In a day filled with crashes, the U.S. Olympic team took another step towards winning the overall medal count at the Winter Olympics for the first time since 1932.
With bronze medals in women’s bobsled and the women’s short track relay, the United States upped its overall medal tally to 28.
Germany collected a silver medal from speed skater Stephanie Beckert in the 5,000 meters, increasing its national medal haul to 24.
Neither nation won a gold medal, but host nation Canada continued its late charge in the medal picture and collected its seventh gold of the Olympics in the women’s bobsled. That equals the leading total of Germany and the United States, but Canada is in fourth place in overall medals with 15, behind Norway’s 18.
The results of yesterday’s two-woman bobsled may ultimately come to be the deciding factor in a U.S. victory in the overall medal standings.
Germany had two sleds favored to reach the podium, while the United States had one sled—that driven by veteran Shauna Robbock—believed to have a legitimate medal opportunity. None of those teams performed at their best in Vancouver.
Robbock struggled from her first of four runs on Tuesday and never figured into the medal picture.
The two German sleds entered Wednesday in third and fifth places after the first two runs on Tuesday.
Veteran driver Cathleen Martini sat within striking distance of a medal on her last run yesterday but flipped her sled in a scary crash that ejected her brakewoman from the bobsled and left Martini sliding down the track on her head still in the sled. Both walked away under their own power and seemed to be fine, but their medal hopes were dashed.
Had the German sled made it to the finish of its fourth and final run it would have been a tight race for the bronze. Instead first-time Olympians Erin Pac and Elena Myers collected a surprising bronze medal for the United States.
Failing to collect two expected medals in the event and ceding one to a U.S. team may have doomed the Germans’ chances of winning the overall medal count for a fourth straight Winter Olympics.
The other U.S. medal of the day was not without its share of controversy. In a four-team final with China, South Korea, and Canada, the U.S. claimed its first ever medal in women’s short track.
The Americans fell off the pace early in the 3,000 meters relay, while the other three nations seemingly battled it out for the medals. South Korea crossed the line first and celebrated for almost five minutes before a questionable Korean pass of a Chinese skater during the race was deemed cause for a disqualification. With South Korea disqualified, the U.S. moved up to the bronze medal.
While the U.S. team benefited from crashes and disqualifications yesterday, it also was hurt by them.
In the women’s giant slalom, American downhill gold medalist Lindsey Vonn held a sizeable lead as she approached the end of her first of two runs in the event. But Vonn lost an edge and slid hard to the ground and into a protective netting on the side of the course, ending her medal dreams in the event and breaking a pinky in the process.
Vonn’s crash may have also ended the medal hopes of the defending gold medalist, U.S. teammate Julia Mancuso. Mancuso followed Vonn in the starting order and was already on course when Vonn crashed.
Officials were forced to yellow flag Mancuso’s run with Vonn sprawled out on the course. Mancuso had to pull to a stop halfway through her run and was taken by snowmobile back to the top of the mountain to start her run again. She appeared flustered and tired by the end of her run and ended up in 18th place after the first of two runs.
Poor visibility led to the cancellation of the second run which will be held today. Mancuso stands little chance of reaching the podium now, but three Germans, most notably super combined gold medalist Maria Riesch, sit in the top 10 with a chance to move their way up in a second run.
American medal hopeful Emily Cook also ended her chances of reaching the podium when she fell on the landing of her first of two jumps in the women’s aerial finals.
The U.S. team should extend its four medal lead today and has the opportunity to put real distance between itself and Germany.
The only German medal hopes today come in the men’s Nordic Combined individual large hill event, where a couple of Germans could contend for the podium, the women’s cross-country skiing relay, where Germany is one of the top five teams in the event but not favored to medal, and in the women’s giant slalom where one of three women would have to move up in the standings from where they currently sit in fifth through tenth place after one run.
The United States is already guaranteed to add one medal today in women’s ice hockey when the Americans face off with Canada in the gold medal game. Even if the American women lose they will take home the silver.
The U.S. also has multiple medal contenders in the Nordic Combined and men’s aerials.
The American trio of Johnny Spillane, Todd Lowick, and Bill DeMong, helped claim a team silver in the Nordic Combined relay event and placed second, fourth, and sixth respectively, in the normal hill individual event earlier in the Games. All three stand a chance to medal today.
Jeret Peterson and Ryan St. Onge have both already advanced into tonight’s final in aerials. Neither man was favored to medal coming into Vancouver, but both placed in the top five in qualifying. St. Onge is a former World Champion and Peterson has a “hurricane” trick up his sleeve, which if executed perfectly could outscore the rest of the field.
American figure skaters Rachel Flatt and Mirai Nagasu sit in fifth and sixth place after their short programs on Tuesday and will skate in the final group in the free program tonight. Both skaters have long odds to medal and would need the four skaters in front of them to make mistakes, but a podium place is not totally out of the question.
The same is true for Julia Mancuso in the giant slalom. She would be hard pressed to move up to the podium from 18th after the first run, but it is not out of the question.
Regardless, it is a critical day in the competition between the United States and Germany for supremacy in the overall medal standings.
The United States doesn’t have any medal favorites, aside from the women’s hockey team, in action today. But it does have a slew of medal contenders that could produce as many as five or six medals.
Germany only has two or three such contenders and no medal favorites, so the United States could find itself ahead in the medal tally by as few as two or by as many as ten medals at the end of the day.
Also of interest is the race for the most gold medals in Vancouver. The winner of the United States and Canada women’s hockey game will give the winning nation a leg up in a tight race that currently stands tied at seven golds apiece for Germany, the United States, and Canada, with Norway, Switzerland, and South Korea close behind.