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.

Kyle Snyder savors Russian Tank showdown

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U.S. wrestler Kyle Snyder waited 2 1/2 years for this news. The Russian Tank is moving up to 97kg.

Abdulrashid Sadulayev, a 21-year-old from Dagestan with the foreboding nickname, is undefeated at the senior international level since November 2013. He won the 2014 and 2015 World freestyle titles and 2016 Olympic gold at 86kg.

Sadulayev hasn’t competed since Rio but is believed to be shifting to 97kg for the Russian Championships. The news spread Sunday.

Snyder, a 21-year-old from Maryland, owns the 97kg division. He is the reigning Olympic and world champion but does not quite carry Sadulayev’s reputation. No man does.

Snyder is 13-3 internationally since Rio. He also showed grit to cap an undefeated college season, repeating as national champion for Ohio State by overcoming a rib injury and pain-killing shots at NCAAs.

Snyder is training for the U.S. trials for the world championships in two weeks, when he’ll have a bye into the final. But that preparation was interrupted Sunday when Snyder saw the Sadulayev news on Twitter.

“I know as much as, like, anybody else,” Snyder said by phone Monday evening. “I just saw it on Twitter, and people were confirming it, pretty reliable sources. Not 100 percent sure, but I’m pretty sure.

“My gut reaction is excited, happy. When I first saw it, I smiled because this is like an exciting match for the wrestling community, wrestling fans, and it’s an exciting match for me. It motivates me to continue to grow and continue to improve in wrestling.”

Snyder calls Sadulayev the world’s best pound-for-pound wrestler, ranking ahead of Turkey’s Taha Akgul, also a 2014 and 2015 World champion and 2016 Olympic gold medalist.

Snyder has interacted with a fake Sadulayev Twitter account, but never spoken with the Russian. He believes they have shaken hands, though.

Better is Snyder’s familiarity with Sadulayev’s wrestling. He first dreamed of facing him in 2014, while watching the world championships in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on a web stream.

There, an 18-year-old Sadulayev manhandled men up to 11 years older, winning four of five matches by the 10-point mercy rule.

Snyder has watched all four of Sadulayev’s matches from Rio, where the Russian bulldozed to gold by a combined 28-1 margin. Snyder was 28-8 across his four wins.

“[Sadulayev] has got a very good stance,” Snyder said. “It’s very difficult to get to his legs and to break his positioning. He’s a very good finisher once he gets your leg, and he’s very good on top.”

Snyder compared the challenge of facing Sadulayev to that of another Russian, Abdusalam Gadisov, the 2014 World champion whom Snyder edged in the 2015 Worlds 97kg final.

Except Gadisov is six years older than Snyder and such a stalwart that Snyder had been watching Gadisov’s film since the seventh grade. And Gadisov didn’t make Russia’s Olympic team.

Snyder knows one American who has faced Sadulayev in competition and maybe another one or two who grappled with him in training.

Sadulayev reportedly suffered a partial knee tear months before the Olympics. He hasn’t competed since Rio, taking time off for marriage, according to USA Wrestling.

“I know that he was hurt after the Olympics, and he’s had a lot of recovery and treatments,” Snyder said.

The possibility of facing Sadulayev is so enticing that Snyder doesn’t mind discussing it despite the fact neither wrestler is guaranteed a worlds spot.

Snyder goes into the U.S. trials in two weeks as a decided favorite, though. His biggest domestic competition the previous two years was 2012 Olympic champion Jake Varner, who Snyder said won’t be at trials.

“I’m a better wrestler than I was last year,” Snyder said. “No matter how many titles I get, I don’t think I’ll ever feel pressure to win because I care more about competing hard and wrestling hard and trying to score a lot of points than I do winning.”

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Henrik Lundqvist joins Swedish throng in song at world title celebration

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Singing Queen’s “We are the Champions,” goalie Henrik Lundqvist joined thousands of his closest Swedish friends to celebrate their world hockey title in a central Stockholm square Monday afternoon.

The event at Sergel Square attracted the country’s prime minister (who was partially booed), Swedish royals and a flyover by the Swedish Air Force, according to German press agency DPA. Even the pregnant 2015 Miss Sweden found a way to honor the team.

Sweden won its 10th world title Sunday, ousting two-time defending champion Canada 2-1 in a shootout and at least somewhat avenging its Sochi Olympic final defeat.

The Swedish roster included NHL players who, as of now, won’t be participating in the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Such as Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom, who scored one of Sweden’s two shootout goals, three years after being suspended from the Olympic final for testing positive for pseudoephedrine.

And Lundqvist, who flew to the worlds co-hosted by France and Germany to join the team mid-tournament after his New York Rangers were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Lundqvist stopped all four Canadian shots in the shootout, capping an exceptional stint with the team. He arrived to play the last five games and tallied a 1.31 goals-against average and .946 save percentage, the best among all goalies who played in more than two games at the tournament.

Lundqvist, 35, joined Sweden at worlds for the first time since 2008 after his identical twin brother, Joel, reached out, according to The New York Times. Joel, a former NHL forward, is the Swedish team captain but didn’t make the Olympics in 2006, 2010 or 2014, like Henrik did (winning gold in 2006).

The Lundqvist brothers had not played on the same team in 12 years. With Joel not playing in the NHL, it might be his turn to suit up at the Olympics next year, while Henrik stays in the U.S.

“Sitting in New York, 10 days ago or so, this is what I pictured myself, to be here with my brother, to hold this trophy,” Lundqvist said Sunday.

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