Sochi Winter Olympics 2014: Day 15 Winners and Losers
Day 15 may be remembered as a fairly unpleasant one for Team USA when the story of the 2014 Winter Olympics is finally written.
The Americans let a couple of chances get away Saturday, as the men's hockey team allowed the bronze-medal game to get out of hand, United States speedskaters failed to get off the schneid and Team USA's best hope for a final medal in alpine skiing did not finish the course.
Worldwide, however, a few fortunes proved much brighter.
Here's a look at the winners and losers from Day 15 in Sochi.
Winners: Teemu Selanne and Finland
Paced by two goals from 43-year-old captain Teemu Selanne Saturday, Finland bowled over the United States 5-0 in the bronze-medal game of the 2014 Olympic men's hockey tournament.
The victory earned the Finns their fifth medal in the last six Olympics and sent packing an American team that had arguably been the most impressive in the tournament, right up until the two games that mattered the most.
En route to becoming the oldest medal winner in Olympics hockey history, Selanne scored on a backhand shot early in the second period and again as part of a trio of power-play goals by Finland during a seven-minute span in the third.
Finnish goalie Tuukka Rask stopped 27 American shots, and his country's offense got additional goals from Jussi Jokinen, Juuso Hietanen and Olli Maatta.
Though it came at the cost of considerable American heartbreak, it was hard not to feel happy for Selanne, skating in what will likely be his final Olympics.
Losers: Team USA
Perhaps it was just a hangover from Friday.
A day after dropping a bitter 1-0 defeat to Canada in the semifinals of the 2014 Olympic men's hockey tournament, the powerful United States squad couldn't find its stride against Finland Saturday, losing 5-0 in the bronze-medal game.
For the United States, it meant all the promise of a stellar preliminary round went unfulfilled for the second time in the last three Winter Games as Team USA will go home without a medal.
“My job is to stop the puck, and I didn’t do that very well,” United States goalie Jonathan Quick said after the loss, via Mike Halford of NBC Sports. “Team effort. We weren’t good.”
Patrick Kane missed two penalty tries, and the Americans were unable to get any of their 27 shots past Finnish goalie Tuukka Rask.
After scoring 20 goals during its first four games in Sochi, Team USA exited Olympic play on the heels of back-to-back shutouts.
The United States now has not medaled in men's hockey outside of North America since 1972.
Winner: Dutch Dominance
There may not have been a nation as dominant in any single sport at the 2014 Winter Olympics as the Netherlands was in the long-track speedskating events.
During two weeks in Sochi, the Dutch captured 23 speedskating medals, accounting for all but one of the country's total haul of 24.
The Netherlands added an exclamation point to that skating brilliance Saturday, as both the men's and women's teams set Olympic records and won gold in team pursuit.
The women's team of Ireen Wust, Marrit Leenstra and Jorien ter Mors coasted home with a time of two minutes, 58.05 seconds, besting silver medalist Poland's time of 3:05.55 by 7.5 seconds. Russia took the bronze (2:59.73).
The victory made Wurst just the 10th athlete in Winter Games history to win five medals in a single Olympics. Perhaps the biggest surprise of this event was that the Dutch women had never medaled in it before.
On the men's side, Jan Blokhuijsen, Sven Kramer and Koen Verweij bested game challenges from Korea and Poland to finish with a record-breaking time of 3:37.71. Korea was just over three seconds back at 3:40.85, while Poland clocked in at 3:41.94.
Loser: Dutch Speedskating Coach Jillert Anema
The United States wrapped up a disastrous showing in Olympic speedskating Saturday, taking seventh and sixth, respectively, in men's and women's team pursuit. For the first time in 30 years, Team USA will go without a medal in long-track speedskating at the Winter Games.
While the Americans leave Sochi looking for someone or something to blame for the historically poor showing, Dutch speedskating coach Jillert Anema thinks he knows the culprit: American football.
"You have a lot of attention for a foolish sport like American football," Anema said during an appearance on CNBC. "You waste a lot of athletic talent in a sport where it's meant to kill each other, to injure each other...and when you compete once every four years and you think with a few lone wolves who are skating, you can't beat the world? It's no way you can do that."
Anema didn't seem to mind kicking Team USA while it was down, blasting the Americans for a lack of infrastructure in traditional winter sports like speedskating while lavishing attention on football, a sport that he said "sucks."
"You won't beat us," he continued. "Not in four years, not in eight years...when you don't change."
Anema's outburst makes it seem like the winning coach could benefit from a particular saying common in American football: Act like you've been there before.
Winners: Norway, Norway and Norway
Norway’s supremacy in cross-country skiing soared to new heights Saturday, as teammates Marit Bjoergen, Therese Johaug and Kristin Stoermer Steira swept the medal stand in women's cross-country 30-kilometer freestyle.
It was the first time in Winter Olympics history three Norwegian women have won all three medals in a single event, and it wasn’t close.
Bjoergen, Johaug and Steira led the entire way, leaving the competition in their wake to make it a three-way race down the stretch.
Bjoergen pulled away on the event's final uphill, earning her 10th overall Olympic medal. Johaug was second, while Steira took the bronze.
"It's incredible," Bjoergen said, via the BBC. “I thought it would be hard but I've felt good. I knew that I am stronger in the sprints, so I was waiting for them to attack on the last climb.”
The 33-year-old is now one of just three women in history to win 10 overall medals at the Winter Olympics. With six golds to her credit, she is the most decorated female athlete in Winter Games history.
Loser: Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland
After she won gold in Sochi in the women's cross-country 10-kilometer classical race, many expected Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk to break up the all-Norwegian party Saturday in the 30-km freestyle.
Kowalczyk is a five-time Olympic medalist, and her rivalry with Norway's Marit Bjoergen is storied and well established after Kowalczyk edged Bjoergen for gold on the home stretch of the 30-km classical in Vancouver in 2010. Kowalczyk came into Saturday's competition as Bleacher Report's official pick for the gold.
Unfortunately, it wasn't to be.
Kowalczyk had managed to win gold in the 10-km race despite skiing with a fractured foot, but the 30-km proved too much for her. She pulled out midway through when she was already 30 seconds behind the leaders.
Winner: Austria's Julia Dujmovits
Julia Dujmovits of Austria made things interesting for herself Saturday in the final of the inaugural women's parallel slalom snowboarding competition.
Dujmovits, the silver medalist in the event during the 2013 FIS World Championships, went into her final run in Sochi trailing Germany's Anke Karstens by 0.72 seconds.
The last run was also a nail-biter, as more than once it seemed Dujmovits would lose her edge and slip further behind Karstens' time. Instead, she kept her head and maintained her balance, eventually chasing down Karstens and nabbing one of Austria's four gold medals of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Karstens finished second, while her German teammate, Amelie Kober, took bronze.
Loser: Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen
Disaster struck the mighty Norwegian men's 4x7.5-kilometer biathlon relay team Saturday.
As the defending Olympic champions, most assumed the Norwegians would repeat as gold medalists, but they fell out of medal contention completely when anchor Emil Hegle Svendsen missed three targets during his final round of shooting.
That forced Svendsen to ski a 150-meter penalty lap, and the Norwegians conceded the lead they'd held for much of the race. Instead, a Russian team skiing without previous medalist Evgeniy Garanichev edged Germany and Austria for the gold.
Svendsen's miscues cost Norway its chance of a second straight gold and also denied 40-year-old teammate Ole Einar Bjoerndalen what would have been a record ninth career gold medal in the Winter Olympics.
Norway finished fourth.
Winner: Russia's Vic Wild
In addition to being the runaway winner for best name in Sochi, Russia's Vic Wild became the first-ever snowboarder to win two gold medals at the same Olympics Saturday, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
Wild's trip to the 2014 Winter Games was already golden after his first-place finish in parallel giant slalom Wednesday, and now he can add gold in the parallel slalom to his tour diary as well.
It did not come easy, though.
Wild ended his first run of the semifinals trailing Austria's Benjamin Karl by 1.12 seconds. In the second run, however, he beat Karl to the finish line, knocking the four-time world champion out of competition and advancing to the final.
Wild had never defeated Karl prior to Saturday's race.
"I thought this would be a great place to beat him for the first time," he told The Associated Press, via Fox Sports. "It's one of the best experiences I ever had on the snowboard."
In the final, the native of White Salmon, Wash., bested Slovenia's Zan Kosir by .11 seconds.
The victory not only gave Wild two golds, but it also validated his 2011 decision to leave the United States and become a Russian citizen after marrying fellow snowboarder Alena Zavarzina.
Loser: Benjamin Karl of Austria
Olympic gold continues to elude Benjamin Karl.
The 28-year-old Austrian snowboarder has won four FIS World Championships—two each in parallel slalom and parallel giant slalom—but after Saturday, he'll leave the 2014 Winter Olympics with just a single bronze medal to go along with the silver he won in Vancouver in 2010.
Karl had a significant lead over Russia's Vic Wild after the first run of the semifinals in the Olympic debut of the parallel slalom competition. For Wild, it was a deficit The Associated Press described as "the equivalent of a football team losing by 10 with 1 minute left."
In their second race, however, Wild traversed Sochi's decidedly faster blue course and snaked his hand across the finish line just .04 seconds ahead of Karl to knock him out of the competition.
It was Karl's first career loss to Wild, and it couldn't have come at a worse time.
Wild went on to win gold.
Winners: Steve Holcomb and USA-1
Call it a moral victory that USA-1 pilot Steve Holcomb was even able to compete in four-man bobsled Saturday after injuring his calf winning bronze in the two-man event last weekend.
The fact that Holcomb's crew finished the first day of four-man runs in fourth place and within striking distance of another medal?
Well, that's just a regular ol' victory.
The final bobsledding heats are scheduled for Sunday, with Holcomb and Co. part of a four-team pack at the top. Russia is first, followed by Latvia and Germany.
With just 0.17 seconds separating it from the top spot, another quality day of sliding from USA-1 could put the United States back on the medal stand in Day 16.
Loser: Ted Ligety
Team USA hoped Ted Ligety would be able to follow his gold medal in men's giant slalom with a similar performance Saturday in men's slalom.
Unfortunately, he was unable to stay on his skis.
After finishing his first run in sixth place, Ligety crashed during his second trip down the hill and ended the day with that most dreaded outcome on the stat sheet: DNF (did not finish).
Nolan Kasper was the best finisher for the United States, placing 13th overall with a time of one minute, 44.22 seconds. American David Chodounsky did not complete his first run.
With the United States' hopes dashed, Austria grabbed the top two spots—Mario Matt with gold at 1:41.84 and event favorite Marcel Hirscher in second at 1:42.12.
Norway's Henrik Kristoffersen scooped up the bronze with a time of 1:42.67.
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