Freestyle Skiing - Winter Olympics Day 11

Sochi Olympic Daily Recap & Medal Count: Day 11

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Through the falling snow at Rosa Khutor, a Wise man flipped, jumped, and soared into Olympic history.

23-year-old U.S. halfpipe skier David Wise, already a multi-time X Games champion and the 2013 world champion, is now the inaugural Olympic men’s ski halfpipe champion. The devoted family man cranked out a 92.00-point first run in the finals that was able to stand up.

Wise’s performance brings Team USA its sixth gold of the Sochi Olympics and its second in as many days after Meryl Davis and Charlie White won gold in ice dancing yesterday.

This afternoon, Wise thanked his supporters and hailed silver medalist Mike Riddle of Canada and bronze medalist Kevin Rolland of France…

The U.S. also got a bronze medal this morning in snowboard cross as Alex Deibold, a wax tech for the U.S. snowboarders four years ago in Vancouver, broke through for a spot on the podium. He would dedicate the bronze to Chelone Miller, the late brother of U.S. Alpine skiing star Bode Miller and his former snowboarding teammate. France’s Pierre Vaultier was also impressive in claiming gold on what he termed as a “broken” ACL

Mikaela Shiffrin – considered by many to be the future of U.S. Alpine skiing – made her Winter Olympic debut today in the giant slalom and finished a solid fifth, while Slovenia’s Tina Maze won her second gold so far in Sochi over super-G winner Anna Fenninger (silver) and defending Olympic GS champ Viktoria Rebensburg…

The men’s biathlon mass start was finally settled after two days of postponements, and the ending was worth the wait as Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway won a photo finish over France’s Martin Fourcade. Adding to the excitement was that Svendsen actually slowed down and raised his arms in victory before crossing the finish line, just as Fourcade made a desperate lunge to beat him…

The Dutch speedskaters continued their rampage in Sochi as they swept the medals for a fourth time. Today, it was in the men’s 10,000m, which saw Jorrit Bergsma defeat world-record holder Sven Kramer for the gold…

Also victorious was Norway’s Joergen Graabak in Nordic combined (individual large hill 10km) and the South Korean women in the short track 3000m relay

In men’s hockey, the U.S. found out who their quarterfinal opponent would be: The Czechs, who knocked off Slovakia, 5-3, to earn a date tomorrow with the Americans. Meanwhile, Canada will play Latvia after they defeated Switzerland, 3-1, to earn their first-ever trip to the quarterfinals.

Russia also moved into the quarters with a 4-0 win over Norway, and surprising Slovenia will also make its first-ever quarters appearance after blanking Austria by the same score.

Finnish women’s hockey goalie Noora Raty may be done with the Olympics, but if so, she went out a winner as her team beat Russia in the fifth-place game. Germany also beat Japan, 3-2, for seventh…

J.R. Celski of the U.S. moved into the quarterfinals of the short track men’s 500m by finishing second in his heat race today…

And after the first day of women’s bobsled, Team USA’s top pairing of Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams find themselves halfway to a gold medal; they hold a .23 of a second edge over Canada’s Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse going into the final two runs tomorrow…

Out of competition, the word is out about a heirloom “coin” that’s actually an amazing piece of Olympic history – a participant’s medal from the first modern Olympics in 1896

Recently retired figure skating star Yevgeny Plushenko may not be done competitively after all

Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who share a coach with new champions Davis and White, aren’t sure said coach was in their corner

The Finnish men’s hockey team is signing the bikes they’ve used to get around Sochi and auctioning them off for charity

Will U.S. skier Julia Mancuso be back for Pyeongchang in 2018? In her words, “we’ll see”

Vladimir Putin gave his two cents on the disallowed Russian goal from last weekend’s U.S.-Russia men’s hockey epic…

And slopestyle snowboard gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg’s wish for a bacon medal is going to come true

MEDAL COUNT – Feb. 18
(Country – Gold/Silver/Bronze – Total Medals)

1. Germany – 8/3/4 – 15
2. Norway – 7/4/7 – 18
3. Netherlands – 6/6/8 – 20
4. United States – 6/4/10 – 20
5. Russia – 5/8/6 – 19
6. Switzerland – 5/2/1 – 8
7. Belarus – 5/0/1 – 6
8. Canada – 4/9/4 – 17
9. Poland – 4/0/0 – 4
10. China – 3/2/1 – 6
11. France – 3/1/5 – 9
12. Austria – 2/6/1 – 9
13. Sweden – 2/5/2 – 9
14. Slovenia – 2/1/3 – 6
15. Korea – 2/1/1 – 4
T-16. Czech Republic – 1/3/2 – 6
T-16. Japan – 1/3/2 – 6
18. Great Britain – 1/0/1 – 2
19. Slovakia – 1/0/0 – 1
20. Italy – 0/2/4 – 6
21. Australia – 0/2/1 – 3
22. Finland – 0/2/0 – 2
23. Latvia – 0/1/2 – 3
24. Croatia – 0/1/0 – 1
T-25. Kazakhstan – 0/0/1 – 1
T-25. Ukraine – 0/0/1 – 1

U.S. figure skating could have its best world team since 2006

Nathan Chen performs during the men's free skate competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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KANSAS CITY — U.S. figure skating has a shot at medals in three of four disciplines at the world championships in Helsinki in two months, which hasn’t happened in 11 years.

Before this year, the U.S. men and U.S. women hadn’t boasted simultaneous medal contenders in a decade. Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek spent the 2010 Olympic cycle in the world elite, while the U.S. women faded. After they stopped competing, Ashley Wagner and Gracie Gold moved into the women’s medal field while the U.S. searched for a new leading man.

He’s arrived. Nathan Chen confirmed he is one of the world’s best male skaters by landing a record seven quadruple jumps between two programs at Sprint Center this past week.

The 17-year-old already made the podium in an event that featured the world’s best, earning silver at the Grand Prix Final in December. Chen struggled with his short-program jumps at the Grand Prix Final and attempted one fewer quad overall yet still outscored everybody but Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu.

Of all of the U.S. medal hopes at worlds, Chen may face the stiffest trio of challengers. Not only is there Hanyu, but also two-time reigning world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain, plus Japan’s Shoma Uno, all of whom rank higher than Chen in best total scores in international competition this season.

MORE: Chen believes Olympic gold is possible after U.S. title

Wagner, who shares a coach with Chen, did not have her best nationals. She finished second to surprise winner Karen Chen (no relation to Nathan), who has yet to factor internationally.

But Wagner said before and after the U.S. Championships that her focus was to peak for the world championships. The goal for nationals was to make the world team, which required not winning but finishing in the top three. Mission accomplished.

The concern with Wagner is that she hasn’t produced a world medal-caliber result yet this season. Her best score from the fall ranks her sixth among women going to worlds. But Wagner has shown in the last few seasons that she can pull it together for major events. There’s her 2016 World Championships silver medal, plus her three straight Grand Prix Final medals from 2012-14.

At worlds, Wagner will have to deal with a Russian trio capable of sweeping the podium, three strong Japanese skaters, plus the revelation of this season, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond.

VIDEO: Wagner passed Puffs in emotional press conference moment

The U.S.’ strongest discipline continues to be ice dance. Maia and Alex Shibutani and Madison Chock and Evan Bates finished second and third at the 2016 World Championships. They went one-two at the U.S. Championships this past week.

But two ice dance medals don’t appear to be in the cards in Helsinki. That’s because Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who earned gold and silver at the last two Olympics, came back this season after a two-year break.

Virtue and Moir broke international scoring records in the fall, sweeping their four starts. The two-time reigning world champions, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France, also beat the U.S. couples at the Grand Prix Final.

The Shibutani siblings and Chock and Bates have never finished ahead of Virtue and Moir in competition. Neither has bettered the French since the December 2014 Grand Prix Final, either.

But all it takes is one dance medal, plus Chen and Wagner at their best in Helsinki, and the U.S. could go into the Olympic year in its best place since 2006.

MORE: Gracie Gold comments on split from coach Frank Carroll

Laurie Hernandez discusses life after Rio, new book on TODAY (video)

Laurie Hernandez
TODAY
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Laurie Hernandez‘s book, “I Got This: To Gold and Beyond,” is out Tuesday, and the Olympic champion gymnast stopped by TODAY on Monday to discuss its contents and life post-Rio.

An excerpt on Hernandez’s experience in Rio and the story of her floor-exercise wink to judges, is here.

On TODAY, Hernandez discussed another interesting anecdote from the book about tissues.

“Before Olympic Trials, we went out to eat, and I had a little breakdown because practice was really rough, and my routines weren’t coming the way I wanted them to,” she said. “This poor waitress kept bringing me over piles of tissues. … We were leaving, and my sister [Jelysa] told my dad, I’m going to save these tissues. I’m going to give them to her when she makes the team. I’m thinking to myself, you guys are crazy, this is not going to happen.”

Hernandez went on to finish second to Simone Biles at the Olympic Trials and make the five-woman Olympic team as the first U.S. female Olympian born in the 2000s.

The family celebrated the achievement, where Jelysa handed the tissues to Hernandez in a bag.

“Even when you fell, you couldn’t believe in yourself, we were there for you,” Jelysa told her.

“So it was a really defining moment,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is away from gymnastics while promoting her book and touring with “Dancing with the Stars,” but she is expected to return to the sport at some point.

MORE: Hernandez explains 2017 goals: First date, driver’s license, Law & Order