Sochi Olympic Daily Recap: Day 15

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After falling to Canada in the semifinals, the U.S. men’s hockey team tried to shift focus to this morning’s bronze medal game against Finland.

But the Americans were never able to get going as the Finns, led by a two-goal effort from Teemu Selanne and a shutout performance from Tuukka Rask, earned their fourth men’s hockey medal in the last five Winter Olympics with a 5-0 victory.

U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick allowed all five Finnish goals, but didn’t receive any offensive help either as the team failed to score for the second game in a row.

After the game, he took the team to task for their effort overall while also acknowledging his own shortcomings, saying: “My job is to stop the puck, and I didn’t do that very well. Team effort. We weren’t good.”…

Meanwhile, giant slalom winner Ted Ligety of the U.S. attempted to earn a medal in an event that’s not his best – the slalom. He was a solid sixth after the first run, but was one of multiple big names that failed to finish their second run. The gold went to 34-year-old Mario Matt of Austria, who becomes the oldest Alpine skiing champion in Olympic history…

American-born Russian snowboarder Vic Wild triumphed once again, this time claiming the parallel slalom for his second gold in these Games. He charged from 1.12 seconds down to win his semifinal and then took the final by a mere .11 of a second. Austria’s Julia Dujmovits won the women’s gold…

On the final day of speedskating, the Dutch put an exclamation point on their medal spree at Adler Arena with wins and Olympic records in both the men’s and ladies‘ team pursuit. With that, they finish out with eight golds and 23 medals in speedskating alone

Ole Einar Bjoerndalen’s stellar third leg (10-for-10 in shooting) for Norway in the biathlon men’s relay was not enough for him to earn a record ninth Winter Olympic gold. Norway’s anchor, Emil Hegle Svendsen, missed multiple shots in the final shooting range and took a penalty lap that helped knock the Norwegians to fourth at the finish. At the front, Anton Shipulin pulled away on the final straight to win for Russia

And in cross-country skiing, Norway’s Marit Bjorgen won her third Sochi gold and sixth of her Olympic career in the women’s mass start. The event was swept by the Norwegians with Therese Johaug and Kristin Stoermer Steira taking silver and bronze respectively…

Four-man bobsled got underway and after the first day, it’s tight at the top. The defending Olympic champions from the U.S., led by driver Steven Holcomb, currently run fourth at just .17 of a second behind the leaders from Russia – who themselves only hold a lead of four one-hundredths of a second over Latvia. Germany is third at just one one-hundredth of a second ahead of the Americans…

Today’s bobsled action did not go without incident, as Canada’s third sled flipped over and eventually slid past the start/finish line on its side. Thankfully, driver Justin Kripps and his teammates were able to walk away from the track. At last report, the racers were being looked over by doctors as part of standard procedure…

Outside of competition, the head of Canada’s freestyle skiing team confirmed that the ashes of the late Sarah Burke were spread upon the halfpipe course at Rosa Khutor. The freestyle pioneer battled hard to have ski halfpipe included in the Sochi Olympics prior to her death in January of 2012…

South Korea’s Olympic committee and skating union officially filed a protest against Adelina Sotnikova’s surprising gold medal win over Yuna Kim. Whether it’ll be effective, however, may be another story…

Dutch speedskater and 10,000m Jorrit Bergsma boycotted today’s team pursuit event – not that it had any impact (see above)…

The science behind the runs that got Mikaela Shiffrin her gold medal in women’s slalom was explained

The Sochi Polar Bear once again made his presence known during today’s USA-Finland hockey match-up…

Canadian and Slovenian officials accused France of using illegally modified suits in their men’s ski cross sweep…

Adult-sized onesies have now become the hottest fashion statement among the Sochi competitors…

And IOC president Thomas Bach had lots of praise for Ukraine’s Olympians and the country’s gold in the biathlon women’s relay.

Ragan Smith delivers in first U.S. championship title win

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Ragan Smith embraced the role of heavy favorite coming into the U.S. gymnastics championships.

Thrust into the spotlight for the first time in her career, the 17-year-old hardly appeared intimidated by the stage. Smith pulled away from the field to claim her first national title Sunday, posting a score of 115.250, more than three points clear of Jordan Chiles in second place and Riley McCusker in third.

Smith opened up a 1.3-point lead over McCusker in the opening round Friday but admitted afterward she wasn’t particularly impressed by her own performance. She was considerably sharper less than 48 hours later, her 57.850 total in the finals was the best in the 16-woman all-around field by nearly two points.

Smith is one of the few holdovers from the 2016 Olympic cycle, serving as an alternate for the “Final Five” team that won half of the available medals in Rio de Janeiro last fall. Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Madison Kocian and Laurie Hernandez are taking breaks or have moved on, leaving Smith as the standard bearer for new national team coordinator Valeri Liukin.

The program appears to be in solid hands. Smith ditched “The Addams Family” themed floor routine she used last year for something a little more mature. It’s not the only part of her gymnastics that has grown up. Smith finished first on floor and beam and tied for third on bars.

Smith will be in the mix for the all-around title at the world championships in Montreal, where she’ll have a chance to extend the U.S.’s dominance. An American woman has won the world or Olympic title each of the last six years. Barring injury, Smith should be right there.

Liukin said he wasn’t alarmed following an uneven performance by the field in preliminaries, calling it a positive step for a group lacking in experience. The gymnastics were markedly improved in the finals.

Chiles slipped by McCusker into second thanks to a fabulous save on beam in which she turned a near disaster into something decidedly artful.

Chiles was in the middle of “wolf turn” (basically spinning on one foot while in a crouch on a 4-inch wide piece of wood) when she nearly fell over. Instead she rose to her feet, kept rotating, and went right into the next part of her routine as if it was planned all along.

Chiles’ steadiness gives Liukin another option as he tries to put together the rest of the four-woman team that will join Smith in Montreal. McCusker, only recently recovered from foot and wrist injuries, tried to keep the heat on Smith but stepped out of bounds following the last tumbling pass on her floor routine. McCusker finished first on bars — her legs practically magnetized together as she went from bar to bar — to win the event with ease.

Ashton Locklear, like Smith an alternate last summer, wound up second on bars with a watered down routine as he makes her way back from her own injury issues and should have time to install upgrades before Montreal.

Whoever heads to Canada in October will go with the usual expectations for what has become the sport’s most dominant program.

MORE: Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles says being back in the gym is “OK” (video)

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Simone Biles has competed in the six previous U.S. National Championships, winning the last four, but in Anaheim this year, she’s watching from the sidelines. Biles won four gold medals (team, all-around, vault and floor) and one bronze (on beam) last summer at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

This week she revealed she has returned to the gym to prepare for a yet to be determined event, in her return to competition.

When asked how she’s been doing in the gym by NBC Sports’ Andrea Joyce, Biles responded with her signature smile accompanied by an endearingly bashful eye roll, “the beginning is…OK.”

MORE: Danell Leyva on why he’s retiring

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