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.

FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

Gabriel Jesus
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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

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Jenny Thompson’s new team is on the front line fighting coronavirus

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Two weeks ago, Jenny Thompson, the 12-time Olympic swimming medalist turned anesthesiologist, told close friends about the worrisome situation at her hospital in Charleston, S.C.

Thompson and her perioperative team of 40 or 50 were stressed that they would not have the most effective personal protective equipment (PPE) for when the coronavirus pandemic peaks there, projected to be later this month.

The messages caused fellow former Stanford swimmers and Olympic teammates Gabrielle Rose and Lea Maurer to act.

“She almost never asks for any sort of help or support,” Maurer said. “She’s Herculean in her ability to take on life and all its challenges.”

Rose and Maurer started a GoFundMe titled “Go Jenny Go” on March 22 for help to purchase PPE for the hospital. At the time, critical care doctors were “scrambling to piece together purchases on their own in anticipation of their high risk patients,” Maurer wrote.

Thompson said the PPE situation is better now. The GoFundMe was suspended Wednesday. Future support is directed to help those in New York City. Thompson specifically noted a GoFundMe for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.

More than $9,000 was raised in less than two weeks. Also, the hospital started receiving more PPE on its own. Thompson’s team now feels prepared for what’s to come.

“People were responding and donating from all chapters of my life,” Thompson said by phone Thursday. “People I didn’t even know. Family from USA Swimming and international swimming. It’s really touched me to know that so many people care and are able to donate, help share the message.”

Thompson woke at 4 a.m. several days this week with thoughts of her peers in New York City. Healthcare workers there have cited a lack of PPE in putting their own lives at risk while they fight to save others. Some have contracted the virus.

“We’ve been fortunate [in South Carolina]. I feel lucky,” Thompson said. “We’ll definitely be in a place where we’re taking care of a lot of Covid patients, but we’re not there yet.

“I’ve heard people say, people in healthcare knew what they were signing up for. I never signed up to get sick and potentially die from this job. I always assumed that I would have the protection or the supplies needed to help me do my job, and that’s been a real struggle nationwide.”

Thompson went to medical school in New York at Columbia University starting in 2001.

“I’d been there maybe a couple weeks at Columbia, when 9/11 happened,” she said. “I remember feeling very helpless as a first-year medical student. I wanted to help so badly, but there really wasn’t much I could do. All my classmates felt the same way. I’ve always had that as part of the making of me as a doctor, having to go through crisis, but I never imagined a pandemic. I guess some people prepare for this sort of thing their whole life, but I didn’t.”

The term “front lines” has been applied to healthcare workers around the globe. Thompson said it’s apt at her hospital.

“We definitely have Covid here, but we have not had a major outbreak like some other cities,” she said. “We consider every patient who we give general anesthesia and intubate to be a potential risk. As anesthesia providers and people who intubate the airway, we are on the front line. We are at a much higher risk of getting sick without the right PPE.”

Thompson’s team feels more ready for the peak with every passing day. They’re simulating, donning and doffing and scheduling to work longer shifts starting next week. The preparation extends home, where she has a husband and three children.

“I have, like, four different pairs of shoes,” Thompson said. “I spray my socks with fabric disinfectant. I take them off in the car, and then I put on flip-flops. Then when I get home, I shower and put my clothes in the wash immediately. It’s a strange place to be, but just consider everything I touch to be contaminated in an effort to protect myself.”

Both Rose and Maurer still see in Thompson that swimmer who awed them in college. As Thompson trained to become the most decorated female U.S. Olympian in history, she studied at Stanford and then Columbia to become a doctor.

“I knew I wanted to take care of critically ill patients,” she said.

As a swimmer, Thompson was known as the ultimate teammate. Eight Olympic gold medals in relays, often an anchor. Always there. Dependable.

“She knows that she’s going to make a difference,” Maurer said. “She knows that she’s going to achieve that goal. She knows that she’s going to help to make people better. And so she does it.”

Thompson believes the next few weeks will be unlike anything she’s ever faced.

“Everybody was sort of freaking out in the beginning and feeling very stressed, and I think that at some level has not gone away,” she said. “That’s going to stay with us, but we have a we-can-do-this-together fighting mentality that we are leaning on each other for. It’s really no different than being a part of any kind of team.”