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PyeongChang late night roundup

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She had to wait a while, but Mikaela Shiffrin finally was able to ski in PyeongChang. With the women’s alpine skiing competition behind set increasingly back, the American was able to maintain her composure to win her first Olympic gold medal of these Games.

Shiffrin wasn’t the only American in action tonight. The U.S. women’s hockey team fell to Canada in a tense encounter. In a game that featured plenty of momentum swings, Canada scored two in the second period to seal the deal. The U.S. continued to put increasing pressure on the Canadians, but couldn’t get the job done.

In other news from the evening, Marit Bjoergen won her 12th overall Olympic medal and Pierre Vaultier won his second straight boardercross gold medal.

Alpine Skiing: Shiffrin wins gold in giant slalom

Mikaela Shiffrin sat in second position after her first run in the giant slalom, behind Italian Manuela Moelgg. The American, though, unlike her Italian counterpart, put on a masterful second run of 1:09.20, launching her into the gold medal position ahead of Moelgg, whose second run pushed her all the way down to eighth.

The Olympics could not have gone off to a better start for Shiffrin, who could leave PyeongChang with multiple medals.

Watch Shiffrin’s gold medal run 

Hockey: CAN def. USA 2-1 

Women’s Tournament

If that was a preview of what the gold medal game could look like, then it’s bound to be another classic between these two rivals. From the first puck drop until the final whistle, these two teams battled it out in a cagey affair that certainly lived up to expectations. Meghan Acosta and Sarah Nurse both scored for Canada.

CAN def. USA 2-1

FIN def. OAR 5-1

To read a full recap and to watch highlights, click here

Men’s Tournament

Finland’ s 18-year old young star Eeli Tolvanen stole the show on Wednesday night as the Finns eased to victory. Voltanen had a hand in four of five goals for his nation, scoring once and claiming three assists. With some traditional powerhouse teams looking a bit shaky at the start, he could become a huge difference for Finland as the tournament progresses into the knockout phase.

FIN def. GER 5-2

SWE def. NOR 4-0

Cross-Country Skiing: Haga dominates women’s 10km

Jessie Diggins again just finished outside the podium places in the women’s 10km free, finishing four seconds behind joint-third place finisher Marit Bjoergen and Krista Parmakowski.

Bjoergen, who has now won 12 overall Olympic medals in her career, is joined by countrywoman Ragnhild Haga. The Norwegian got off to a lightning-quick start, and eased to a 20.3 second margin of victory over second-placed Charlotte Kalla.

Snowboard Cross: Vaultier repeats as Olympic champ 

Pierre Vaultier was one of the few man to remain standing upright on the boardercross course. This event usually sees its fair share of athletes colliding or stumbling, and in the finals those two athletes were Team USA’s Nick Baumgartner and Mick Dierdorff.

Vaultier himself was part of a collision in his respective semifinal, but was able to recover well enough to advance to the final. This is his second Olympic gold medal in boardercross, mirroring his performance in Sochi.

Full curling recap available here 

Curling: USA fall to Italy 9-10

The U.S. men’s curling team put on a display as they sought to come back from a 6-9 deficit, but Italy stole the final end to take the narrow victory that sees the USA fall to 1-1 in group play.

Elsewhere, Canada defeated another medal contender in a 7-4 victory over Norway.

ITA def. USA 10-9

CAN def. NOR 7-4

GBR def. JPN 6-5

SUI def. DEN 9-7

Full curling recap available here 

Biathlon: Dahlmeier’s streak ends

Laura Dahlmeier missed just one shot in the women’s 15km individual, but it was enough to see her gold medal hopes slip away. Instead, it was 22-year old Hanna Oeberg who completed the race of her life to win the event. Oeberg was just one of two competitors to shoot clear in all of her targets

 

Yevgenia Medvedeva leads after short program at Autumn Classic

Yevgenia Medvedeva
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Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva leads after Thursday’s short program at her season opener, the Autumn Classic International. In her first competition since moving to Toronto to train under Brian Orser, Medvedeva scored 70.89 points.

Olympic team event bronze medalist Bradie Tennell sits in second place heading into Friday’s free skate with 69.26 points. Tennell, the reigning U.S. national champion, was joined by countrywoman Starr Andrews in Ontario. Andrews scored 56.70 points and finished fifth in the short program.

France’s Mae Berenice Meite rounds out the top three with 58.23 points.

Earlier on Thursday, Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres from France scored 73.81 points to build their lead over the pairs’ field. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro from Canada were second with 64.73 points, followed by the two American teams: Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier (61.91) and Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson (50.25), who competed internationally as new partners for the first time.

Competition at the Autumn Classic continues this weekend. Friday features the rhythm dance, men’s short program, and the pairs’ and ladies’ free skates. Saturday concludes competition with the free dance and men’s free skate. The event will stream live on Skate Canada’s Dailymotion page.

Elsewhere in the world of figure skating this weekend, Rika Kihira took the ladies’ short program at the Nepela Trophy in Bratislava. The reigning world junior champion attempted her triple Axel to open her “Clair de Lune” program but fell and was awarded -5 Grades of Execution across the board. She tallied 70.79 points and leads Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva by just 0.8 points. Russian Stanislava Konstantinova is third with 65.03 points.

Russian men lead the field after the short program in Bratislava. Mikhail Kolyada scored 96.82 points while Sergei Voronov earned 81.77 points. Japan’s Keiji Tanaka currently sits third with 77.53 points.

Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc have a three-point lead on the pairs’ field after the short program with 65.68 points. Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay, the other Americans in the field, are third with 59.60 points in their first competition of the season.

Competition continues at the Nepela Trophy this weekend with the rhythm dance and pairs’ free skate on Friday and the ladies’ free skate, free dance, and men’s free skate on Saturday.

MORE: Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova delays season opener by one week

Despite protests, Russias anti-doping agency reinstated

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The World Anti-Doping Agency declared Russia’s scandal-ridden drug-fighting operation back in business Thursday, a decision designed to bring a close to one of sports’ most notorious doping scandals but one bitterly disputed by hundreds of athletes and described as “treachery” by the lawyer for the man who exposed the corruption.

On a 9-2 vote, the executive committee took the advice of the agency’s compliance review panel and declared RUSADA as having satisfied conditions of reinstatement that were gradually softened over the summer.

In most tangible ways, the decision doesn’t change much: RUSADA has been up and running for a while, bringing one of the world’s largest testing programs back on line with the help of officials from Britain and elsewhere. And Russia’s Olympic committee was brought back into the fold after the Pyeongchang Olympics, where athletes who could prove they were clean were able to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

But RUSADA’s reinstatement now clears the country to again bid for major international events — although soccer’s World Cup was held there this summer despite that restriction.

It also clears a major hurdle for Russia’s track team to be declared compliant by that sport’s international governing body, one of the few to take a strong, consistent stand against doping.

Perhaps most importantly, hundreds of athletes and dozens of world anti-doping leaders see it as a stinging rebuke to the ideal of fair play.

“WADA’s decision to reinstate Russia represents the greatest treachery against clean athletes in Olympic history,” said Jim Walden, the attorney for Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow lab director who exposed much of the Russian scheme.

WADA had been telegraphing the move since Sept. 14, when it released the recommendation of its compliance review committee. Olympic champion Beckie Scott resigned from that committee afterward.

“I’m profoundly disappointed,” Scott said to Canadian broadcaster CBC after the decision. “I feel this was an opportunity for WADA, and they have dealt a devastating blow to clean sport. I’m quite dismayed.”

Even in Russia, where the news was welcomed, it came with a sense that there’s still work to be done.

“These questions will always follow us,” said RUSADA CEO Yuri Ganus, whose appointment to the job was part of the housecleaning at the agency that WADA demanded. “These aren’t the kind of skeletons which can lie unnoticed in the closet. These are the skeletons which will be banging on the closet door all the time.”

The two biggest roadblocks to RUSADA’s reinstatement involved the country accepting findings from a report by investigator Richard McLaren that concluded the government had engineered the doping scandal to win medals at the Sochi Olympics. It also involved Russia agreeing to hand over a trove of data and samples that could be used to corroborate potential doping violations that stemmed from the cheating.

Over a summer’s worth of correspondence between WADA leaders and Russia’s sports minister about how to bridge the gap, a pattern emerged of WADA backing down from its initial requirements and, at one point, essentially asking Russia what it would be willing to say in a letter designed to satisfy the WADA review committee.

“We think that a small addition to the letter, if acceptable to you, could ensure that the letter is well received … and that a positive recommendation is provided,” WADA CEO Olivier Niggli wrote to sports minister Pavel Kolobkov in May in a letter obtained by BBC Sport .

In the end, Russia agreed to accept findings of an IOC-commissioned report that put less onus on the Russian government for the scheme, a move that Rodchenkov said earlier this week was done “for the pure purpose of protecting their top-level apparatchiks who destroyed the Olympic Games in Sochi.”

Russia also agreed to hand over the samples and data by Dec. 31. If it does not, RUSADA will again be declared noncompliant.

“Without this pragmatic approach, we would continue with the impasse and the laboratory data could have remained out of our reach indefinitely,” WADA president Craig Reedie said after Thursday’s executive committee meeting in Seychelles.

Critics said reinstating RUSADA before obtaining the data only amounts to accepting another promise from a country that hasn’t kept many over the five-year course of the scandal.

Travis Tygart, the CEO for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the decision “bewildering and inexplicable,” and urged a full revamping of WADA; Reedie also serves as a member of the IOC, which is one of the many conflicts of interest that bother critics of the agency.

“Let’s be clear: Absolutely nothing will be off the table for how we, the anti-doping community, begin the work of reforming WADA,” Tygart said.

Reedie said “WADA understands that this decision will not please everybody.”

“Clean athletes were denied places at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as other major events, and others were cheated of medals,” he said. “It is entirely understandable that they should be wary about the supposed rehabilitation of offenders.”