Sochi’s most interesting (and odd) moments so far

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A foggy course might be the image of early Monday, but there were plenty of scary, scintillating and silly moments from the first nine days of the 2014 Olympics.

You can check out a great rundown at NBC News and a video reel from NBC Olympics, but here are some highlights from Olympic Talk’s perspective as well.

Oshie’s Island

There is plenty of hockey left, but the Olympics produced at least one breakout name in the sport, and it wasn’t someone expected like Patrick Kane, Zach Parise or Phil Kessel. Instead, it was T.J. Oshie, who clearly became the U.S. go-to guy in the shootout.

source: AP
Credit: AP

Julia rules

Julia Lipnitskaya, 15, put on quite a show for her home crowd in the team figure skating performance. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin was impressed.

source: AP
Credit: AP

I-Pod, injuries shuffle Shaun White’s plans

As Sochi approached, White wasn’t just attempting to set a record by becoming the first U.S. Winter Olympian to gain gold in the same event three straight times. The snowboarding icon was also trying to stretch his limits by shooting for a medal in snowboard slopestyle. Those ambitions faded dramatically as a wrist injury prompted him to drop slopestyle and some halfpipe struggles left him without a 2014 medal altogether. Iouri “I-Pod” Podladtchikov instead won halfpipe gold with his “YOLO” trick.

source: AP
Credit: AP

Everyone wants to be Sage-like

While White’s snowboarding run ended in disappointment, snowboarding saw new faces emerge (not to mention the explosion of the term “spoice”). Kaitlyn Farrington and Jamie Anderson captivated audiences, but Sage Kotsenburg blew minds.

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Highs and lows in skiing

Julia Mancuso and Bode Miller experienced emotional (and performance) highs and lows in collecting their respective bronze medals.

Pikus-Pace’s resilient race to silver

After suffering serious injuries and even a personal tragedy, it seemed like Noelle Pikus-Pace would move on from skeleton and retire. Instead, her journey ended with tears and a silver medal.

source: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

Triumph and turmoil for Pluschenko

After victorious moments in the team competition, Yevgeny Plushenko ultimately ended his Olympic swan song early because of injury concerns. NBC’s Nick McCarvel captured the scene:

Without skating a single moment Thursday night at the Iceberg Skating Palace, Yevgeny Plushenko was once again the talk of Sochi. Actually, the talk of the Olympic sporting world.

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Credit: AP

Plenty of other injuries

Plushenko was far from the only athlete who experienced an ending that foiled a storybook ending, as issues plagued plenty of others, including skicross athlete Maria Komissarova breaking her back, prompting a visit from Putin.

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Credit: AP

Arielle Gold went as far as to upload a video of the fall that dislocated her shoulder, providing an example of how social media is opening up another avenue of “access.”

Weird weather

When you think “Winter Olympics,” palm trees and fog don’t really come to mind. Those are some of the many images that people will associate with Sochi, however.

source: AP
Credit: AP
source: AP
Credit: AP

Hanyu hangs on in figure skating

It wasn’t a perfect performance by Yuzuru Hanyu, but he won Japan’s first men’s figure skating title nonetheless (and continuing the “Canadian Curse” in the process, as Patrick Chan finished with silver).

source: AP
Credit: AP

Dutch domination, U.S. disappointment in speed skating

Dutch speed skaters are on a record-setting run in Sochi. After Sunday’s 1-2-3-4 finish in the women’s 1500m, the Netherlands has swept three different speed skating events (also men’s 5000m and men’s 500m) and won 16 medals in the process, the most in one sport by any country at one Games.

source: Reuters
Credit: Reuters

Meanwhile, the United States has experienced significant disappointments from speed skating to short track. Shani Davis came up short in his attempt to win the men’s 1000m for the third consecutive Oympics. JR Celski’s short track bids didn’t happen. On the women’s side, audiences became used to seeing photos of a disappointed Heather Richardson.

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Credit: AP

Whichever suit was being worn in a given speed skating event, it seemed like it was being accompanied by an unhappy face.

German’s sweep the luge

German lugers swept all of their events in Sochi. That included putting an exclamation point on that impressive run by winning the first-ever team relay.

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Credit: AP

Ole’s historic run

“Boring” or not, Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen solidified himself as one of the all-time great Olympians by tying a Winter Olympics record with his 12th medal thanks to gold in the biathlon 10km sprint. He still has a chance to stand alone at 13 and almost hit that mark before.

source: AP
Credit: AP

Viktor Ahn’s unusual path

Viktor Ahn became the first man to win gold for two distinct countries in 2014, as he notched that speed skating medal for Russia after representing South Korea. South Korea is … displeased.

source: AP
Credit: AP

Johnny Quinn breaks through

Plenty of athletes generate laughs and drew eyeballs to their Twitter feeds already (Oshie’s follower increase has been healthy, to say the least), but few did it quite like Johnny Quinn:

Wild sliders

The sliding sports seemed to generate some of the most unusual moments. That included a shocking averted crash in training for luger Shiva Keshavan:

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An Irish bobsledder and Brazilian bobsledders either avoiding or surviving near-disastrous accidents of their own:

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But luger (Dancin’) Kate Hansen provided plenty of Beyonce-loving comic relief, too.

Even Al Roker and Matt Lauer got in on the action.

Olga’s oops

Russian skater Olga Graf got a little too wrapped up in the moment after winning bronze in the women’s 3000m, nearly flashing the audience in the process.

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Credit: AP

Bearly fitting

Sochi’s polar bear mascot provided two bits of comedy recently, beginning with a moment in which it could not fit into a mini-van:

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While Keith Jones celebrated happier times for the fuzzy beast:

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Opening Ceremony

For all the majesty on display at Sochi’s Opening Ceremony, The Police Choir of Russia’s rendition of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” was the highlight for many.

source: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

More to come

Of course, there is plenty of Olympic action to come, which you can follow through our watch live updates alongside Olympic Talk and NBCOlympics.com. From Yuna Kim’s star power to more hockey to Mikaela Shiffrin’s debut, there should be plenty of other unforgettable sights … whether they are hilarious, triumphant or some sublime combination.

source: AP
Credit: AP

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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