Shaun White, Mikaela Shiffrin among dominant Winter Olympians of 2010s

Leave a comment

NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s decade this week. Here are 10 Winter Olympic athletes who dominated the last 10 years …

Marit Bjørgen, Norway
Cross-Country Skiing
Eight Olympic gold medals in the 2010s
Broke career Winter Olympic medals record

A strong argument can be made that Bjørgen was the greatest Olympian of the 2010s — Summer or Winter. Her medal total for the decade — eight golds, 13 overall — would alone tie the record for most career Winter Olympic medals. She came back from childbirth to earn five medals, two golds, at the PyeongChang Olympics before retiring. That included winning the Games-closing 30km freestyle by a whopping 109 seconds, the greatest margin for any Olympic cross-country race since 1980.

Natalie Geisenberger, Germany
Luge
Six Olympic or world singles titles between 2013-19
Won the last seven World Cup season titles

Geisenberger, a skiing-to-sliding convert, won the Sochi Olympic title by 1.139 seconds, the largest margin in any Olympic luge event since 1964. In a stretch from 2012-15, she won 23 of her 29 Olympic, World Cup and world championships starts. Her PyeongChang defense was also impressive, winning by a margin greater than the one that separated second place from sixth.

Yuzuru Hanyu, Japan
Figure Skating
2014, 2018 Olympic champion
First skater to score 100 points in a short program, 200 in a free skate, 300 overall

Hanyu, then 14, was 12th at the 2009 World Junior Championships won by Adam Rippon. The next season, he was the world junior champion, setting the tone for a quadrennium in which he would rise to become the second teen to win the Olympic men’s singles title. From there, Hanyu combined jumping and artistry like no other skater, winning two world titles, another Olympic title and, the last five years, never finishing worse than second in a competition.

Marcel Hirscher, Austria
Alpine Skiing
Seven combined individual Olympic or world titles in the 2010s
Eight straight World Cup overall titles

The defining male skier of the decade. Hirscher may not have enjoyed Olympic success until PyeongChang (winning the super combined and giant slalom), but he captured an arguably more coveted crown every year from 2012 through 2019 — World Cup overall champion. Nobody else in history bagged more than six World Cup overalls. His 66 World Cup victories in the 2010s are a record for a single decade.

Sven Kramer, Netherlands
Speed Skating
Olympic 5000m champion in 2010, 2014, 2018
Six World Allround titles in the 2010s

You knew Kramer was something special at the start of the decade. At Vancouver 2010, Shani Davis, who preceded the Dutchman as the world’s best skater, called him “the Big Dog” before being paired together in what would be Kramer’s first Olympic gold-medal race. In addition to Olympic titles, he went undefeated at the historic world allround championships from 2007-17 and unbeaten at 5000m on the top international level for nearly six years from 2012-18.

Mikaela Shiffrin, United States
Alpine Skiing
Seven combined individual Olympic or world titles in the 2010s
Four straight World Cup overall titles

In slalom alone, Shiffrin won about 60 percent of her World Cup starts this decade. She became the youngest Olympic slalom gold medalist in Sochi (18 years old), then began branching out. By the end of last season, Shiffrin also earned Olympic or world titles in giant slalom and super-G, World Cup wins in every discipline and a single-season record 17 World Cup victories.

Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir, Canada
Figure Skating
2010, 2018 Olympic ice dance champions
Five Olympic medals a record for figure skaters

The only figure skaters to earn medals at every Olympics this decade. Virtue and Moir delivered under home-ice pressure at Vancouver 2010. They were defeated by training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White in 2014, then returned from a two-year break to shatter scoring records and earn two more gold medals in PyeongChang (dance and team). They finished first or second in all of their ice dance competitions in the decade.

Lindsey Vonn, United States
Alpine Skiing
2010 Olympic downhill champion
Overcame major crashes, surgeries to break female World Cup wins record

Beyond the medals and victories, Vonn was a symbol of determination in the 2010s. From the very start. She competed at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with a severely bruised shin that caused “excruciating” pain. Over the decade, she would amass so many injuries that an annually updated OlympicTalk post labeled a “brief synopsis” of them totaled more than 800 words. Vonn missed the Sochi Olympics after blowing out her right knee in a February 2013 World Championships crash, and re-injuring the knee that November and December in a rushed comeback. She returned from a broken ankle, fractured left knee, broken right arm and twisted back to reach the PyeongChang Olympics, where she earned a hard-fought downhill bronze. She retired last season, four wins shy of Ingemar Stenmark‘s World Cup record, after another crash and knee injury.

Shaun White, United States
Snowboarding
2010, 2018 Olympic halfpipe champion
Four X Games halfpipe titles in the 2010s

White was the sport’s dominant figure at the start of the decade. He then rallied from a mid-2010s drop-off (fourth at the Sochi Olympics) to return to the top of the podium in PyeongChang. He defeated riders nearly a decade younger while attempting (and landing) back-to-back double cork 1440s at a contest for the first time. White is now the youngest and oldest male Olympic halfpipe champion, doing so in his teens, 20s and 30s.

Ireen Wuest, Netherlands
Speed Skating
Individual Olympic titles in 2010, 2014 and 2018
Five-time World allround champion

Wuest earned Olympic titles in three different events this decade, and medals in five of the six Olympic speed skating disciplines. She also finished in the top three at every world allround championships from 2010-18. Wuest, already with 11 medals, has an outside chance of reaching Bjørgen’s career Winter Olympic medals record (15) at Beijing 2022.

Honorable Mention: Dario Cologna (Switzerland, Cross-Country Skiing), Kaillie Humphries (Canada, Bobsled), Martin Fourcade (France, Biathlon) and Mikaël Kingsbury (Canada, Freestyle Skiing).

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

BEST OF 2010s: Summer Olympians | Winter Olympians | Teams
MOMENTS: Summer Olympics | Winter Olympics | Paralympics | Viral

Lindsey Vonn makes first trip to Kitzbuehel, still feeling some sadness of retirement

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lindsey Vonn is back on the Alpine skiing World Cup tour this weekend, but not as a racer.

Vonn, who retired last year, is a spectator (and course inspector) at the famed Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuehel, Austria, home to the biggest annual men’s race in the sport (full TV, live stream schedule here).

It’s her first time watching competition in person since a career’s worth of injuries forced her to retire last winter, four wins shy of Ingemar Stenmark‘s World Cup record total of 86.

“I feel like skiing is like a bad break-up, so I need to keep some distance and some space,” she said, according to sponsor Red Bull. “And I’m slowly getting back into watching it. It’s hard, because every time I watch it, it reminds me of what I’m missing. I find it easier to watch the men’s races obviously than the women’s, but of course I’m always cheering for my teammates and watching girls coming back from injury who’ve had a hard time.

“I kind of need some space still. But, as time goes on, I’ll be able to be more involved and it will be less painful for me, and I can kind of start to build a new relationship with ski racing.”

Vonn was a special guest at the podium presentation of Friday’s super-G won by Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud, who like Vonn came back from major knee injuries to return to an Olympic podium.

Vonn long harbored ambitions of racing against men, but it never came to fruition, at least in part due to the International Ski Federation never signing off. In 2012, she was quoted saying she wanted to race at Kitzbuehel, the most challenging track on the men’s circuit.

“Before I was injured, I really wish I would have at least got a chance to ski down it,” she said this week. “I wouldn’t even mind if I had raced, but it would have been cool for me to one time go down it with a race suit on and see what it’s like. Being here as a spectator, I’m so jealous of the men.”

While Vonn keeps busy in retirement, including wedding planning with fiance P.K. Subban, emotional pain remains from being off the ski circuit.

“It’s not really about letting go as much as just not being able to do what I love anymore,” she said. “That’s like a bad break-up where I just miss it, and wish I could still do it, but physically I wasn’t able to, and it’s a hard reality to accept. No matter how many business deals I make or companies I start, it’s never going to replace the adrenaline and the speed and the thrill of ski racing.

“It’s something I have to learn to live with ,and I just thought it would be a little easier than it was, but when you wake up and your world’s totally different and the reality sinks in, it just makes you sad sometimes.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Alpine skiing season TV schedule

Bradie Tennell delivers her punch, seizes figure skating nationals lead

Leave a comment

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Bradie Tennell punched the air when she finished her winning short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Thursday night.

For most athletes, that is a common reaction to a strong performance.

For Tennell, whose default mood is self-containment, it was an unusual outpouring of emotion.

And maybe it showed just how well she understood the way her choreographer, Frenchman Benoit Richaud, wanted her to perform a program in which her confident, sometimes sassy skating complimented the staccato, robotic music.

After all, she would be skating it in a look-at-me bright red dress.

When they first began working on the program, Richaud felt Tennell was characteristically trying to disappear into the woodwork by turning what were meant to be bold physical statements into understated movements.

“You need to make a splash,” he told her. “You need to feel like you’re the center of everyone’s attention.”

That is the last thing Tennell normally wants to be.

“It’s weird,” Tennell said. “I guess when I’m on the ice, that’s what I’m aiming for, but when I’m off the ice, I’m more introverted, so it’s not something I’m used to.”

Tennell, the 2018 U.S. champion, commanded the judges’ attention with a flawless performance begun with a strong triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination and ended with consecutive eye-catching spins. They gave her 78.96 points, leaving her 3.56 ahead of Alysa Liu, 14, who last year became the youngest senior champion in U.S. history.

NATIONALS: TV/Live Stream Schedule | Full Results

That is almost exactly the same situation as last year, when Tennell had a 2.71-point lead over Liu going into the free skate. Mistakes by Tennell and Liu’s higher-valued jump content reversed the order in the final standings.

Tennell was battling not only her reserved persona but nervousness over a lingering arm problem.

She had hit her elbow on a wall after a bad spill a few months ago, leading to swelling that went up and down intermittently since then. “For some reason, this week it got really swollen and really painful,” she said.

When she woke up Wednesday, she could not bend her arm. She went to the event medical staff for help. They told her she had an infected hematoma and gave her antibiotics. Her mother, an emergency room nurse for 25 years, added her expertise to the treatment.

That did not calm her nerves, though. It took the first jumping pass to do that.

“As soon as I landed the Lutz-toe, I was like, ‘I can get through this,’’’ she said.

Tennell has spent all season getting beaten by young Russians with more formidable jump arsenals. She insists being at such a disadvantage is not frustrating.

“I don’t think about it that way,” she said. “Luckily, I don’t have to compete against them here, so it’s not really on my mind this week.”

Yet a glance at the short program scores shows just how much an impact Liu’s more difficult jumps can have.

Liu started with a technical base value 5.18 points higher than Tennell’s. Despite Liu’s weaker spins and a wonky landing on a triple Axel, which resulted in a loss of 1.94 points on grade of execution, her overall technical score was only .16 behind Tennell’s.

“I did make a few mistakes,” Liu noted.

Liu’s base advantage increases in Friday free skate, where she plans to do two triple Axels and a quadruple lutz. Those three jumps are worth 10.4 points more than Tennell’s three highest-value jumps.

Of course, Liu has to execute those things, and ice is slippery, as Mariah Bell showed in falling on footwork at the end of her strong short program.

Bell (73.22) was third, 2.18 behind Liu. Amber Glenn was a close fourth (73.16) after giving the most captivating performance of the evening, flush with speed, power and emotion.

Karen Chen, the 2017 champion returning to nationals after a 2019 season lost to injury, was a solid fifth (70.41).

Two-time champion Gracie Gold, whose comeback from depression and an eating disorder has been widely celebrated, struggled to 13th. She botched the landing of a triple lutz and got no points after singling a planned triple loop.

The top three finished in the same order as a year ago. Once again, it was Tennell’s night. It isn’t so bad being the center of attention.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

MORE: Gracie Gold rebuilds herself to return to nationals

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!