PyeongChang late night roundup

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Freestyle Skiing: Four Americans in halfpipe final

All four of the United States’ athletes reached the final of the men’s freeski halfpipe. Aaron Blunck led the field, with two of his compatriots rounding out the top three.

Blunck fell on his first run, but managed to perform well in the second to post the top score of the day. The Americans swept the podium in the X Games just a month ago, and are now on track to do so again.

Full freeski halfpipe recap available here 

Hockey: Unified Korea finish tournament

The Unified Korean hockey team were media darlings during these Games. Tonight they played their final game, losing 1-6 to Sweden. It wasn’t a surprise to see the team so clearly outmatched throughout these Games, but they put on a good effort and always drew in a very positive crowd. The first puck that they scored their first-ever goal with is already en-route to the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

Slovenia suffered a disappointing defeat at the hands of Norway, who failed to record a win until tonight until Alexander Bonsaksen scored in overtime. Slovenia’s opening night 3-2 win over the USA seems long ago as they’re dumped out of the tournament. Norway, on the other hand, advance to the quarterfinals where they face OAR.

Men’s Tournament

NOR def. SLO 2-1 (OT)

Women’s Tournament

SWE def. COR 6-1

SUI def. JPN 1-0

Curling: South Korea clinch spot in semifinals

South Korea booked their place in the semifinals with a 9-6 victory at the expense of the United States. The USA got off to a hot start, but a four point steal by South Korea in the fifth end put the States on the back foot.

Wins for Great Britain and China also make Team USA’s path more difficult. Great Britain are now sitting at 5-3, in fourth place. The USA and China are 4-4 heading into their final games. The U.S. must defeat Sweden in their final round and get a lot of help if they’re to advance.

Women’s Tournament

KOR def. USA 9-6

GBR def. JPN 8-6

CHN def. CAN 7-5

Full curling recap available here 

Speed Skating: South Korea win relay gold as Christie suffers more heartbreak 

South Korea won the gold in the women’s 3000m relay. The South Koreans and Chinese were clear in front after a South Korean skater collided with a Canadian and Italian. Both China and Canada received penalties.

Since Canada and China were both disqualified, the winner of the B Final, the Netherlands, were promoted to the bronze medal. The Netherlands set a new world record in their final.

In the individual 1000m, Elise Christie again faltered in dramatic fashion. She collided with a Chinese skater in the 1,500 last week and badly hurt her right ankle in the process. Her status was questionable heading into this event, of which she is the World Champion.

Christie crashed no later than three seconds after the opening gun, grabbing that right ankle again and looked in visible pain. After a brief discussion with her coach she again took to the starting line, only to limp out of the first turn.

The Briton managed to finish the race in the replay before having to be carried off, but alas Christie was disqualified for bumping her Hungarian opponent in the third lap.

Nordic Combined: Frenzel in the hunt after large hill 

Erik Frenzel, who won the first Nordic Combined event last week, is currently sitting within striking distance after the large hill portion. Akito Watabe, Jarl Riber, and Wilhelm Denfil occupy the top three spots leading into the 10km cross-country segment.

Full recap available here

Bobsled: Nigerians, Jamaicans complete run; USA in first 

Seun Adigun and Akuoma Omeoga made their Olympic debuts tonight, becoming the first representives from their country to compete in the sport. They currently sit in the bottom of the table at 52.21 seconds.

The Jamaican team of Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian and Carrie Russell also completed their first run in a time of 51.29 seconds. Jamaica faced a scare last week when one of their coaches quit, threatening to take their bobsled and equipment back. Red Stripe, a Jamaican beer company, offered to pay for a sled so that the Jamaicans could compete. 

The American team of Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs are currently leading the pack after the first run.

Biathlon: Fourcade anchors France to mixed relay gold 

Martin Fourcade capitalized on a couple of missed shots from Germany’s Arnd Peiffer to bring home the gold in the team mixed relay. Anais Bescond brought France back into contention in the second leg of the race before Simon Desthieux brought France within 30 seconds of Germany. Fourcade’s brilliance on the skis was more than capable of surpassing Peiffer in the final leg.

Norway and Italy finished second and third, respectively.

U.S. women’s basketball team, statistically greatest ever, rolls to FIBA World Cup title

FIBA Women's World Cup
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The revamped U.S. women’s basketball team may have been the greatest of all time.

The Americans completed, statistically, their most dominant global championship ever by routing China 83-61 in the FIBA World Cup final on Saturday in Sydney — giving them 60 consecutive wins between the Olympics and worlds dating to 2006.

It marked the largest margin of victory in a World Cup final since the event converted from a fully round-robin format in 1983.

For the tournament, the U.S. drubbed its opponents by an average of 40.75 points per game, beating its previous record between the Olympics and worlds of 37.625 points from the 2008 Beijing Games. It was just off the 1992 U.S. Olympic men’s Dream Team’s legendary margin 43.8 points per game. This U.S. team scored 98.75 points per game, its largest at worlds since 1994.

“We came here on a mission, a business trip,” tournament MVP A’ja Wilson said in a post-game press conference before turning to coach Cheryl Reeve. “We played pretty good, I think, coach.”

Since the U.S. won a seventh consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo, Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles retired. Tina Charles ceded her national team spot to younger players. Brittney Griner was detained in Russia (and still is). Diana Taurasi suffered a WNBA season-ending quad injury that ruled her out of World Cup participation (who knows if the 40-year-old Taurasi will play for the U.S. again).

Not only that, but Cheryl Reeve of the Minnesota Lynx succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach, implementing a new uptempo system.

“There was probably great concern, and maybe around the world they kind of looked at it and said, ‘Hey, now is the time to get the USA,'” Reeve said Saturday.

The U.S. response was encapsulated by power forward Alyssa Thomas, the oldest player on the roster at age 30 who made the U.S. team for the first time in her career, started every game and was called the team’s glue and MVP going into the final.

Wilson and Tokyo Olympic MVP Breanna Stewart were the leaders. Guard Kelsey Plum, a Tokyo Olympic 3×3 player, blossomed this past WNBA season and was third in the league’s MVP voting. She averaged the most minutes on the team, scored 15.8 points per game and had 17 in the final.

“The depth of talent that we have was on display,” Reeve said. “What I am most pleased about was the trust and buy-in.”

For the first time since 1994, no player on the U.S. roster was over the age of 30, creating a scary thought for the 2024 Paris Olympics: the Americans could get even better.

“When you say best-ever, I’m always really cautious with that, because, obviously, there are great teams,” Reeve said when asked specifically about the team’s defense. “This group was really hard to play against.”

Earlier Saturday, 41-year-old Australian legend Lauren Jackson turned back the clock with a 30-point performance off the bench in her final game as an Opal, a 95-65 victory over Canada for the bronze. Jackson, who came out of a six-year retirement and played her first major tournament since the 2012 Olympics, had her best scoring performance since the 2008 Olympics.

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IOC looks for ways Russian athletes ‘who do not support war’ could compete as neutrals

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GENEVA (AP) — Russian athletes who do not endorse their country’s war in Ukraine could be accepted back into international sports, competing under a neutral flag, IOC president Thomas Bach said in an interview published Friday.

“It’s about having athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war back in competition,” Bach told Italian daily Corriere della Sera, adding, “We have to think about the future.”

Most sports followed IOC advice in February and banned Russian teams and athletes from their events within days of the country’s military invasion of Ukraine.

With Russians starting to miss events that feed into qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics, an exile extending into next year could effectively become a wider ban from those Games.

In an interview in Rome, Bach hinted at IOC thinking after recent rounds of calls with Olympic stakeholders asked for views on Russia’s pathway back from pariah status.

“To be clear, it is not about necessarily having Russia back,” he said. “On the other hand — and here comes our dilemma — this war has not been started by the Russian athletes.”

Bach did not suggest how athletes could express opposition to the war when dissent and criticism of the Russian military risks jail sentences of several years.

Some Russian athletes publicly supported the war in March and are serving bans imposed by their sport’s governing body.

Olympic gold medalist swimmer Yevgeny Rylov appeared at a pro-war rally attended by Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Gymnast Ivan Kuliak displayed a pro-military “Z” symbol on his uniform at an international event.

Russian former international athletes are being called up for military service in the current mobilization, according to media reports. They include former heavyweight boxing champion Nikolai Valuev and soccer player Diniyar Bilyaletdinov.

Russians have continued to compete during the war as individuals in tennis and cycling, without national symbols such as flags and anthems, even when teams have been banned.

Bach told Corriere della Sera it was the IOC’s mission to be politically neutral and “to have the Olympic Games, and to have sport in general, as something that still unifies people and humanity.”

“For all these reasons, we are in a real dilemma at this moment with regard to the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he suggested. “We also have to see, and to study, to monitor, how and when we can come back to accomplish our mission to have everybody back again, under which format whatsoever.”

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