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State News Olympic Blog

Winter Olympics draw to a close


By Emily Jenks          Last updated: 02/23/14 8:51pm         

The Sochi Olympics Closing Ceremony ended the two-week athletic extravaganza at 11 a.m. on Sunday, with host nation Russia topping the medal charts with 33 medals and the USA in second with 28 — including nine gold medals.

Russia, while able to poke fun at themselves during the closing ceremonies by replicating the far-right ring that didn’t open during the Opening Ceremony, clearly held a home-field advantage, leading in gold medals with 13.

Norway came in second for gold medals with 11, and was closely followed by Canada’s 10.

It comes at no surprise that countries that countries with long, unforgiving winters should produce outstanding cold-weather athletes. In overall medal count, Norway came in third with 28, Canada in fourth with 25 and the Netherlands rounded out the top five with 24.

Third place was a comfortable position for the U.S. in Sochi. America’s 12 bronze medals made the highest bronze count.

The Games come as a slight disappointment to the USA, who was expected to sweep the competition as they did in Vancouver in 2010, where they won 37 medals.

The U.S. men’s hockey team lost in the bronze-medal round to Finland 5-0 after a resounding victory over Russia in a nail-biting nine-round shootout. U.S. women’s hockey lost the gold to Canada in overtime after losing a 2-0 lead.

Favorite USA Olympians like snowboarder Shaun White and speedskater Shani Davis left Sochi empty-handed, and no medals were earned in speedskating for the first time since 1984 and in individual figure skating since 1936.

That’s not to say that all the USA’s performances weren’t impressive — Michigan residents Meryl Davis and Charlie White gathered two medals each for figure skating, and Jamie Anderson took home the gold for women’s slopestyle.

Alpine skiing earned the USA five medals overall, with two gold from Ted Ligety in men’s slalom and Mikaela Shiffrin in women’s slalom.

The Olympic flame has been extinguished in Sochi and will reignite in Pyeongchang, South Korea in 2018.


U.S. women's hockey falls to Canada; men's team to play in semis


By Erik Sargent          Last updated: 02/20/14 7:16pm         

The quest for an Olympic gold medal was cut short in a split second for the U.S. women’s hockey team as the team lost to rival Canada in overtime Thursday, 3-2.

The game was an instant classic and came right down to the wire to decide the winner. Canada reached the finals after defeating Switzerland 3-1 in the semifinals. The U.S. reached the gold medal game after defeating Sweden 6-1 in its semifinal game.

The game started off with good defense from both squads, and the first period saw both teams go scoreless.

The U.S. got on the board first after Meghan Duggan scored a goal halfway through the second period to make the game 1-0. That would be the only goal of the second period.

Heading into the third period with a 1-0 lead, the U.S. struck again quickly as Alex Carpenter scored on a power play and put the Americans up, 2-0.

The U.S. was able to hold off the Canadians for a majority of the third period and looked locked in to take home the gold medal, but Canada had other ideas.

With under four minutes left in the game, Brianne Jenner scored a goal for Canada to make the game 2-1. Then with under one minute left, Marie-Philip Poulin was able to sneak in a quick goal to force overtime.

Poulin then would strike once more to crush the hopes of the American team when she scored the game-winner in overtime to give Canada the 3-2 victory and the Olympic gold medal.

In other women’s Olympic hockey news, Switzerland was able to beat Sweden 4-3 to take home the bronze medal.

Americans now will turn to the men’s hockey team for revenge over Canada. The men’s teams will face off in a rematch of the 2010 gold medal game on Friday at noon for the second of two semifinal games in the Olympics. The other semifinal game will feature Sweden against Finland at 7:00 a.m. ET.

It is one of the more highly anticipated match-ups of the Olympics, as Canada features a load of talent on their roster with NHL players like Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash.

Two former Spartans also will be on display for the game. Ryan Miller is a goalie for the U.S. but has played sparingly so far in the Olympics.

Duncan Keith, who plays for Canada, has seen significant playing time so far in his team’s games.


U.S. hockey advances to semifinals, set to play Canada


By Erik Sargent          Last updated: 02/19/14 8:01pm         

It was an action-packed day of hockey at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and now the semifinals are set as teams continue their chase for the gold medal.

The U.S. men’s hockey team was able to win its quarterfinals match and advance to its semifinal game where the Americans will face Canada on Friday. Sweden will face off with Finland in the other semifinal game.

The U.S. were able to take care of the Czech Republic today with ease during a quarterfinal game, winning 5-2.

The Americans wasted no time getting on the board as Philadelphia Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk scored a goal just one minute into the game. Ales Hemnsky answered right back for the Czech Republic to tie it at 1-1, but that was the last time it was ever close.

Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown scored a goal late in the first period. That was followed up shortly after with a goal by St. Louis Blues center David Backes to make it 3-1.

In the second period, Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise scored a goal halfway through the period to make it 4-1. Phil Kessel added the final goal for the U.S. in the beginning of the third period to make it 5-1. The Czech Republic would get one more goal from Marek Zidlicky to make the final score 5-2.

The U.S. now will face off in perhaps the most anticipated matchup of the Olympics and also the rematch of the 2010 gold medal game against Canada. The game will be played at noon on Friday.

In other Olympic hockey news, host Russia were victims of a major upset as they lost to Finland 3-1 and were eliminated from the tournament. Sweden was able to defeat Slovenia, 5-0.


Two-man bobsled team claims gold; U.S. in third place as of Tuesday evening


By Mayara Sanches          Last updated: 02/19/14 2:31pm         

Team USA added two medals to tie with the Netherlands for third place in the Sochi Olympics medal standings on Monday night and into Tuesday in U.S. time.

America and the Netherlands both had 20 total medals as of Tuesday evening, while Germany had the most golds with eight.

Winning the first Olympic medal in the two-man bobsled category in 62 years were Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton, who took bronze. Ahead of them was the gold medalist pair from Russia and the silver medalist duo from Switzerland, according to the Sochi Olympics website.

Contributing to Team USA’s medal gain was Alex Deibold, who also won a bronze medal in men’s Olympic snowboard cross. He wasn’t one of the favorites to win the event, according to USA Today, but was the only American to advance to the finals as veterans Nate Holland and Nick Baumgartner failed to advance.

USA Today said that despite not getting to the final themselves, Holland and Baumgartner “dogpiled” on Deibold when he crossed the finish line as the third-place finisher.

The Americans had a good day at the Olympics Tuesday, but USA Today’s For The Win blog said Norwegian cross-country skier Emil Hegle Svendsen celebrated too early and almost lost the gold medal.

Svendsen skied nine miles for 40 minutes and on the last steps, he threw his arms up to celebrate. He was in first, but France’s Martin Fourcade almost snuck up to steal the first place.

The Norwegian athlete still was crowned the Olympic champion, but the topic is controversial.


Michigan residents claim gold medal in ice dancing


By Mayara Sanches          Last updated: 02/17/14 7:48pm         

Team USA got its first-ever gold medal in ice dancing, and it was all thanks to Michigan residents Meryl Davis, 27, and Charlie White, 26.

The duo has been skating together for 17 years — since both were in elementary school — and won silver in the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

The University of Michigan students became the first Americans to win a gold medal in figure skating by beating defending champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, according to the U.S. Olympics website.

“I think a lot of our ability to kind of rise above the nerves from one competition to the next is very much dependent on our comfort level, taking the ice no matter what the circumstance,” Davis told the website. “Kind of hand-in-hand as we have since we were young children.”

Besides Davis and White, there were two other American duos going for the couples’ dance title.

Madison Chock and Evan Bates, and siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani — who placed eighth and ninth, also competed for the U.S. Bates and the Shibutanis are from Michigan and attended Huron High School in Ann Arbor.

“I told Charlie in the middle of the program I felt like I was in a dream,” Davis told MLive about the short dance program. “It is such a surreal experience.”

With the pair’s accomplishment, the U.S. hopped back to fourth place in the medal count, with five golds, four silvers and nine bronzes. Germany remains in first in terms of gold medals with eight, according to the Sochi Olympics website.

In alpine skiing, American Andrew Weibrecht placed second and teammate Bode Miller tied with Canadian Jan Hudec for third place, contributing to that medal count.

The curling team, though, did not do well on its matches. The men’s team lost to Canada, 8-6, in Robin Session 10 and 6-4 to Sweden in Robin Session 11, according to the Sochi Olympics. The women’s team also lost to Canada, 7-6.

Tomorrow’s events include the men’s snowboard cross finals, men’s ski salfpipe qualifiers and the women’s giant slalom run — all with Americans competing for to be on the podium as an Olympic champion.


U.S. men's hockey team makes quick work of Slovakia


By Erik Sargent          Last updated: 02/13/14 3:23pm         

Friday morning saw the start of men’s Olympic hockey at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia and the U.S. men’s team wasted no time getting to work.

In the first game on its quest for a gold medal, the Americans faced off against Slovakia in their first match during group play and won in convincing fashion, 7-1.

It was an absolute routing from the Americans, but the game started off close as Slovakia, led by NHL All-Star Zdeno Chara, fought tough with the US for the first period.

Washington Capitals defensemen John Carlson got the U.S. on the board first with a goal in late in the first period. Slovakia came right back with a goal to start the second period from Detroit Red Wings left winger Tomas Tatar.

But shortly after Tatar’s goal, the floodgates opened and the U.S. went on a scoring spree, scoring six goals throughout the rest of the second period to make the score 7-1.

Ryan Kessler (Vancouver) , David Backes (St. Louis), Phil Kessel (Toronto) and Dustin Brown (Los Angeles) all added goals. Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny also scored two goals.

MSU alumnus and goalie Ryan Miller did not play, as Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was named the starter for the game.

The U.S. team now will move on to a highly anticipated game with Olympics host Russia, led by Detroit Red Wings’ star Pavel Datsyuk. Russia also features one of the premier stars in the NHL in Alex Ovechkin.

The game will be played this Saturday at 7:30 am. EST.


U.S. wins pair of golds in snowboarding slopestyle


By Mayara Sanches          Last updated: 02/12/14 8:13pm         

Team USA swept gold in the first-ever appearance of snowboarding slopestyle.

Both in the men’s and women’s competition, Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson each won the top medal in the 2014 Winter Games opening weekend and opened slopestyle to a broader audience to enjoy, USA Today reported.

“I hope everyone can see and feel through their televisions or computer screens really that camaraderie, that love of the sport that all these athletes have,” U.S. coach Mike Jankowski said to USA Today.

Although it’s a “spectacular sport to watch,” Jankowski said, it also is very dangerous. Czech rider Sarka Pancochova fell and cracked her helmet during the finals on Sunday.

USA Today reported that scores are determined solely by the discretion of judges, who wanted to see artistry — or style — and difficulty of tricks in the event.

“It’s pretty much playing. We’re pretty much snowboarding on a playground up there. It’s hard to find that balance between the competition and staying true to yourself, and remembering why you started it in the first place,” Anderson said to USA Today.

Kotsenburg, who has been somewhat overshadowed by Shaun White, won gold in an underdog decision. He placed second in the semifinals and then decided to throw a trick he had never competed or practiced — the “Back 16 Japan.”

“I ended up landing it, and winning with it,” Kotsenburg said, laughing, to USA Today. The article stated that the trick is four and a half backwards spins (1620 degrees of rotation), while grabbing the backside of his board (Japan).

Kotsenburg did not add a triple jump to his sequence, something most other snowboarders did, but won by being creative, emphasizing style and a technical combination of spins and grabs. He also used the Holy Crail twice, which according to USA Today was created by the champion himself.

“He got his own personal style, and I’m happy that he showed that to the whole world. I think his style is pretty rad,” Canadian competitor Max Parrot told reporters.

Another proud moment of Team USA happened when 25-year-old Kaitlyn Farrington took gold for women’s halfpipe, beating the defending champion — Torah Bright from Australia — by 0.25 points, according to ESPN.

“I fought to get in finals,” Farrington told ESPN. “I did all three rounds. To come out on top, I couldn’t believe it.”

Her teammate, 31-year-old Kelly Clark, placed third, winning bronze — her third Olympic medal.

According to ESPN, the halfpipe course looked more like “a bowl of mashed potatoes” than the icy track that is necessary to put a great show with many tricks because of the temperature.

On the other side, Shaun White had to deal with the upset of not placing in the men’s halfpipe after dropping out from the men’s slopestyle to focus on the first. White was reaching for his goal of winning three straight gold medals for halfpipe, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

White had to perform after watching Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov — known as “iPod” — land the trick he invented, a 1440-degree whirling jump he nicknamed the “Yolo” jump, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Japanese teammates Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka won silver and bronze, shutting out Team USA of any medals in men’s halfpipe for the first time since the sport was introduced to the Olympics in 1998.

Team USA now has nine medals — three golds, one silver and five bronzes — and ranks fifth in the medal-count standings.


Kearney's bronze among U.S. Olympians to fall short


By Mayara Sanches          Last updated: 02/11/14 4:58pm         

If you were the current champion in an Olympic sport from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, would you expect to win gold once again?

Hannah Kearney, a 27-year-old American skier, did. She held the Olympic title for Freestyle Skiing Ladies’ Mogul and wanted to keep her title until the end of her career — which ended on Saturday — she told reporters after competing. The bronze medal did not satisfy her, even though she still placed among the best athletes in the sport.

“I feel like I let myself down,” she told The Washington Post. “I wanted that gold medal, and I skied for it. But I made a huge mistake, and you don’t make the Olympics when you make a mistake in your run.”

Kearney cried upon realizing she only placed third.

Placing first was 19-year-old Canadian Justine Dufour-Lapointe and close second was her 22-year-old sister Chloe Dufour-Lapointe — 0.17 points above Kearney. Finding out she won gold, Justine ran to the end of the slope and used her skis as an air guitar.

The upset Kearney faced made her upset, but that wasn’t the only upset of Team USA in the Sochi Olympics. Ashley Wagner, a 22-year-old figure skater, looked even more disappointed when the judges gave her a 2-point deduction, Entertainment Weekly stated.

Her inclusion in the Olympic team is controversial to begin with, the article said. Wagner placed fourth at nationals — because of a fall that gave her a 1-point deduction — and the U.S. only could send three women to the Olympic Games, but she ended up getting the opportunity to go to Sochi.

“She had to prove herself,” Entertainment Weekly said. Wagner skated to Pink Floyd’s “Shine On Your Crazy Diamond” and when she didn’t fall, her face showed how proud and excited she was. When she received her score, it all changed — she placed fourth.

Surprising the audience in her Olympic debut was 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya, snagging gold for Russia — the host country’s first gold medal in these Games. Lipnitskaya was called a “prodigy” and “wunderkind,” according to New Republic.

Helping Team USA placed third in the team figure skating competitions and getting bronze was 18-year-old Gracie Gold, who placed third, and the pair Meryl Davis and Charlie White — who got the top score for the team Short Dance.

Regardless of the second Team USA upset this week, the U.S. placed third in the team figure skating competitions and fifth overall, with seven medals — two golds, one silver, and four bronzes.


Opening Ceremony draws praise, criticism, media scrutiny


By Mayara Sanches          Last updated: 02/09/14 8:13pm         

During any Olympics opening ceremony, the unveiling of the five rings is seen as one of the most important and significant moments, and the ceremony to begin the Sochi Winter Olympics brought attention to it when only four rings opened and one remained a snowflake.

Konstantin Ernst, the creative director behind the Opening Ceremony, remained Zen-like after the potentially career-threatening incident, The Telegraph reported. He went back to Buddhist teachings he said he believed — that “when you have a perfectly polished sphere, you should leave a notch in it so you can understand just how perfectly it is polished.”

Ernst may not be showing concern for his career, but Russian TV switched the footage to a rehearsal of the ceremony “not wishing to embarrass further the authorities,” where all rings opened. A firework display that was supposed to happen after the opening of the rings was cancelled but also shown in Russian TV, according to the article.

“I don’t see what the problem is to be honest,” Mark Adams, the International Olympic Committee spokesman, said.

But the optimistic and forgiving view was not what all IOC members had in mind, The Telegraph stated. Jean-Claude Killy, three-time former Olympic skiing gold medalist and head of the IOC’s co-coordination committee in Sochi, said “It didn’t show on television, thank God.”

The Russian team behind the ceremony quickly diverted the audience’s attention, when Russian TV star Yana Churikova shouted to the crown “Welcome to the center of the universe!” The Fox News article stated that the show continued normally as Russian police sang Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and a pop band sang Queen.

After, the Fisht Stadium welcomed the 3,000 athletes — the most out of any Winter Olympics — competing in the 98 events the following weeks. The Olympians entered with their countries and were presented in the order of the Russian alphabet, the Fox article stated.

The glitch happened right before Russian President Vladimir Putin was introduced to make a speech, according to Fox News. Although there were many conflicting views on the issue, The Telegraph states that Dmitry Chernyshenko, the president of the Sochi 2014 organizing committee, said that Putin was satisfied with the results and how the Opening Ceremonies turned out.

Back in the U.S., NBC also had many people criticize them for the cuts made on the tape-delayed showing of the Opening Ceremony, according to a Slate article. Deadspin caught that NBC cut IOC President Thomas Bach’s anti-discrimination speech on their broadcast.

A key part left out was when Bach said “It is possible — even as competitors — to live together under one roof in harmony, with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason.” Slate stated that the hashtag, #NBCFail, quickly emerged on Twitter because of the edits.

Deadspin emphasized that the anti-discrimination speech was important after Russia’s anti-gay laws were a “major focus in the lead-up to the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi.” Bach’s speech was strongly in favor of tolerance and made a strong statement against “any form of discrimination.”

NBC told the public that the edits were made due to a time issue.

“IOC’s President was edited for time, as were other speeches, but his message got across very clearly,” NBC said in a statement, according to NPR’s David Folkenfilk.

Deadspin’s article shows the parts of the speech that were edited out in bold and the parts shown in normal typed letters.


Qualifying rounds, figure skating team competitions get underway


By Mayara Sanches          Last updated: 02/06/14 6:41pm         

The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi haven’t officially started, but figure skating, freestyle skiing and snowboarding have already had some qualifiers for the final rounds.

In Freestyle Skiing Ladies’ Moguls — in which 10 qualify for the next round — American Hannah Kearney came out in first place on the first set of qualifiers, scoring a 23.05 on her first run. Another American, Eliza Outtrim placed fourth and will prepare for the next step.

Four Canadians placed second, third, eighth and ninth. Two athletes from Russia, one from Kazakhstan, and one from Japan also are advancing the first qualifying competition.

The next qualifiers for the Ladies’ Moguls will happen at 9 a.m. EST on Saturday.

In the Snowboard Men’s Slopestyle, Norwegian Staale Sandbech scored a 94.50 and snagged first place in qualifying heat 1. Heat 2 presented Canadian Maxence Parrot, scoring a 97.50.

Three Americans will be competing in the semifinals for the sport, one from heat 1 — Charles Guldemond, who got fifth place — and two from heat 2 — Sage Kotsenburg and Ryan Stassel, who placed eighth and ninth.

Fifteen athletes from the first heat and fourteen from the second heat qualified for the next round. The snowboarders who proceeded to the next level — the semifinals — will face each other at 12:30 a.m. EST on Saturday.

Lastly, on the Feb. 6 Olympic schedule was the Figure Skating team competitions. So far, the Men Short and Pais Short are completed.

Japan took first place in the Men Short, but trailed for the Pair Short, scoring only a three. Russia was the one who took first on the Pair Short with 10 points and was close behind with a nine in the Men Short category, putting the country in first place overall.

The U.S. placed seventh at the end of Thursday’s Figure Skating events, with a total of 10 points. Fifth-place Germany and sixth-place France also have 10 points each.