Ten memorable Winter Olympic medal moments from 2010s

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NBCSports.com looks back at the 2010s this week. Here are 10 Winter Olympic medal moments that defined the decade …

Vancouver 2010: Lindsey Vonn’s downhill title, finish-area scream
Everything was lining up for the U.S.’ biggest ski star going into what was being billed as the “Vonncouver Olympics.” Lindsey Vonn was the two-time reigning World Cup overall champion, the reigning world championships gold medalist in the downhill and super-G and winner of five of the six World Cup downhills that season. Then came a setback, a bruised shin in slalom training 10 days before the Games that caused “excruciating” pain when putting on a ski boot. She lucked out as weather pushed the start of competition back three days. Vonn got her downhill gold, becoming the first U.S. woman to win the event. “I’ve given up everything for this,” she said on NBC.

Vancouver 2010: Shaun White lands Double McTwist 1260 for repeat gold
Having already clinched a repeat Olympic title, White could have used his second run in the final as a victory lap and simply slid down Cypress Mountain. Instead, he reached into his bag of tricks for what he called the Tomahawk, named after a 30-ounce T-bone steak he had recently devoured. White threw down the Double McTwist 1260 at the last Olympics he would be known as the Flying Tomato with flowing red locks.

Vancouver 2010: Apolo Ohno becomes most decorated U.S. Winter Olympian
With three medals at his third Olympics, Ohno broke Bonnie Blair‘s U.S. record for career Winter Olympic medals. The short track speed skater finished with eight total, tacking on a silver and two bronze medals in Vancouver, not far from his Seattle roots. An overweight Ohno had failed to make the 1998 Olympic team when favored at age 15. In 2002, he earned gold after a South Korean disqualification, making him an enemy of the world’s top short track nation. In 2006, he crossed the 500m finish line first in what he called the “perfect race.” After winning “Dancing with the Stars,” Ohno rededicated for one last Olympic push and skated competitively for the last time in Vancouver.

Vancouver 2010: Sidney Crosby’s golden goal
The very last gold medal of the Vancouver Games was the most vital for the host nation. In a U.S.-Canada men’s hockey final, American Zach Parise tied the game with 25 seconds left. Then in overtime, Crosby beat Ryan Miller to set off celebrations nationwide, where Canadians were filling bars and streets to watch the Sunday afternoon contest.

Sochi 2014: Sage Kotsenburg wins slopestyle’s Olympic debut
The first gold medalist of the Sochi Games was truly a surprise. Kotsenburg had gone nine years between slopestyle wins when he won the last U.S. Olympic qualifier that January. But “Second-Run Sage” unleashed a stylish first run in the Olympic final, landing a cab double cork 1260 with a Kotsenburg-invented Holy Crail grab and a back 1620 Japan Air, trying the latter trick for the first time in his life. He became a media hit, eating a bacon gold medal given to him by Conan O’Brien and listening to President Obama call him “sick and chill” at the White House.

Sochi 2014: Meryl Davis, Charlie White win first U.S. ice dance gold
When Davis and White began skating together in 1997 at ages 9 and 10, they barely spoke to each other the first two years because she was so shy. But from 2009 on, they captured six straight national titles, two world titles and an Olympic medal of every color. None bigger than gold in Sochi in a discipline where the U.S. used to be so weak that reporters took meal breaks at the national championships rather than watch the performances. It would be their final competition.

Sochi 2014: Mikaela Shiffrin becomes youngest slalom gold medalist
Despite a mid-second-run bobble, Shiffrin delivered on pre-Games hype by winning the slalom at age 18. What followed hours later would prove noteworthy for the rest of the decade: In Shiffrin’s late-night press conference, she blurted out that she dreamed of winning five gold medals in 2018. While that did not come to fruition, Shiffrin has gone on to win World Cup races in every discipline, plus Olympic or world titles in giant slalom and super-G. She will likely break the career World Cup wins record early in the next decade.

PyeongChang 2018: Chloe Kim’s back-to-back 1080s for gold
The 17-year-old phenom wasn’t thinking so much about flips and twists before her halfpipe runs, but ice cream and churros, as she tweeted during the competition. Before the celebratory desserts, Kim landed her signature combination — back-to-back 1080s, which no other woman has done. That was plenty enough for a rider who posted the two top scores in qualifying and the two top scores in the final. Then David Chang made her some churro ice cream sandwiches.

PyeongChang 2018: U.S. women’s hockey team edges Canada in shootout
Didn’t seem anything could top the Sochi Olympic final, where Canada tied it in the final minute (after a U.S. empty-net attempt clanged off the post) and won in overtime. Then came the shootout in South Korea. Twins Monique Lamoureux-Morando and Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson starred, three months after it looked like they could be cut from the team. The latter scored the winner on a deke she named, “Oops, I did it again,” after the Britney Spears song. The U.S. earned its first hockey gold medals since the 1998 team in the Olympic debut of women’s hockey.

PyeongChang 2018: Marit Bjoergen ends career with 15 medals, most decorated Winter Olympian
The last medal awarded at an Olympics this decade went to arguably the greatest Olympian of the decade. The Norwegian cross-country skier (and mother) broke countryman Ole Einar Bjoerndalen‘s career Winter Olympic medals record in PyeongChang, capped by taking the grueling 30km freestyle by 109 seconds, the largest margin for any Olympic cross-country race in 38 years. It would be Bjoergen’s last career race.

Honorable Mention: Vancouver 2010: U.S. four-man bobsled, Yuna Kim, Evan Lysacek. Sochi 2014: Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, Russian team figure skating, Noelle Pikus-Pace. PyeongChang 2018: U.S. men’s curling. Ester LedeckaJessie Diggins/Kikkan Randall.

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

‘Broomgate’ proves costly as Norway misses European curling semifinals

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A controversial forfeit that spurred debate over the role of off-ice officials in curling wound up affecting the final outcome of the European Curling Championships, as the Norwegian team skipped by Thomas Ulsrud missed the playoffs.

Norway finished round-robin play with a 5-4 record, landing in a four-way tie for third place. Denmark and Scotland ranked ahead of Norway and Italy on tiebreakers and claimed the last two semifinal spots.

Switzerland took the second seed. The Swedish team skipped by Niklas Edin, known to U.S. fans as the team John Shuster and company defeated to win Olympic gold in 2018, finished round-robin play unbeaten.

On Sunday, Norway had comfortably defeated England, which had just been promoted to the top division this year, by a 9-5 score. But after the game, officials informed Norway they would forfeit because a substitute who entered the game did not use the same broom head as the player he replaced.

READ: Curlers speak up for self-officiating tradition after forfeit

The forfeit was England’s only win of the event.

Had the on-ice result stood and the rest of the round robin played out as it actually did, Norway would have finished at 6-3, tied with Switzerland for second place and comfortably in the semifinals.

The good news for Norway is that the team easily qualified for the World Championships. Scotland automatically qualifies as host, leaving seven spots open for the rest of the field.

Coverage of the European championships will continue on the Olympic Channel through the weekend (all times ET):

  • Thursday, 1 p.m.: Men’s semifinal
  • Friday, 8 a.m.: Women’s semifinal
  • Friday, 1 p.m.: Women’s bronze medal game
  • Saturday, 4 a.m.: Men’s bronze medal game
  • Saturday, 9 a.m.: Women’s gold medal game

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Curling kerfuffle opens up debate on self-officiating

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Curling has long had an ethos of sportsmanship in which players call infractions on themselves and work out the resulting response — perhaps “burning” a rock by taking it out of play, perhaps restoring a rock to where it was or would have gone. 

“Curlers never knowingly break a rule of the game, nor disrespect any of its traditions,” reads the second paragraph of the World Curling Federation’s rule book. “Should they become aware that this has been done inadvertently, they will be the first to divulge the breach.”

Sunday at the European Curling Championship, a pivotal breach was divulged not by the players but by match officials, and a debate has erupted over social media in the usually uncontroversial curling community.

The rule itself is clear. When a substitute enters a game, a rare occurrence, that substitute must use the same brush head (for sweeping) as the player being replaced. The penalty is a forfeit. See page 33 of the rule book.

The Norwegian team, in which rival skips Thomas Ulsrud and Steffen Walstad have united to form a dream team, neglected to do that in a game the perennial powers were controlling against England, which was only promoted to the top division of the annual championship this year.

Norway left the ice thinking it had taken a routine win, only to be informed by officials that they would forfeit.

Walstad took to Facebook to complain about officials’ overreach.

“Even though all parties acted in good intent, thinking they were following the rules as best we could, a small misunderstanding that happened after the game in all regards was already decided was enough for the umpires to put on their star of authority and point to a subparagraph,” Walstad wrote.

Though Norway clearly broke a rule, many top-level curlers agree with Walstad. The Twitter account of U.S. curler Rich Ruohenen‘s team, which has advanced to the semifinals of the Red Deer Curling Classic over the weekend, called the decision “Ridiculous and embarrassing to the sport!” Canadian curlers Ben Hebert and Casey Scheidegger agreed, as did Scottish curling veteran Tom Brewster.

One counterpoint came from curling official and coach Keith Wendorf: “Don’t ask the officials to ignore rules, learn the rules.” Wendorf also sarcastically suggested curlers should ignore the red light on a stone indicating an illegal delivery and just write it off as unintentional.

The World Curling Federation issued a statement saying little other than restating the rule.

Self-officiating also came to the fore in an incident involving future Olympic gold medalist John Shuster at the 2016 world championships in a playoff against Japan. Yusuki Morozumi‘s last shot of the eighth end sent a U.S. stone in motion, and it made a Japanese stone go out of play. But before anyone could stop the Japanese stone, it rebounded off the side bumper and hit the moving U.S. stone, stopping its momentum. In that situation, the curlers are expected to figure out where the in-play stone would’ve stopped if it hadn’t hit the out-of-play stone. The Japanese team thought it would have continued moving and gone out of play. Shuster disagreed, saying it would have stayed in play and in the house, where it would count toward Shuster’s score. Shuster wound up keeping the rock in play and then delivered his last shot to score three for the U.S.

Shuster’s team went on to win the game 5-4. They lost the semifinal 9-3 and then faced Japan once more for the bronze medal, winning 8-6 to give Shuster his only world championship medal in eight appearances. (He also has a bronze medal from the 2019 mixed doubles championship and, of course, the 2018 Olympic gold.)

The video is a little easier to understand (the controversy starts at the 1:40 mark):

Shuster had every right to make the call according to curling rules: “If a moving stone is touched by a stone deflecting off the sheet dividers, the non-delivering team shall place the stone where it reasonably considers the stone would have come to rest had the moving stone not been touched.”

Shuster was clearly uncomfortable in that position, and columnist Don Landry wondered if he would have avoided controversy if an official had made the call instead: “Perhaps John Shuster might rather not even have to make that call. Because he’d be better off moaning about the officials and a determination he disagreed with instead of being the target of the torches and pitchforks set.”

In recreational curling, leaving decisions in the hands of the curlers can literally force them to make a choice between winning or losing on a technicality. Every now and then, curlers end up with a negotiated settlement of sorts.

In high-level competition, curlers have already handed over one decision whether the thrower has made a clean release before the “hog line,” the thick blue line that is one of the sport’s most important boundaries. A light on the stone turns red if the thrower didn’t let go of the rock in time or touched it again after releasing it The system seems straightforward but proved controversial in the 2018 Olympics on a costly infraction against British skip Eve Muirhead where TV replays didn’t seem to back up what the light reported.

The debate over self-officiating has also come up in Ultimate (formerly Ultimate frisbee), as the game has grown in stature from a college pastime to a semi-professional sport. Many competitions now use “observers,” whose job is somewhere between that of a referee and that of a mediator. The semi-professional American Ultimate Disc League has gone a step farther, using actual referees akin to those in almost any other sport. The league still allows players overturn a referee’s call in their favor (basically, a “no no, I actually fouled him” call), but the referee has more authority than has been common in the sport.

Norway’s curlers might not object to officials in general, but the rigid enforcement of the broom rule has left them in difficulty in the European championships. They’re currently tied for fifth place, one spot out of the playoff berths, with a 3-3 record. England is in last place at 1-5, though they’ve been close in a couple of games.

The Olympic Channel has coverage of the European championships for the rest of the week (all times ET):

  • Wednesday, 8 a.m.: Switzerland vs. Scotland (men)
  • Thursday, 3 a.m.: Scotland vs. Sweden (men)
  • Thursday, 8 a.m.: Sweden vs. Russia (women)
  • Thursday, 1 p.m.: Men’s semifinal
  • Friday, 8 a.m.: Women’s semifinal
  • Friday, 1 p.m.: Women’s bronze medal game
  • Saturday, 4 a.m.: Men’s bronze medal game
  • Saturday, 9 a.m.: Women’s gold medal game

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