Thomas Vanek

Austria names first Olympic hockey roster since 2002

Leave a comment

Austria is one of the great Winter Olympic nations, historically competitive in many sports and the all-time medal leader in Alpine skiing.

Its hockey tradition is not quite up to the golden standard. Austria announced its Olympic hockey roster Tuesday with three NHL forwards and almost no shot at a medal.

Still, making it to Sochi is an accomplishment for a nation that had not qualified since 2002 and has never come close to an Olympic hockey medal. It surprisingly qualified over regular Olympic attendee Germany.

Olympic hockey rosters: U.S. | Canada | Russia | Sweden | Finland | Czech Republic | Slovakia | Switzerland | Latvia | Norway | Austria | Slovenia

The team is led by New York Islanders forward Thomas Vanek and former NHL defenseman Thomas Pock, who played on the 2002 Olympic Team at age 20.

Here’s the full Austria roster:

Goalies
Bernhard Starkbaum
Rene Swette
Fabian Weinhandl

Defensemen
Thomas Pock — former NHL player
Mario Altmann
Florian Iberer
Andre Lakos
Robert Lukas
Matthias Trattnig
Stefan Ulmer
Gerhard Unterluggauer

Forwards
Michael Grabner — New York Islanders
Michael Raffl — Philadelphia Flyers
Thomas Vanek — New York Islanders
Raphael Herburger
Thomas Hundertpfund
Matthias Iberer
Thomas Koch
Andreas Kristler
Manuel Latusa
Brian Lebler
Daniel Oberkofler
Thomas Raffl
Oliver Setzinger
Daniel Weiser

Hockey player breaks record for span between Winter Olympics

Tonga flag bearer from Rio says he qualified for Winter Olympics

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Pita Taufatofua, the shirtless, oiled-up Tongan flag bearer from the Rio Games, said he qualified for the PyeongChang Olympics in cross-country skiing on Saturday.

“This was my last race possible, and we did it,” Taufatofua said in an interview with Olympic Channel, which also reported that he qualified. “This is a miracle.”

Taufatofua said he qualified at the final weekend of the Olympic qualifying period in Iceland, which is more than 9,000 miles from his home archipelago.

The last two events before qualification ends were Saturday’s freestyle race and a classic race scheduled for Sunday. Saturday’s results have not been posted yet.

Taufatofua completed a journey this season that included races in Colombia, Turkey, Poland and Armenia.

Taufatofua said he had seven chances to qualify for PyeongChang before Saturday and failed in all of them, finishing last each time (The official results show Taufatofua beating skiers from Malaysia and Mexico in some of these races.).

Taufatofua scrambled to make it to Iceland from Croatia this week. He said his group drove three days through a blizzard, an avalanche closing off the road at one point.

“People don’t see the hard work that goes behind,” he said. “They just see the shiny guy that walks with the flag.”

Taufatofua lost his opening Olympic taekwondo match by mercy rule in Rio, two weeks after his viral appearance in the Opening Ceremony.

He announced in December 2016 that he was switching to cross-country skiing in a bid for PyeongChang.

Cross-country, while a physically taxing pursuit, is one of the easier Winter Olympic sports to gain qualification for athletes from nations without much Winter Games history.

“I decided to find the hardest sport possible because I needed a new challenge,” Taufatofua said. “The goal was to do it one year, and we did it.”

Taufatofua debuted at the 2017 World Championships and was 153rd of 156 finishers in the 1.6km sprint freestyle.

It took Taufatofua 5 minutes, 44.72 seconds to complete the course in Lahti, Finland, which was about 10,000 miles from Tonga. The top qualifier clocked 3:11.72.

How will he dress at the PyeongChang Opening Ceremony, where outdoor temperatures are likely to be below freezing?

“One step at a time,” Taufatofua said. “Right now, I just want to go and party. I destroyed myself just to get here.”

In 2014, Bruno Banani became the first Tongan to compete at a Winter Olympics, placing 32nd in men’s luge. He was later the subject of a documentary.

Banani gained fame starting in early 2012, when the story of his name was widely publicized. Banani’s real name is Fuahea Semi, but he changed it to the name of his German clothing sponsor as a marketing ploy.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Shaun White scores perfect 100 to qualify for Olympics

I raced through 5 countries in the last 24hrs to try and get to my race in Croatia. I sat in a taxi for 6 hrs driving through Armenia into Georgia in the middle of the night. I sat on the front seat of the @turkishairlines plane, sprinted through the airport and snuck through the business class fast transit lane and somehow managed to arrive at the gate 15 min before departure for my flight to Croatia. Once there I found that @turkishairlines had shut the gate early even after their delayed initial flight from Georgia, leaving me stranded. After remembering a scene from a James Bond movie, I pressed all the buttons on the aerobridge door to see if I could somehow open it and sprint down to the connecting flight, unfortunately that didn’t work, and luckily I didn’t get arrested. So here I am sitting at Istanbul airport missing the race that could have possibly gotten me to the Olympics. It was always going to be a long shot but I had to give it a shot and I did. Soo many times in life we will get disappointed. When this happens I have two options. I can sit on that chair crying about what could have been and how unfair life is…. or I can go and find some good quality chocolate, pull out my notepad and start planning “what’s next”— I always did like chocolate…

A post shared by Pita Taufatofua (Pita T) (@pita_tofua) on

Summer Britcher upsets Olympic luge favorites at World Cup

Getty Images
Leave a comment

American luger Summer Britcher beat the last two Olympic champions from powerhouse Germany to win a World Cup in Lillehammer, Norway, on Saturday.

It’s the most impressive victory for a U.S. luger since Erin Hamlin‘s world title in 2009.

Britcher, a 23-year-old qualified for PyeongChang, became the first U.S. woman to win a non-sprint World Cup outside North America since Kate Hansen in 2014.

But Hansen, whose victory was the first by a U.S. woman at any World Cup since 1997, didn’t have to go through the top Germans.

Britcher edged 2014 Olympic champion Natalie Geisenberger by .033 on Saturday. Fellow Germans Julia Taubitz and 2010 Olympic champion Tatjana Huefner were third and fourth.

Full results are here.

Britcher’s previous three World Cup wins, all in the 2015-16 season, were all on North American tracks.

All three women on the U.S. Olympic luge team — Britcher, Sochi bronze medalist Hamlin and Emily Sweeney — have won at least one World Cup since the start of the 2016-17 season.

That breeds hope that the U.S. can claim its second Olympic singles luge medal in PyeongChang to follow up Hamlin’s breakthrough in 2014.

Germans won 12 straight full World Cup races on European tracks coming into Saturday.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Shaun White scores perfect 100 to qualify for Olympics