Carolina Kostner closing in on elusive Olympic medal

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SOCHI, Russia – Four years ago, Carolina Kostner left the Vancouver ice after her free skate with her head clutched between her arms, barely able to stand after delivering what she herself might tell you was the worst performance of her life.

Thursday night in Sochi she could win an Olympic medal.

At 27, the Italian delivered a stirring performance Wednesday in the short program of the ladies’ singles event, skating to “Ave Maria” and equaling the music with her beauty across the ice.

“After Vancouver I thought that was it,” said Kostner, who sits in third place, less than a point from first. “I thought I would stop skating. I thought that was my end.”

One of the oldest skaters still competing on the international level, Kostner performed with the kind of steadied grace that only a veteran can possess. Long known as a soft and emotive skater, Kostner was her vintage self and poised in delivery.”

“I wanted to skate because I love it,” she said of why she decided to continue after Vancouver. “The hard times make you understand what you really want and I’m really glad that I continued and honored to have experienced everything that I have in the past years.”

After placing ninth at the Torino Games, Kostner plummeted to 16th in Vancouver, but chose to skate on, winning the World Championships in 2012 and tacking on two more European and National Championship titles.

She skated after Yulia Lipnitskaya Wednesday night at the Sochi Games in an arena that was meant to be bursting with applause for the 15-year-old. Yet, after a surprising fall from the Russian, Carolina began to crickets, moving with building heart.

Skating in a sparkling, layered white and silver dress, Kostner came through in the exact opposite way that she fell apart in Vancouver, moving the audience with her fluid performance.

“Stunning,” said two-time Olympian Johnny Weir, a commentator for NBC Sports.

“So long we have been thinking of Carolina as the artist,” added 1998 Olympic champion Tara Lipinski, also a NBC Sports commentator, “but her technique; she took everything down a grade and then built it back up these last four years. That was the whole package. ”

It’s a far cry from where she was days after Vancouver.

“I just believed that that was my limit,” Kostner remembered. “But something just told me that it’s not about the result, it’s about the personal experience, that is what is most important.”

Kostner didn’t have a convincing season. After failing to advance to the Grand Prix Final, she skipped the Italian Nationals and set about re-tooling both her programs, changing them with the Olympics in mind.

“When I was in my beginning position, I was scared out of my mind,” Kostner said, smiling. “I don’t know, it just came together. Skating isn’t about the medals or the results. I love what I do. It’s much more fun to win, but you cannot every time.”

If anything, Kostner only hopes for a performance better than what she put out in Vancouver four years ago. What’s the best way she can approach her Sochi free skate?

“To not think about it,” she said.

Lindsey Vonn shows how to win bronze

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JEONGSEON, South Korea — The United States has a fixation at the Olympics on winning gold. Lindsey Vonn showed Wednesday how to win bronze.

“I skied a great race today,” Vonn also said. “Sofia [Goggia] just skied better than I did.”

NBCOlympics.com: Lindsey Vonn oldest woman to win Olympic Alpine medal

She also said she hoped she had made her grandfather proud. Dabbing away tears, she said: “It’s sad. This is my last [Olympic] downhill. I wish I could keep going, you know? I had so much fun. I love what I do. My body just can’t — probably can’t — take another four years. But — I don’t know, I’m proud. I’m proud to have competed for my country. Proud to have given it my all. I’m proud to have … come away with a medal.”

Meyers-Taylor and Gibbs claim silver in women’s bobsled

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Pilot Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz won Germany’s latest gold in a sliding sport in PyeongChang, defeating Team USA’s Elana Meyers Taylor sled by 0.07 seconds. Meyers Taylor, along with brakeman Lauren Gibbs, matched the silver she won in Sochi.

NBCOlympics.com: Nigerian bobsled team makes first Olympic appearance

Jamanka led after two runs, and delivered in Run 3, setting a track record with a phenomenal run down the course. She hit the lines perfectly to put the pressure on Meyers Taylor — and Meyers Taylor, who has dealt with an achilles injury in PyeongChang, delivered with a course record of her own. She was 0.07 seconds back after two runs, but closed the gap to 0.04 heading into the final run.

The stage was set for a thrilling final leg. It, too, did not disappoint. Elana Meyers had her best run of the Games, but Jamanka matched it, to give Germany yet another win on the PyeongChang sliding course.

To read the full recap, click here 

Final Standings: 

Gold: Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz (GER) – 3:22.45

Silver: Elana Meyers-Taylor and Lauren Gibbs (USA) – 3:22.52

Bronze: Kaillee Humphries and Phylicia George (CAN) – 3:22.89

4. Annika Drazek and Stephanie Schneider (GER) – 3:22.97

5. Jamie Greubel Poser and Aja Evans (USA) – 3:23.02