Year in Review: Shin A-Lam triumphs in protest, victory

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OlympicTalk’s writers recount some of their favorite moments from the 2012 London Games. 

One of the most triumphant series of events during the London Games began as one of the most controversial – and most awkward.

It started with South Korean fencer Shin A-Lam sitting on the fencing strip, sobbing uncontrollably after she lost a semifinal epee bout that would have advanced her to the gold-medal match.

Moments earlier Shin held priority – a tiebreak – over Germany’s Britta Heidermann when the clock was stopped at 0:01 in overtime. Neither woman had scored in extra session, but because Shin earned the final point during regulation, by rule she would win if the score remained when the clock ran out.

The match recommenced and both women scored simultaneous; offsetting touches. Play stopped but the clock remained at :01. The bout was restarted and again both women immediately scored simultaneous touches. The clock stayed at :01.

“We’re talking fractions of a second here – has the clock even started?” the TV announcer wondered aloud.

Play was started a third time, Heidermann landed a quick touch and the final second on the clock ran off.

Incredulous that the clock had not moved at all during the two previous actions, Shin’s coach immediately argued with the judges. After 25 minutes of deliberation, the judges awarded the bout to Heidermann.

That’s when the real drama began: Shin refused to leave the piste, the elevated platform where fencers fight, because, by rule, a fencer who leaves the piste accepts the judges’ ruling on a bout.

So Shin stayed. And stayed.

For nearly 70 minutes Shin sat alone on the piste, sobbing, the uncomfortable drama all the more intense for its surroundings: All that was illuminated in the darkened ExCel arena was the piste itself – luminously brilliant in white, red and green – and Shin, still in her crisp white jacket.

Eventually the judges denied a formal appeal from her coach, and Shin was forced to leave. After losing the bronze-medal match, Shin was offered a consolation medal from fencing’s governing body.

She didn’t think much of the offer.

“It does not make me feel better because it’s not an Olympic medal,” she told the Guardian. “I don’t accept the result because I believe it was a mistake.”

Robbed, as she saw it, of an individual medal and disdainful of a sympathy medal, Shin refused to leave London empty handed.

She didn’t. Five days later she and her South Korean teammates stormed to a silver medal triumph in the women’s team epee competition.

“I am really happy now,” she told the Associated Press. “My teammates and people back in [South] Korea gave me wonderful support this week.”

Ted Ligety recovers for fifth place in return from torn ACL

SOELDEN, AUSTRIA - OCTOBER 23: Ted Ligety of USA in action during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Giant Slalom on October 23, 2016 in Soelden, Austria (Photo by Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
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SOELDEN, Austria (AP) — For once, Ted Ligety could live with finishing fifth in an event he had won four times in the previous five years.

At least he’s back racing again.

The Olympic and world giant slalom champion returned to the Alpine skiing World Cup on Sunday, nine months after tearing the ACL in his right knee in a training accident.

In 14th place and 1.49 seconds off the lead after the opening run, Ligety vastly improved in the second and climbed nine spots in the traditional first race of the season on a mountain glacier in the Austrian Alps.

“I am not here to get 10th place. Even though that wouldn’t be a horrible result for the first time back, I like to be challenging for a podium,” Ligety told The Associated Press between runs.

He came 1.65 behind the dominant winner, Alexis Pinturault of France, but the result made him smile.

“I’m definitely happy with fifth place to start it off with,” Ligety said. “In the second run I charged a little harder. I skied well, for sure. I definitely felt a little bit more confident than in the first run where I was on the conservative side.”

The knee injury occurred in Germany in January. By that time, “my season was already messed up from smaller injuries, anyway” as he dealt with back and hip ailments.

After his season got off to a strong start by winning in Soelden and coming runner-up in a super-G in Beaver Creek, Colorado, in early December, the physical troubles took their toll and he failed to finish most races.

The training crash then caused the first season-ending injury in his 13-year-old career.

“During the first couple of weeks, watching races on the couch was less than fun, and a couple of weeks later watching races on the spinning bike was even less fun,” Ligety said. “But it makes you hungry to race again, too.”

The American called himself “lucky that there was no more damage” because “an ACL is a pretty straight forward thing” which many skiers have to deal with in their careers.

“You’re more likely to win an Olympic gold medal in skiing if you have had an ACL so I am joining a better statistical group now,” he joked.

Physically fit again but with less training on snow than usual, Ligety returned to the mountain in Austria where he won a record five times in total, most recently a year ago for the last of his 25 World Cup victories.

“My knee doesn’t bother me at all skiing, it’s just about finding that next high speed gear. I am not there yet but I am happy to race.”

Usually an all-round competitor, Ligety will first try to regain his old strength in GS before getting other disciplines back onto his schedule.

He planned to do some super-G races but could well stay away from what used to be his strongest discipline when he entered the World Cup in 2003 — the slalom. This summer, he trained in that discipline only for one day.

“The last couple of years, slalom has not been such a good return on investment for me so I’m not really putting too much into that,” he said. “I’ll ski some slaloms if it works out schedule-wise and training-wise.”

Though his chances to win an overall World Cup title one day are decreasing, the 32-year-old double Olympic champion has enough ambitions left.

“Like every year, the giant slalom globe is the big goal,” said Ligety, who won the prize for the best skier in the discipline five times. “Obviously this year I don’t have the same awesome prep period and miles as I would normally. The world champs (in Switzerland in February) is coming up also and it would be nice to defend the GS title again.”


Gracie Gold details weight issues in figure skating after Skate America struggles

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Gracie Gold said she has struggled with weight issues this whole year and in recent seasons in reported comments after she finished fifth at Skate America on Saturday.

“You don’t often see — there aren’t that many — you just don’t see overweight figure skaters for a reason,” Gold said, according to USA Today. “It’s just something I’ve struggled with this whole year and in previous seasons. It’s just difficult when you’re trying to do the difficult triple jumps. It’s something that I am addressing, but it’s obviously not where it should be for this caliber of competition.

“It’s just not what’s required for this sport. It’s a lean body sport, and it’s just not what I have currently.”

Gold fell once in her Skate America short program and twice in her free skate en route to her lowest Grand Prix finish (excluding Grand Prix Finals) since her debut at 2012 Skate Canada.

Gold also finished sixth out of six skaters in her first competition this season, the free-skate-only Japan Open on Oct. 1.

Gold was fourth at the world championships in April, falling from first after the short program. The U.S. champion was still dealing with that “worlds depression” in the summer, even considering skipping the fall Grand Prix season.

Her next scheduled competition is in three weeks at Trophée de France in Paris, which she won last season.

“We just need to adjust my physical shape and mental shape and see if the program can be salvaged for the rest of the year,” Gold said, according to Icenetwork.com.

MORE: Full figure skating season broadcast schedule