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.

source: AP
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.

source: AP
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.

source: AP
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.

source: AP
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.

source: AP
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

Chicago Marathon features Emily Sisson’s return, Conner Mantz’s debut, live on Peacock

Emily Sisson
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At Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, Emily Sisson makes her return, nearly three years after Olympic Trials disappointment. Conner Mantz makes one of the most anticipated U.S. men’s debuts in 26.2-mile racing.

It is not the norm, but an American will be one of the spotlight runners in both the men’s and women’s elite races at a major marathon. Peacock airs live coverage at 8 a.m. ET.

Sisson, 30, starts her first mass marathon since dropping out of the Olympic Trials on Feb. 29, 2020, her legs “destroyed” on the hilly Atlanta course where she started as arguably the favorite. She ran the virtual New York City Marathon later in 2020, but that was solo (and not in New York City). Her 2:38:00 isn’t recorded in her official results on her World Athletics bio.

Since, Sisson won the Olympic Trials 10,000m on the track and was the top American in Tokyo in 10th place. She moved back to the roads, winning national titles at 15km and the half marathon and breaking the American record in the latter.

Sisson vaulted into the elite group of U.S. female marathoners in 2019, when she clocked the second-fastest debut marathon in American history, a 2:23:08 on a windy day in London, where the early pace was slow.

At the time, it was the 12th-best U.S. performance all-time. In the last two years, Keira D’Amato, 37, and Sara Hall, 39, combined to run seven faster marathons. At Chicago, a flat course that produced a world record three years ago, Sisson can answer them and perhaps get close to D’Amato’s American record 2:19:12.

“I’m hoping sub-2:20,” coach Ray Treacy said, according to LetsRun.com. “With the [super] shoes and the training behind her, I would think that’s [worth] at least three minutes.”

It is less likely that Sisson can challenge for the win on Sunday given the presence of Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich, the 2019 World champion and defending champion in the Windy City. The 28-year-old mom is the fifth-fastest woman in history with a personal best of 2:17:08. And Ethiopian Ruti Aga, a podium finisher in Berlin, New York City and Tokyo with a best time of 2:18:34, though she has one marathon finish since the pandemic (a seventh place).

Like Sisson, Mantz has shown strong recent road racing form. The American men’s debut marathon record of 2:07:56 (Leonard Korir) is in play. If he can break that, Mantz will be among the five fastest U.S. marathoners in history.

Rarely has a U.S. male distance runner as accomplished as Mantz moved up to the marathon at such a young age (25). At BYU, he won NCAA cross-country titles in 2020 and 2021 and placed fifth in the Olympic Trials 10,000m, then turned pro and won the U.S. Half Marathon Championships last December.

“If everything goes as planned, I think sub-2:08 is realistic,” Mantz said in a Citius Mag video interview last month. “If everything goes perfect on the day, I think a sub-2:07, that’s a big stretch goal.”

The men’s field doesn’t have the singular star power of Chepngetich, but a large group of East Africans with personal bests around 2:05. The most notable: defending champion Seifu Tura of Ethiopia and 2021 Boston Marathon winner Benson Kipruto of Kenya.

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Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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