Sochi Olympic Daily Recap & Medal Count: Day 12

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Ted Ligety’s victory in the Olympic men’s giant slalom this morning was a breakthrough on several fronts for U.S. Alpine skiing.

Ligety not only became the first American man to grab the gold in the event, but he also became the first American man to earn two Alpine skiing Olympic golds (he won in combined at Torino in 2006).

Prior to today, Andrea Mead Lawrence had been the only other U.S. skier to pull off that feat (Oslo 1952, slalom and giant slalom)…

It was the highlight of a three-medal day for Team USA, which also got a silver and a bronze from women’s bobsled.

Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams narrowly missed out on the gold by one-tenth of a second to now two-time reigning Olympic champions Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse of Canada.

Right behind Meyers and Williams were Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans, who earned the bronze in the Americans’ No. 2 sled.

Meyers is now the seventh U.S. bobsledder – and the first woman among that group – to win multiple Olympic medals, while Williams is now the fifth Olympian ever to win medals in both a Winter and Summer Games (she won gold as part of the U.S. 4x100m relay in London two years ago)…

Beyond Team USA, the top story was Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who helped Norway earn the inaugural Olympic gold in the biathlon mixed relay and won a record 13th Winter Olympic medal.

Bjoerndalen lived up to the title he’s earned: “The Biathlon King.” Running the third leg for the Norwegians, Bjoerndalen was a perfect 10-for-10 in shooting and built a big lead for his team before letting Emil Hegle Svendsen bring it home.

With the 13th medal, Bjoerndalen broke a tie with Norwegian cross-country skiing legend Bjorn Daehlie. But now, he’s got one more tie to break with Daehlie – they both have a record eight Winter Olympic golds.

OEB will have one shot to take the gold record for himself: Saturday’s men’s relay, the final men’s biathlon event of these Games…

The always highly-anticipated ladies’ figure skating competition got underway and the defending Olympic champion, South Korea’s Yuna Kim, looked every bit ready to contend again.

But while Kim leads after the short program, it’s only by a narrow margin over Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova, who now appears to be the host nation’s big hope for gold after Yulia Lipnitskaia’s fall in her program.

As for the U.S., Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner both earned berths into the final group for tomorrow’s free skate with top-six results (Gold 4th, Wagner 6th). Polina Edmunds was also impressive in her first senior-level international competition and currently sits seventh…

In snowboarding, Russian husband-and-wife duo Vic Wild and Alena Zavarzina both came away with medals in parallel giant slalom. The American-born Wild, who gained Russian citizenship after he married Zavarzina three years ago, won the gold on the men’s side, while Zavarzina claimed the women’s bronze…

Finland and Norway won the men’s and women’s cross-country team sprints respectively, and Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic briefly interrupted the “Oranje crush” of Dutch speedskating in Sochi with a win in the women’s 5000m

It was quarterfinals day in men’s hockey, and it was marked by a major shocker from Finland as they bounced the host Russians out of the playoffs with a 3-1 win. The loss will likely resonate for some time to come with Team Russia, which was unable to overcome several obstacles. The Finns head for a semifinal matchup with Sweden, who ended Slovenia’s impressive run with a 5-0 result.

Meanwhile, the Americans got goals from five different forwards in their 5-2 win over the Czechs. They’ll face off in the other semifinal against archrivals and defending Olympic champions Canada, which needed a late goal from Shea Weber to finally vanquish Latvia in a tight 2-1 decision

Two more Canadian squads advanced onward as well today – in curling. The Canadian men and women will both be playing in their respective gold medal matches; the women tomorrow, the men on Friday…

Out of competition, the Sochi Polar Bear was in a sad mood following Russia’s exit from the men’s hockey playoffs…

Meryl Davis and Charlie White became the latest U.S. Olympians to earn themselves a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box

And figure skaters in men’s, women’s, and pairs’ disciplines are preparing to have the option of using vocal music with lyrics for their programs

MEDAL COUNT – Feb. 19
(Country – Gold/Silver/Bronze – Total Medals)

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

Yevgenia Medvedeva wins season opener in rout

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Olympic figure skating favorite Yevgenia Medvedeva, imperfect by her standards, still won her first international competition of the season by a whopping 36.74 points on Saturday.

The Russian tallied 146.72 points in her free skate at Nepela Trophy in Slovakia — lower than her median score over her two-year winning streak — and 226.72 points overall. 

Video is here. Full scores are here.

Medvedeva had a wrong edge call on her triple Lutz, stepping out of the landing. 

Judges gave her a negative grade of execution for it, snapping a streak of more than 60 straight jumps with positive grades dating to December.

No matter, the 17-year-old still had the highest free skate by 23.23 points.

It was 13.72 points shy of her world record set at the last competition of the 2016-17 season.

She distanced Japanese Rika Hongo and countrywoman Yelena Radionova, the only woman to beat Medvedeva in senior international competition in November 2015.

Medvedeva entered the free skate with a 13.51-point lead in the low-level event. That was via recording the second-highest short program tally under a 13-year-old judging system on Thursday.

Her flawed free skate still earned more points than any of her rivals racked up last season. 

All of her jumps except a double Axel were in the second half of her program to earn bonus points.

However, another Russian posted a higher free skate score last week.

That’s 15-year-old training partner Alina Zagitova, who was .45 better at a low-level event in Italy. 

It’s not entirely fair to compare scores from different judging panels at these early season competitions, though.

The first of six Grand Prix series events is Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in four weeks, featuring Medvedeva and Radionova.

Medvedeva and Zagitova could go head-to-head at the Grand Prix Final in December and should definitely both be at the Russian Championships later that month.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. 

North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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VIDEO: Nathan Chen makes more history at season opener

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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