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PyeongChang late night round up

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If you go to the results page for the men’s cross-country 15km freestyle competition, you’ll see Dario Cologna at the top. The Swiss skier became one of the most decorated athletes in his field after he won his third straight gold medal.

But, if you scroll down a little more, and a little more still, you’ll see five athletes who finished 111th, 113th, 114th, 115th, and 116th. Those five athletes are Samir Azzimani of Morocco, Kequyen Lam of Portugal, Pita Taufatofua of Tonga, Sebastien Uprimny of Colombia, and German Madrazo of Mexico. They teamed up last year in an attempt to qualify for the Olympics, renting out a cabin in Austria and training for 10 hours a day to qualify. Taufatofua qualified for the Olympics on the last possible day.

That they finished so low in the rankings isn’t a surprise, nor is it the story. Their pride as they took the final strides heading to the finish line, and the way they greeted each other at the finish line, is. In true Olympic spirit, Cologna (who nearly finished a half hour in front of them) was the first to embrace the skiers. 

Those tremendous athletes won’t leave PyeongChang with a medal, but they’ll walk away carrying the pride of their nations on their shoulders.


Hockey: OAR, USA back on track 

The USA and Athletes from Russia both responded well following disappointing starts to their Olympic Games.

The USA were led by Ryan Donato’s two goal effort to take a 2-1 victory over Slovakia. The U.S. learned from their previous game and continued to be aggressive for the entirety of the 60 minutes.

The Athletes from Russia posted a resounding 8-2 thrashing over Slovenia in their second game. Team OAR literally dominated the game from the first minute until the last, scoring their first goal 90 seconds into play. Ilya Kovalchuk and Kirill Kaprizov both recorded hat tricks.

USA def. SVK 2-1 

OAR def. SLO 8-2

Cross-Country Skiing: Super Dario wins third straight gold in 15km freestyle

Was there any doubt that Dario Cologna would win his third consecutive gold medal? The Swiss skier finished 18.3 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, Norways’ Simen Hegstad Krueger.

Full recap available here 

Curling: Canadians continue to struggle

Canada have been sent to the bottom of the standings in the women’s competition after being beaten by 2014 cellar dwellars Denmark. The Canadians entered PyeongChang as the clear favorites to retain gold, but time is quickly running out for them to rebound.

With Canada slipping up, a vacuum now exists at the top. Sweden and Great Britain will most be the teams most likely to fight for the gold medal should Canada miss the latter stages, but don’t sleep on Japan and South Korea. The latter continued to impress tonight with a victory over Switzterland.

DEN def. CAN 9-8

KOR def. SUI 7-5

SWE def. OAR 5-4

Full recap available here 

Freestyle Skiing: Huskova wins gold as others stumble 

Madison Olsen was the sole American to make it to the finals of the women’s aerials competition. Olsen slim medal hopes faded though as she couldn’t complete the landing.

She wasn’t the only one to tumble, though. A total of four women (including Olsen) out of the six finalists, all fell during their routines.

Hanna Huskova of Belarus took home the gold with a score of 96.14.

Speed Skating: Dutch maintain dominance

Another day, another medal for the Dutch speed skater. Today it was Esmee Visser who took the gold, finishing well ahead of the competition. Her compatriot, Annouk van der Weijden, was pushed down to fourth as the final pair of skaters – Czech Republic’s Martina Sablikova and OAR’s Natalya Voronina – finished second and third, respectively.

 

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

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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

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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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