Sochi Olympic Daily Recap & Medal Count: Day 7

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After going through so much both on and off the ice, U.S. skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace finally has her Olympic medal.

The U.S. skeleton racer won the silver today in the women’s skeleton behind gold medal winner Lizzy Yarnold of Great Britain. Pikus-Pace, a former world champion, has battled through injuries from a bobsled crash, a fourth-place finish in Vancouver and a miscarriage two years ago. But today, her Olympic dream was realized.

“This is everything I could have imagined and more, just to have my family here with me and all of the love and support and cheers we’ve had, and all of the trials we’ve had to overcome to come to this moment,” she said afterwards. “This is as good as gold.”

VIDEO: Complete Team USA recap for Day 7

Her emotional breakthrough shared top billing today with a men’s figure skating final that was supposed to feature a sizzling battle between Yuzuru Hanyu and Patrick Chan for the gold medal.

But while those two did indeed duel for victory, they were both far from flawless in their free skates. In the end, Hanyu emerged victorious while Jason Brown of the U.S., after being in medal contention to start the day, wound up finishing ninth…

The men’s Alpine skiing super combined was not a good day for Bode Miller and Ted Ligety. Both Americans finished outside the Top 10 in the downhill section, and were unable to make up ground in the slalom and finished out of the medals. Miller shared his frustration over his result on Twitter but did congratulate the podium finishers, led by gold medalist Sandro Villeta of Switzerland…

Here’s a quick rundown of the other medal events this afternoon in Sochi:

In hockey, the women had the day off while the men’s side featured four contests, including Team Canada taking a 6-0 win over Austria. Here were the other contests:

Out of competition, U.S. Speedskating has reportedly asked for the option to switch out of their current suits after a tough series of opening races…

An Irish skeleton racer went for a jaw-dropping ride in men’s skeleton

Vladimir Putin stopped by Team USA’s headquarters…

Team USA athletes celebrated Valentine’s Day

There was a bit of monkey business going on at the men’s super combined…

TODAY’s Meredith Vieira is the next one to step in for Bob Costas as NBC Olympics host…

And snowboard slopestyle gold medalist Sage Kotsenburg palled around with Jimmy Fallon.

MEDAL COUNT – Feb. 14
(Country – Gold/Silver/Bronze – Total Medals)

1. Germany – 7/2/1 – 10
2. Switzerland – 5/1/1 – 7
3. Canada – 4/5/2 – 11
T-4. Norway – 4/3/6 – 13
T-4. United States – 4/3/6 – 13
6. Netherlands – 4/3/5 – 12
7. Belarus – 3/0/1 – 4
8. Russia – 2/5/5 – 12
9. China – 2/2/0 – 4
10. France – 2/0/2 – 4
11. Poland – 2/0/0 – 2
12. Austria – 1/4/0 – 5
13. Japan – 1/2/1 – 4
14. Slovenia – 1/1/2 – 4
T-15. Great Britain – 1/0/1 – 2
T-15. Korea – 1/0/1 – 2
17. Slovakia – 1/0/0 – 1
18. Sweden – 0/5/2 – 7
19. Italy – 0/2/2 – 4
20. Czech Republic – 0/2/1 – 3
21. Australia – 0/1/1 – 2
T-22. Croatia – 0/1/0 – 1
T-22. Finland – 0/1/0 – 1
24. Latvia – 0/0/2 – 2
T-25. Kazakhstan – 0/0/1 – 1
T-25. Ukraine – 0/0/1 – 1

French Open: Karolina Pliskova, top player sans Slam, again exits early

Karolina Pliskova
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No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova exited yet another Grand Slam in the early stages, falling to 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the second round at Roland Garros on Thursday.

Ostapenko, whose only match wins at the French Open before this week came in her title run three years ago, bounced the big-serving Czech 6-4, 6-2.

Pliskova put fewer than half of her first serves in play, while Ostapenko fired 27 winners to 19 unforced errors. Pliskova was on the ropes in her first round, too, needing three sets to get past an Egyptian qualifier.

“Maybe same level as the match before, but of course [Ostapenko] is much better player,” Pliskova said. “Not much to say about this match.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Later Thursday, top-ranked Novak Djokovic had a second straight win ceding just five games, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 over Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis. Djokovic undefeated in 2020 save his U.S. Open default for smacking a ball that inadvertently struck a linesperson, next gets Colombian lucky loser Daniel Elahi Galán.

Nobody else in Djokovic’s half of the draw at the start of the tournament made a French Open semifinal before.

Pliskova is the highest-ranked player of either gender (No. 4) without a Grand Slam title, yet hasn’t made it past the fourth round at a major since the 2019 Australian Open.

She’s played six Slams as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, one shy of Caroline Wozniacki‘s total before she broke through at the 2018 Australian Open and two shy of Simona Halep‘s total before she won the 2018 French Open.

Ostapenko, meanwhile, is having a very different career.

She won the 2017 Roland Garros title, two days after turning 20, while ranked 47th. She hasn’t gotten past the third round of a major since 2018 Wimbledon, including first-round French Open exits the last two years, and is back down to No. 43 in the WTA rankings.

“It’s hard to compare with 2017. As I said, it was like three years ago, and I was much younger, and also I was fearless. Nobody knew me,” Ostapenko said. “The world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. Of course I want to achieve more, and I want to be back in top five, top 10.”

She dropped just nine games in four sets this week.

Ostapenko gets 87th-ranked Spaniard Paula Badosa in third round. Badosa dispatched 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

MORE: Serena Williams ‘struggling to walk’

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix fields look very different this season

Nathan Chen
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Before Nathan Chen is expected to go for a historic fifth straight U.S. figure skating title in January, he will, in a first, compete against most of his top countrymen later this month.

Fields for the Grand Prix Series, figure skating’s autumn international circuit, were published Thursday. As expected, every top skater entered will compete in his or her home country, or nearest to where he or she trains, and in one of the six events.

Traditionally, skaters compete in two of the six events and are scattered among competitions in the U.S., Canada, France, Russia, China and Japan based on world rankings.

But the International Skating Union restricted travel this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Skaters are limited to compete locally. And the Grand Prix Final at the conclusion of the Grand Prix Series has been postponed from its scheduled December setting in Beijing.

That means that Chen vies for a record-tying fourth straight Skate America crown in Las Vegas in three weeks against a field mostly made up of countrymen, including Olympic teammate Vincent Zhou and U.S. bronze medalist Tomoki Hiwatashi.

In all, there are eight U.S. men entered in Skate America, 11 women (including past national champions Bradie Tennell and Gracie Gold), six pairs and nine ice dance couples (including U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue), plus some skaters from other nations who train in the U.S.

Traditionally, a country has no more than three entries per discipline at a Grand Prix event.

GRAND PRIX FIELDS: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

Sochi Olympian Jason Brown, who trains in Toronto, is entered in Skate Canada the week after Skate America.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix Series until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

All of the reigning Olympic champions are absent from the series.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan previously announced he wouldn’t compete due to virus-related travel risks. Russian Alina Zagitova extended her indefinite break from competition dating to last autumn, rather choosing to participate in a skating-themed TV series.

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada retired. The German pairs’ team of Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot last competed in the 2018 Olympic season.

Instead, the headliners include Chen, the two-time world champion undefeated since placing fifth in PyeongChang. And a deep crop of Russian teenage women, all of course entered in the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in November.

MORE: Brian Orser reacts to Yevgenia Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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