning streak for Canada at the Olympics, where it has won gold four consecutive years.
It did not seem possible.
Up 2-0, with less than four minutes left in the game, the U.S. seemed destined to finally break an Olympic skid against bitter nemesis, Canada.
The U.S. hadn’t won gold since the inaugural women’s tournament in 1998.
This time was different. The Americans finally had Canada’s number, had finally solved them, winning the most recent world title and four straight coming into the Olympics. Sure, they lost by a goal in the prelims, but that was to be a blip on the way to the podium’s top step.
Then, with 3 minutes, 26 seconds remaining, Canada made it 2-1. Surely, the U.S. would hold on, though.
No. For a second time in two Olympics, the U.S. was bedeviled by Marie-Philip Poulin, who scored not only the tying mark but the winner in overtime, ending a 4-on-3 power play and a true Olympic thriller.
It was a stunning French sweep of the podium, reportedly France's first sweep at a Winter Olympics, and the nation's first Olympic 1-2-3 since men’s gymnastics in 1924.
World champion Jean-Frederic Chapuis took gold, Arnaud Bovolenta won silver and Jonathan Midol captured bronze in one of the most exciting events on the Olympic calendar.
Canada’s Brady Lehman, a late addition to the Olympic team, was the remaining finalist.
One quarterfinal heat was notable for a sprawling three-way photo finish, with Russia’s Egor Korotkov advancing and eventually finishing fifth.
Chapuis’ gold gives France just four golds in Sochi.
The team that finished with four history-making medals at the 2010 Games goes home empty-handed after finishing sixth in the team event, the final Nordic combined competition of the Games.
The U.S. team of Bill Demong, Opening Ceremony flag-bearer Todd Lodwick, and Taylor and Bryan Fletcher had high hopes for the team event, where they won silver in Vancouver.
Instead, Norway won gold in a dramatic ski comeback, Germany took silver and Austria bronze.
Lodwick was coping with a separated shoulder and other injuries from a January training accident, and Demong has been hampered by a cold.
Norway’s finishing kick at the Olympics continues with team gold in Nordic combined (ski jump, then cross-country ski race) won with an impressive ski leg.
Norway was a distant third after the morning jump, but rallied from a 25-second deficit in the 4x5-kilometer relay to win.
It needed a photo finish for gold, with Joergen Graabak edging Fabian Riessle of Germany by 0.3 seconds. Defending champion Austria, 3.4 seconds back, won bronze.
Graabak’s 100-meter sprint got him to the finish line first, but Norway can thank ski specialist Magnus Krog for blazing through the course to make up a huge 25-second lead and catch Germany on the relay’s first leg.
The team celebrated with belly-flop slides at the bottom of the ski jump hill.
Defending champions U.S. finished a disappointing sixth.
With this gold and Graabak’s earlier in the individual large-hill competition, Norway leads the gold-medal count in Sochi with 10.
With their country exploding into bloody turmoil against President Viktor Yanukovych, some Ukrainian Olympians have pulled out of Olympic competition, said a spokesman with the International Olympic Committee.
The uprising will likely have a dire effect on Ukraine’s bid to host the 2022 Olympics. A host city will be decided in 2015.
Matsotska, 24, had already competed in super-G and giant slalom. She will not compete in slalom. She is the first Ukrainian confirmed to have pulled out of the Games.
A 4-3 upset victory by Switzerland over Sweden might help counter questions about the lack of depth in women’s hockey worldwide.
The bronze-medal game is usually an afterthought, with perennial Olympic gold-medal contenders U.S. and Canada predictably battling for the title for the fourth time.
But fans of the women’s game had unexpected drama here as underdog Switzerland rallied with four third-period goals after a 2-0 deficit.
Jessica Lutz scored with 6:17 left to make it 3-2, and 15-year-old Alina Muller netted an empty-net goal for 4-2.
Sweden, the 2006 silver medalist, made it interesting, scoring with less than a minute left for the 4-3 final.
Swiss players didn't want to leave the ice, lingering well after the game.
Team Canada’s John Tavares is out for the Olympics and the NHL season after suffering tears to the MCL and meniscus in his left knee during Canada’s 2-1 quarterfinal victory over Latvia.
Canada and the U.S. are set to play the Olympic semifinal Friday.
But the Islanders will be hurting more than Canada with Tavares’ loss. With 66 points in 59 games, Tavares is the NHL’s third-leading scorer and was key to the Islanders’ playoff hopes after a bad skid coming into the Olympic break.
Tavares, 23, is something of an Iron Man in the NHL, playing in 350 of 354 games in his career with New York. No doubt his injury, and that of several others, will be used as fodder for NHL owners arguing for the league to stay out of future Olympics.
Canada is curling, the nation’s most popular sport behind hockey.
But the women’s team hadn’t won the Olympics’ grand prize in four tries, taking bronze in 2002 and 2006, then silver in 2010 on home ice.
Finally, our neighbors to the north have reason to really cheer.
Canada took an undefeated record at Sochi into the gold-medal match, winning 6-3 over Sweden for the Olympic title.
With Jennifer Jones at the helm, Canada led by one point through the ninth end, when it opened up a three-point lead and clinched the match in the 10th.
Great Britain rallied to defeat Switzerland for the bronze medal, 6-5, for Great Britain’s third medal of the Sochi Olympics.
U.S. speedskater Maria Lamb apologized on her blog Thursday for blasting the American speedskating federation, but said she was weary and frustrated by poor performances from all the talented American skaters in Sochi.
Lamb told the media (per The Associated Press via ESPN) the new speed suits were just “the tip of the iceberg” as far as problems with the federation.
American speedskaters, both short and long track, have not won a medal at the Sochi Games with only Saturday’s men’s and women’s team pursuit events left in long track. Short track holds its final three events on Friday, with men’s 500-meter individual and 5,000-meter relay races, along with the women’s 1,000-meter race.
The U.S. team was projected to win 10 medals here, with the biggest disappointment being Shani Davis, a two-time gold medalist in the 1,000-meter race coming into Sochi. He finished eighth in the race.
Top medal prospects Heather Richardson, Brittany Bowe and short-track’s J.R. Celski are empty-handed so far.
Lamb made the comments after the women’s 5,000-meter race on Wednesday, when she finished last.
“Maybe if you gave her five minutes to cool down and have some Power Bars and water, then maybe she wouldn't have said what she said," said Davis (via the AP).
She’s the surprise Olympic gold medalist, in an upset over "The Queen," South Korea's Yuna Kim, who looked in good shape to win her second-straight Olympic gold after a flawless short program.
Instead, it was Sotnikova who wound up golden, with a more technically difficult program featuring seven triples, five in combination, compared to Kim's six triples (three in combination). In the first week of the Sochi Olympics, Sotnikova had to have felt like an afterthought.
Everyone was buzzing about countrywoman Julia Lipnitskaia, who at 15 years old and with a history-making European Championship on her resume, had captured the hearts of Russian figure skating fans with a breakout team skating performance that helped Russia to early gold.
Then, when the ladies’ competition loomed, talk was all about Yuna Kim and how she could make history, becoming just the third woman to repeat.
But Sotnikova was lurking. Her technical score in the short program was actually slightly higher than Kim’s. She was skating the best she ever had, and before a home crowd that had never seen a Russian ladies' figure skating champion at the Olympics.
Sotnikova used her relative dark-horse status to skate freely and brilliantly, and when it was over, she put her hand to her mouth as if she couldn’t believe it herself.
Kim wound up winning silver and Carolina Kostner took bronze, Italy’s first Olympic medal in ladies' figure skating.
U.S. skaters performed admirably with Gracie Gold in fourth, Ashley Wagner finishing seventh and Polina Edmunds ninth.
Yuna Kim should not feel like a loser, as she skating cleanly in the free skate. But her skate did not have the usual effervescence or jump height, a telltale sign of tightness—an unusual sight for the defending gold medalist.
Kim led after a superb short program that pointed to nothing but eventual gold.
That opened the door just enough for Adelina Sotnikova, the first Russian to win ladies Olympic gold.
Attempting to become the first back-to-back Olympic champion since Germany’s Katerina Witt (1984, 1988), Kim was pitted against a Russian crowd and Russian skater with nothing to lose.
She made no obvious mistakes, but her face did not register surprise when the marks were announced and the Iceberg Palace, predictably, exploded with cheers.
Kim had performed remarkably well in the short program, in spite of a year-and-a-half absence from skating. But she proved just how difficult it is to successfully defend Olympic gold in ladies' figure skating, with only Witt and the sport’s first star, Sonja Henie, able to pull off the feat.
Top American Maddie Bowman won gold in the first women’s Olympic ski halfpipe competition, dominating France's silver medalist Marie Martinod and Ayana Onozuka of Japan, who won bronze.
Bowman had the top score after her first run, with an 85.80, but she still went for it in her second run, scoring an 89.00 to take a commanding lead. Martinod's best score was in her second run, with an 84.80. Bowman's gold completes an American sweep in the high-flying event, after David Wise won the men’s competition.
Bowman, 20, of South Lake Tahoe, and others in the field paid tribute to freestyle skier Sarah Burke, the Canadian who dominated the sport and played a big role in its inclusion on the Olympic calendar. Burke died after a halfpipe crash in 2012.
Americans Brita Sigourney was sixth, Annalisa Drew was ninth and Angeli VanLaanen finished 11th.
The competition was marred by crashes, including one by Sigourney, who was in medal contention until a fall in her first finals run in the 22-foot halfpipe sent Bowman running up the halfpipe to her aid. Sigourney was OK enough for a second run.
Frenchwoman Anais Caradeux’s hard crash was the scariest. She received attention in the medical tent after she slammed into the ice. Caradeux later said she had been knocked unconscious for about 10 to 15 seconds.