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

London Marathon preview; runners to watch

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World records are under threat from male and female runners at the London Marathon on Sunday (3:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold).

The forecast calls for the warmest London Marathon in its 38-year history (a high Sunday in the low 70s, though likely cooler for the morning start times).

The elite fields, stronger than for last Monday’s Boston Marathon, include the greatest marathoners of this generation — Eliud Kipchoge and Mary Keitany — plus arguably each Kenyan’s top rival at the moment.

Five runners to watch in each field …

Eliud Kipchoge, Kenya
2016 Olympic champ
2015, 2016 London Marathon winner
Ran 2:00:25 in Nike’s sub-two-hour marathon attempt last May

In Kipchoge’s last start in London, he missed countryman Dennis Kimetto‘s world record by eight seconds, prevailing in 2:03:05 in 2016. Since, Kipchoge won the Olympic title, had what he deemed his greatest performance in the sub-two-hour (non-record-eligible) event and extended his marathon win streak to seven races over four years in rainy, humid Berlin last September. The 33-year-old has refused to get into world-record talk, telling media he just wants to run “a beautiful race” Sunday.

Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopia
Second-fastest marathoner of all time (Berlin 2016, 2:03:03)
World-record holder in 5000m, 10,000m
Eight Olympic/world titles in 5000m, 10,000m

Credentials from 5000m to marathon make a strong case that Bekele is the greatest runner of all time, ahead of Usain Bolt and Kipchoge. He really started taking aim at the world record after that 2016 Berlin breakthrough. Bekele was runner-up with foot blisters in London last year, nearly three minutes slower than in Germany, and failed to finish his other two marathons in 2017. “To have the records for 5000m to marathon would be something – no one else has done that. I feel like that would make me the greatest ever,” Bekele said, according to marathon organizers.

Mo Farah, Great Britain
2012, 2016 Olympic champ in 5000m/10,000m
Second marathon
8th at 2014 London Marathon

Farah’s primary goal Sunday is modest in comparison to Kipchoge and Bekele — break the British marathon record of 2:07:13. Farah, repeating in a press conference Tuesday that he is ranked 27th in the world in the distance, said he still intends to go out with the leaders even if they start on world-record pace. It’s his first marathon since switching full-time to road running after last season and his second overall after his 2:08:21 in London four years ago.

Guye Adola, Ethiopia
Second to Kipchoge at 2017 Berlin Marathon in 26.2-mile debut

Adola came out of nowhere to finish 14 seconds behind Kipchoge in Berlin on Sept. 24 in the fastest-ever marathon debut on a record-eligible course, sticking with Kipchoge until the last mile. Afterward, we learned Adola didn’t know he was running until four days before the race and wasn’t meant to start with the elite group. The 27-year-old was second and fifth in half marathons in January and February, not particularly impressive.

Daniel Wanjiru, Kenya
2017 London Marathon winner

Wanjiru won his major marathon debut last year, then returned to London for the world championships on Aug. 6 and was eighth. Neither of those fields was as strong as Sunday’s is shaping up to be. Just 25, Wanjiru will be tested like never before.

Mary Keitany, Kenya
2011, 2012, 2017 London Marathon winner
Ran fastest marathon by a woman without male pacers
2014, 2015, 2016 New York City Marathon winner

The 5-foot-2 mother of two smashed Paula Radcliffe‘s women-only world record by 41 seconds in London last year, clocking 2:17:01. She’ll run with male pacers Sunday in a bid to break Radcliffe’s world record of 2:15:25 from the 2003 London Marathon (the first time since 2003 London has male pacers for the women’s race). Keitany was stunned by Shalane Flanagan at her last marathon in New York City in November but came back in February to lower her half marathon personal best. “I’ve had Paula’s record in mind since I started my career,” the 36-year-old Keitany said.

Tirunesh Dibaba, Ethiopia
2017 Chicago Marathon winner
2017 London Marathon runner-up
Third-fastest female marathoner of all time
Eight Olympic/world titles in 5000m/10,000m

The Baby-Faced Destroyer is the only woman in the field whose personal best is within two minutes of Keitany’s. There’s reason to believe she can be closer to Keitany than last year (55 seconds behind, and that’s after stopping briefly with two miles left with stomach problems). Dibaba is four years younger than Keitany, with a decorated track background and just one year into her full-time marathon career.

Gladys Cherono, Kenya
2015, 2017 Berlin Marathon winner

The woman with the third-fastest personal best in the field has never raced London and was fifth in her only major marathon outside of Berlin. She was eighth in a half marathon in February, more than two minutes behind Keitany.

Rose Chelimo, Bahrain
2017 World champion
2017 Boston Marathon runner-up

Impressive second year as a marathoner in 2017. Chelimo, 28, was born in Kenya but switched to Bahrain in 2015. Though this is her London Marathon debut, her world title came in London in August. She did not impress at the world half marathon championships last month, finishing 14th overall and fifth among runners from Bahrain.

Vivian Cheruiyot, Kenya
Fourth at 2017 London Marathon in 26.2-mile debut
Four Olympic medals in 5000m/10,000m
Four world championships in 5000m/10,000m

Credentials similar to but not quite as impressive as Dibaba in terms of track medals, early marathon experience and age (34 to Dibaba’s 32). Cheruiyot finished more than five minutes behind Keitany and Dibaba in her 26.2-mile debut in London last year. She dropped out of the New York City Half Marathon on March 18 with a breathing problem in the cold weather but insisted she’s healthy for Sunday.

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Lance Armstrong settles $100 million lawsuit with U.S. government

Lance Armstrong
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Lance Armstrong has reached a $5 million settlement with the federal government in a whistleblower lawsuit that could have sought $100 million in damages from the cyclist who was stripped of his record seven Tour de France victories after admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his career.

The deal announced Thursday came as the two sides prepared for a trial that was scheduled to start May 7 in Washington. Armstrong’s former U.S. Postal Service teammate Floyd Landis filed the original lawsuit in 2010 and is eligible for up to 25 percent of the settlement.

Seeking millions spent sponsoring Armstrong’s powerhouse teams, the government joined the lawsuit against Armstrong in 2013 after his televised confession to using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs and methods. Armstrong had already retired, but the confession shattered the legacy of one of the most popular sports figures in the world.

In a statement to The Associated Press, Armstrong said he’s happy to have “made peace with the Postal Service.”

“While I believe that their lawsuit against me was meritless and unfair, and while I am spending a lot of money to resolve it, I have since 2013 tried to take full responsibility for my mistakes and inappropriate conduct, and make amends wherever possible,” he said. “I rode my heart out for the Postal cycling team, and was always especially proud to wear the red, white and blue eagle on my chest when competing in the Tour de France. Those memories are very real and mean a lot to me.”

The settlement clears the 46-year-old Armstrong of the most damaging legal issues still facing the cyclist since his downfall. He had already taken huge hits financially, losing all his major sponsors and being forced to pay more than $20 million in damages and settlements in a series of lawsuits. The government’s lawsuit would have been the biggest by far.

Armstrong is still believed to be worth millions based on a vast investment portfolio and homes in Austin, Texas, and Aspen, Colo. He also owns a pair of bicycle shops in Austin and WeDu, an endurance events company. He also hosts a regular podcast in which he interviews other sports figures and celebrities and has provided running commentary on the Tour de France.

Armstrong had built a worldwide following during his career winning races and fighting cancer.

His personal story of recovering from testicular cancer that had spread to his brain, while forcefully denying persistent rumors of doping, had built his Lance Armstrong Foundation cancer charity into a $500 million global brand and turned him into a celebrity. The foundation, which removed him from its board and renamed itself Livestrong, has seen donations and revenue plummet since Armstrong’s confession.

Armstrong’s team was already under the Postal Service sponsorship when he won his first Tour de France in 1999. The media frenzy that followed pushed the agency to sign the team for another five years. Armstrong and his teams dominated cycling’s marquee event, winning every year from 1999-2005.

Armstrong’s cheating was finally uncovered in 2012 when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, armed with sworn testimony from Landis and other former teammates, moved to strip Armstrong of his titles.

One of Armstrong’s fiercest critics was frustrated by the settlement. Betsy Andreu, whose husband Frankie was a former Armstrong teammate, was the first to testify under oath about his performance-enhancing drug use in a 2005 civil lawsuit.

“It’s utterly shocking that the government settled for so little,” Andreu said.

Andreu and her husband were close with Armstrong when the men were teammates before Andreu retired in 2000. Armstrong later strenuously denied Betsy’s claims of drug use and tried to publicly discredit her, which succeeded for years. She wanted the case to go to trial.

“I would have liked to have been questioned under oath. That’s my goal. And whether or not the jury would have convicted him would have been a different story, but it would have been nice to have my say under oath. He tried to destroy me.,” Andreu said.

Landis, himself a former doping cheat who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title, sued Armstrong under the federal False Claims Act, alleging Armstrong and his team committed fraud against the government when they cheated while riding under the Postal Service banner. According to court records, the contract paid the team, which was operated by Tailwind Sports Corp., about $32 million from 2000 to 2004. Armstrong got nearly $13.5 million.

Under the lawsuit, the government could have pursued “treble” damages, which could have reached the $100 million range. As the person who filed the original lawsuit, Landis is eligible for up to 25 percent of the settlement, which will include an additional $1.65 million paid to Landis’ attorneys.

Armstrong had claimed he didn’t owe the Postal Service anything because the agency made far more off the sponsorship than it paid; Armstrong’s lawyers introduced internal studies for the agency that calculated benefits in media exposure topping $100 million. The government countered that Armstrong had been “unjustly enriched” through the sponsorship and that the negative fallout from the doping scandal tainted the agency’s reputation.

Armstrong had been the target of a federal criminal grand jury, but that case was closed without charges in February 2012. Armstrong had previously tried to settle the Landis whistleblower lawsuit, but those talks broke down before the government announced its intention to join the case.

“I am glad to resolve this case and move forward with my life,” Armstrong said. “I’m looking forward to devoting myself to the many great things in my life — my five kids, my wife, my podcast, several exciting writing and film projects, my work as a cancer survivor, and my passion for sports and competition. There is a lot to look forward to.”

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