The 14 best athletes from Sochi Olympics

4 Comments
source: AP
Photo credit: AP

SOCHI, Russia – The largest Winter Olympics in history (98 medal events) were always going to bring records and unprecedented achievements.

In Sochi, marks were set or tied for most career Olympics medals and golds, most medals at a single Games as well as several age records (young and old).

Here’s a list at the top 14 athletes from the Sochi Olympics, in reverse order:

14. Tina Maze (SLO), Alpine Skiing

Two gold medals in five events entered

source: AP
Photo credit: AP

The Slovenian singing sensation became the third skier to finish in the top eight of all five Alpine events at one Winter Olympics. She tied for gold in the downhill and won the giant slalom outright, adding to her two silver medals from 2010.

Maze could have become the first skier to be in the top six of all events, but she faltered in her final race, the second slalom run Friday, to drop from third to eighth.

Still, Maze showed her best form all season, which had largely been a struggle up to Sochi that included a coaching change. In 2012-13, Maze put up the greatest World Cup season ever by a man or woman.

She is 30 with four Olympics under her belt and said that she has skied her final Olympic race.

13. Kamil Stoch (POL), Ski Jumping

Two gold medals in three events entered

source: AP
Photo credit: AP

Stoch became the third man to sweep the individual ski jumping events, joining legends Matti Nykaenen and Simon Ammann.

Poland had never won more than one gold medal at a single Winter Olympics, so Stoch’s achievement could be considered the greatest in the nation’s Winter Games history.

12. Aleksander Zubkov (RUS), Bobsled

Two gold medals in two events entered

source: Reuters
Photo credit: Reuters

Zubkov, 39, had a built-in advantage of having six or seven times more runs than Holcomb on the Sanki Sliding Center track than 2010 Olympic four-man champion Steven Holcomb, the American estimated.

Still, Zubkov should be commended for his sweep after Holcomb and Germany’s Max Arndt had been the best drivers over the World Cup season.

He had the fastest sled in six of eight total runs over two- and four-man races and had both gold medals secured before the final run barring major mistakes.

Zubkov became the sixth man to sweep the two- and four-man Olympic events and the second non-German, joining the Italian great Eugenio Monti.

11. Tatyana Volosozhar/Maksim Trankov (RUS), Figure Skating

Two gold medals in two events entered

source: AP
Photo credit: AP

Volosozhar and Trankov restored Russian pairs dominance and became the first figure skaters to win multiple golds at one Winter Olympics with the new team event.

They came into Sochi with some doubts over recent flawed performances but were untouchable at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Volosozhar and Trankov were the final pair to go on the first night of competition in the team event and were 10 points better than the field.

They skipped the free skate in the team event and came back Feb. 11 for the pairs event with an even better short program – a world record score.

One night later, they were nine points better than the field in the free skate to win by 18 points, the margin that separated second from sixth.

10. Tobias Wendl/Tobias Arlt (GER), Luge

Two gold medals in two events entered

source: AP
Photo credit: AP

The Germans swept the luge events, and the “Bayern-Express” was at the heart of it. Wendl and Arlt won the doubles by .522, the largest margin in the event’s history.

They then joined a powerhouse team in the relay, anchoring a one-second victory with the fastest doubles time by more than a half-second.

9. Marit Bjorgen (NOR), Cross-Country Skiing

Three gold medals in six events entered

source: Reuters
Photo credit: Reuters

It’s a testament to her incredible talent that three golds could be considered less than expected from Bjorgen.

She went into the Olympics with a real shot to become the first Winter Olympian to win six medals at a single Games.

She fell short of that, placing fifth in two events and being eliminated in the semifinals of the sprint.

Still, Bjorgen prevailed amid ski wax issues that plagued the Norwegian team.

Bjorgen became the most decorated female Winter Olympian ever with 10 medals and six golds. Others have 10 medals with fewer golds.

She is 33 and is thinking about starting a family, making a run at 2018 appear unlikely.

8. Darya Domracheva (BLR), Biathlon

Three gold medals in five events entered

source:
Photo credit: Getty

Belarus doubled its previous best Winter Olympic output with six medals in Sochi. Half were won by Domracheva, who won three straight individual biathlon events, all by at least 20 seconds.

She became the first female Winter Olympic champion in her nation’s history (since1994).

Domracheva questionably skipped the mixed relay because she didn’t think Belarus had a shot at a medal.

7. Joss Christensen (USA), Ski Slopestyle

One gold medal in one event entered

source: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty

Hats off to the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association for putting Christensen on the Olympic team over the previous two world champions.

Christensen was the final skier named to the four-man Olympic slopestyle team, but nobody could touch him at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

He posted the best score in each of the two qualifying runs. In the final, both of his runs would have won gold. He led the third U.S. Winter Olympic podium sweep ever and dedicated the win to his father, who had died due to a congenital heart condition in August.

6. Vic Wild (RUS), Alpine Snowboarding

Two gold medals in two events entered

source: AP
Photo credit: AP

Coming in, many hoped an American would become the first person to win two snowboarding gold medals at one Winter Olympics in Sochi.

They expected Shaun White. They got Vic Wild.

Wild was born and raised in the U.S. but became frustrated with a lack of support from U.S. Snowboarding, so he married his Russian girlfriend and became a Russian citizen.

He had a better medal haul than any U.S. Olympian in Sochi, which must be quite satisfying. Even better, his wife, Alena Zavarzina, won a bronze medal in parallel giant slalom within minutes of Wild’s first gold on the same course.

5. Eva Samkova (CZE), Snowboard Cross

One gold medal in one event entered

source: Reuters
Photo credit: Reuters

Both snowboard cross champions were dominant, sweeping quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, but Samkova gets the edge because she also won the seeding races by .59.

The 20-year-old who draws moustaches on her faces before races was not considered the favorite going in, but she became the must-see boarder in the final after Lindsey Jacobellis crashed out.

She delivered, too, leading just about from start to finish in all three rounds.

Samkova, the junior world champion in 2010, 2011 and 2013, had taken silver behind Jacobellis at the 2014 Winter X Games.

4. Jennifer Jones (CAN), Curling

One gold medal in one event entered

source: AP
Photo credit: AP

Jones, 39, skipped the first women’s rink to go undefeated through the Olympics, winning all 11 matches en route to the Canadian women’s first gold since 2002.

Interestingly enough, her rink was pushed hardest by the last-place U.S. team, forcing an extra end in round-robin play.

Jones’ shots for the tournament were graded at an 86 percent success rate, seven percentage points better than the next best skip.

The difference between the second-best skip and the ninth-best skip was four percentage points. That gives an indication of Jones’ domination.

3. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen (NOR), Biathlon

Two gold medals in six events entered

source: AP
Photo credit: AP

The Biathlon King was expected to break the record for most career Winter Olympic medals as part of deep Norwegian relay teams in the final week.

But he did half of it on his own, winning the first individual biathlon event for medal No. 12 and gold No. 7. At 40, he became the oldest individual Winter Olympic champion.

The record holder for medals and golds coming into the Olympics was retired Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie, who was on hand at the Laura Biathlon Complex.

Bjoerndalen went on to break the record for total medals and tie the record for golds in the new Olympic mixed relay event.

At 40, he finished his Olympic career with 13 medals and eight golds in another Olympic record – 27 events entered.

2. Ireen Wuest (NED), Speed Skating

Two gold medals, three silver in five events entered

source:
Photo credit: AP

No nation was as dominant in an individual sport as the Dutch speed skaters. It was a team effort, but if one person must be singled out, make it Wuest.

She won her second Olympic title in the 3000m and helped the Netherlands to its first Olympic medal in the women’s team pursuit, a gold.

She also collected silvers in the 1000m, 1500m and 5000m, displaying the talent that’s made her the three-time reigning World Allround champion.

Wuest, the most decorated athlete at these Games, became the eighth athlete to win five medals at one Winter Olympics. It’s now been done at three straight Olympics, more commonplace with events being added to the program every four years.

Wuest, 27, said before the Olympics that she was hoping to compete in 2018. She is two medals away from the career Winter Olympic record for women.

1. Viktor Ahn (RUS), Short Track Speed Skating

Three gold medals, one silver medal in four events entered

source: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty

Ahn was one of the leading international stories going into the Games. He had won three golds and one bronze while skating for South Korea as Ahn Hyun-Soo at the 2006 Olympics.

Ahn did not qualify for the 2010 Olympics, and subsequent fallout with the Korea Skating Union led him to acquire Russian citizenship.

He flourished with his new nation in Sochi, astonishingly bettering his 2006 Olympic medal haul. Ahn was .077 away from becoming the first person to sweep all four short track golds.

He became the most decorated Olympic short track skater of all time, matching Apolo Ohno in medals but with more golds.

South Korean fans were irate over his success, especially compared with the South Korean men’s failure to win a medal.

Ahn, 28, is considering the 2018 Olympics, which are in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Oh boy.

Simone Biles becomes honorary Houston Texans cheerleader

AP Images
Leave a comment

The NFL’s Houston Texans may not be having the greatest season on the football field, but that hasn’t stopped one famous diehard fan from cheering them on.

On Sunday, Simone Biles took her fandom to the next level by debuting as an honorary Texans cheerleader before the team’s home game against the San Francisco 49ers.

game day feels ❤️ so excited to dance at the Houston Texans Game!

A post shared by Simone Biles (@simonebiles) on

officially ready for game day now that I got my legendary red boots 🏈

A post shared by Simone Biles (@simonebiles) on

As an added bonus, she also found time to take a few photos with NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon, a 7-foot center who once starred for the Houston Rockets.

This isn’t the first time that the Olympic gold medalist has teamed up with her hometown Texans. In 2016, Biles had the honor of announcing one of the team’s draft picks, and in 2015, she made this memorable entrance onto the field after a pre-game introduction.

Julia Marino, Jamie Anderson close in on Olympic snowboard team spots after second U.S. qualifier

Leave a comment

Julia Marino is within striking distance of qualifying for her first Olympic team. Sochi gold medalist Jamie Anderson is even closer.

Marino, who won four X Games medals in slopestyle and big air competitions last season, unleashed a frontside 720 and her signature cab double underflip to take second place in big air at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, the second of five qualifying events for the U.S. snowboard slopestyle and big air team.

Anderson, who received high marks for her cab 900 but lower scores for her frontside 720, finished off the podium in fourth. Because she and Marino were the only Americans to reach the final at Copper though, Anderson still received a valuable haul of Olympic selection points and maintains the lead in the overall rankings.

Although Marino’s cab double underflip received the highest score of the competition, riders in big air are scored on their two best tricks. That enabled Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi to take the win with a pair of solid jumps that included a backside 1080. Silje Norendal of Norway finished on the podium in third behind Iwabuchi and Marino.

In order to be named to the U.S. Olympic slopestyle and big air snowboarding team, riders must have a minimum of one podium finish at the selection events. If more than three riders attain podium finishes, then the tiebreaker will come down each rider’s two best results.

Marino and Anderson have both fulfilled the minimum criteria for automatic selection. Either of them could clinch spots on the Olympic team for both slopestyle and big air by finishing as the top U.S. rider at any of the remaining selection events. The next event will be a slopestyle contest next week in Breckenridge, Colo.

Meanwhile, the men’s big air competition had the potential to shake up the U.S. Olympic rankings, as none of the podium finishers from the first selection event reached the final at Copper.

After a disappointing result in that first qualifier, which was held at Mammoth Mountain last winter, Chris Corning bounced back to finish as the top American in this contest and second place overall. He landed a frontside 1440 and a massive backside triple cork 1440 on his two jumps, putting his own stylish twist on both tricks with melon grabs.

Corning, the 2015/16 World Cup champion in slopestyle, has emerged as perhaps the U.S. team’s top hope for an Olympic medal this year in both men’s slopestyle and big air, events typically dominated by riders from Canada and Norway. Now that he has his first selection event podium under his belt, he can clinch a spot on the Olympic team by finishing as the top American at any of the remaining contests.

Also earning a podium result with a third-place finish was 19-year-old Chandler Hunt, who has suddenly added his name to the U.S. Olympic discussion.

The victory in men’s big air went to Norway’s Mons Roisland, who stomped a switch backside 1620 and a frontside 1440 tail grab on his jumps.

Three more selection events for the slopestyle and big air team still remain, and all three will be slopestyle events. Dew Tour will host a selection event next week in Breckenridge, then there will be a break until Olympic qualifying resumes in January with competitions at Aspen and Mammoth.

U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain Results

Men’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Mons Roisland (NOR), 182.75
2. Chris Corning (USA), 177.25
3. Chandler Hunt (USA), 159.00
4. Ryan Stassel (USA), 154.50
5. Max Parrot (CAN), 121.50

Women’s Snowboard Big Air
1. Reira Iwabuchi (JPN), 169.25
2. Julia Marino (USA), 160.25
3. Silje Norendal (NOR), 156.75
4. Jamie Anderson (USA), 151.50
5. Sina Candrian (SUI), 135.50

U.S. Olympic Qualifying Standings

Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Red Gerard, 1400*
2. Chris Corning, 1200*
3. Chandler Hunt, 1160*
4. Kyle Mack, 1000*
5. Judd Henkes, 1000

Women’s Snowboard Slopestyle/Big Air
1. Jamie Anderson, 1800*
2. Julia Marino, 1600*
3. Hailey Langland, 1300*
4. Jessika Jenson, 1050
5. Nora Healey, 950

*Has automatic qualifying minimum of one top-three result.