Olympic Daily News - Tuesday, February 11th

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia ( - Odd that a rider as tuned-in as Shaun White is to what it takes to win the Olympic halfpipe would be beaten by a man they call "iPod."

But it wasn't just Iouri Podladtchikov, the Russian-born snowboarder who rides for Switzerland, who kept White off the podium on Tuesday.

He was also beaten by 15-year-old Ayumu Hirano and 18-year-old Taku Hiraoka of Japan.

White failed to medal in the men's halfpipe, finishing two points out of medal contention in fourth place to miss a chance to complete what would have been a first-of-its-kind Olympic three-peat.

Podladchikov had two clean runs -- the second one a stunner -- on a day when all three Americans to make the finals fell.

It marked the first time since snowboarding's Olympic debut in 1998 that the U.S. failed to medal in a men's or women's halfpipe competition.

"Tonight was just one of those nights. It's a bummer," said White.

After moving directly into the nighttime final with a monster 95.75 score in afternoon qualifying, White made two mistakes in his first run. He clipped the lip of the pipe and slid on his butt, then whacked the middle of his board on the icy edge to ruin another trick.

He went last on both runs as the top qualifier, setting up a dramatic finish under the lights.

Wearing an American flag bandanna below his goggles to cover his face, White dropped in to his final run needing to beat Podladtchikov's 94.75 score for gold and Hiraoka's 92.25 to medal.

But he hit his butt at the end of a trick early on, then dragged his right hand near the end of the pipe.

White, 27, put on a good celebration at the end, but failed in his attempt to become only the fourth athlete ever to win the same event in three straight Winter Olympics.

The first three were all women: speed skaters Bonnie Blair of the U.S. and Claudia Pechstein of Germany and figure skater Sonja Henie of Norway.

"I had a game plan," said White. "I had a specific run I wanted to land and I didn't get to put that down. That's one of the most frustrating things for me. If I land my run and I'm beat then I'm OK with that, but I definitely didn't get that chance tonight and it happens."

Prior to Tuesday, Americans had medaled at least once in all eight Olympic halfpipe competitions, winning five golds and 14 of the 24 overall medals.

White wasn't alone. Teammates Danny Davis and Greg Bretz fell on both of their runs in the finals and finished 10th and 12th out of 12 riders. Bretz was also 12th four years ago, while Davis missed the Vancouver Olympics after injuring his back and pelvis in an all-terrain vehicle accident.

American Taylor Gold didn't make it out of the semifinals less than two months after winning a World Cup event at Copper Mountain, Colo.

The Rosa Khutor halfpipe has drawn criticism as being in subpar condition. The weather on Tuesday, more spring than winter, created slushy conditions on the pipe.

"Conditions in the halfpipe were really challenging," said Bretz.

White was competing after pulling out of the Olympic slopestyle event last week, in a decision that was mocked by two Canadian snowboarders on Twitter. White cited a desire to focus on the halfpipe and saying the risk of injury was too great on a slopestyle course seen by some as being potentially dangerous.

Though he arrived in Sochi with a chance to win two medals and walked away with none, White didn't seem to agree it was a total failure.

"It's all about the fans, the people that come here to watch. Being an Olympian is nothing to scoff at," said White. "I'm definitely proud to be here representing the U.S. I'm proud to be an Olympian.

"I had a tough night, but I think I affected a lot of people that have never seen the sport before. But I don't think tonight makes or breaks my career. I've been snowboarding for so long. I love it and it's given me so much. I'm happy to take this for what it is and move on and continue to ride."

The Olympic glory went to Podladtchikov, who won using a trick called the YOLO on a run, it was clear, would be tough to beat -- even for White.

Podladtchikov threw his board down in celebration and dropped to his knees. He screamed into a TV camera.

He became the second Swiss rider to win the Olympic event after Gian Simmen, who captured the first one in 1998 before the American run on golds.


Krasnaya Polyana, Russia ( - Canadian freestyle skier Dara Howell won gold Tuesday at the Sochi Olympics after turning in a dominating performance in the women's slopestyle competition.

Howell posted a best score of 94.20 in the two-round finals to easily beat Devin Logan of the United States for gold. Logan won silver with a score of 85.40, edging Canada's Kim Lamarre, who claimed bronze after turning in a mark of 85.00 in her second run.

Canada has won six of the nine freestyle skiing medals awarded so far at the Sochi Games, grabbing three golds, two silvers and a bronze. Sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe claimed gold and silver, respectively, for the Canadians in the women's moguls on Saturday. On Monday, Alexandre Bilodeau successfully defended his gold in the men's moguls while Mikael Kingsbury added a silver for Canada.

Howell turned in the two best scores of Tuesday's competition. She also was first in the qualification round with a score of 88.80.

With the help of Howell and Lamarre, the Canadians were able to overcome a disappointing showing on Tuesday from medal favorite Kaya Turski. Turski, a four-time X Games gold medalist in slopestyle, was considered to be the top competitor in the field but she crashed in both of her qualification runs on Tuesday and finished 19th with a best score of 28.00. Only the top 12 skiers qualified for the finals.

Logan, a silver medalist in slopestyle at the 2012 X Games, won her first Olympic medal. It was the second medal for the U.S. in freestyle skiing at the Sochi Games, following Hannah Kearney's bronze in the women's moguls.

American Keri Herman, runner-up to Turski at last month's X Games in Aspen, Colo., finished 10th on Tuesday. Julie Krass of the U.S. was 11th.

Maggie Voisin, a 15-year-old American, did not participate in the event due to an ankle injury suffered during training on Friday.

Yuki Tsubota of Canada came in sixth place with a first-run score of 71.60. Tsubota crashed in her second run and was carried off the course on a stretcher.


Krasnaya Polyana, Russia ( - Germany's Carina Vogt captured the first-ever Olympic gold medal in women's ski jumping by winning the normal hill competition on Tuesday.

Vogt, who held the lead after the first round, made a 97.5-meter jump on her second attempt for a total score of 247.4 to narrowly edge Austrian Daniela Iraschko-Stolz by 1.2 points.

Iraschko-Stolz was fifth after round one, but easily had the best distance of the 30 jumpers in the second round, 104.5 meters, three more than any of her competitors.

France's Coline Mattel, a World Cup winner in this event in Sochi in 2012, totaled 245.2 points to nab the bronze.

Current world champion and the runaway World Cup leader, 17-year-old Sara Takanashi of Japan disappointed with a fourth-place finish.

Takanashi has won 10 of the 13 events on the World Cup circuit.

While women have been participating in the sport for more than a century, the International Olympic Committee argued that there weren't enough women or countries participating at a high enough level to justify its inclusion until now.

An official once said jumping thousands of times was "not appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view."

However, on April 6, 2011, the IOC finally announced that a women's ski jumping event was being added for Sochi.

American Sarah Hendrickson, who suffered torn knee ligaments in August, wore bib No. 1 and became the first woman to ever make a competition jump in an Olympic event. The 2013 world champion, though, finished 21st overall with a total score of 217.6

Hendrickson has said that she will take the rest of the season off to further recover from her knee injury.

Fellow Americans Jessica Jerome and Lindsay Van finished 10th and 15th, respectively, while Atsuko Tanaka and Taylor Henrich were the top Canadian finishers in 12th and 13th place.


Rzhanaya Polyana, Russia ( - Erin Hamlin made Olympic history Tuesday, becoming the first American to medal in luge singles by claiming the bronze in the women's competition at the Sanki Sliding Center.

Germany's Natalie Geisenberger, the 2010 bronze medalist, grabbed gold with a total time of 3 minutes, 19.768 seconds, while countrymate and defending Olympic champion Tatjana Huefner finished second with a total time of 3:20.907.

The 26-year-old Geisenberger was coming off a first-place finish in this event at the World Championships in Canada back in December.

Geisenberger recorded the best time in each of the first three runs, giving her a comfortable lead of 1.049 seconds over Huefner heading into the final run.

Geisenberger, slated to go last in the final round, then watched as Hamlin and Huefner failed to make up enough time to catch her before roaring down the track in 50.189 seconds to capture her second Olympic medal.

Hamlin, 27, finished with a total time of 3:21.145, just .433 seconds ahead of Canadian Alex Gough. Gough's compatriot, Kimberley McRae, followed in fifth.

Kate Hansen, the 21-year-old American whose pre-run dancing warmup has drawn attention online, finished in 10th place.


Sochi, Russia ( - Russia's Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov easily won the short program Tuesday in pairs figure skating at the Sochi Olympics.

The reigning world champions broke their own world record with a score of 84.17 as they try to put their home country back on top at the Olympic.

Russian and Soviet skaters had won the Olympic event 12 times in a row before Russia was shut out of medal competition four years ago in Vancouver.

Volosozhar and Trankov's score was 4.53 points higher than Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, the 2010 bronze medalists.

Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov stood third with a score of 75.21 and China's Pang Qing and Tong Jian were fourth. Pang and Tong won the silver in 2010 behind teammates Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo.

Canadian pairs Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford and Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch were fifth and sixth. Americans Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir were ninth.

Canadians Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers and Americans Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay also qualified for Wednesday's free program, after which the medals will be determined.

83.79 first in pairs to help Russia win the new team event for Sochi's first figure skating gold medal.


Krasnaya Polyana, Russia ( - Norwegian cross country skiers Maiken Caspersen Falla and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg finished 1-2 in the women's sprint free final Tuesday at the Sochi Olympics.

Falla, who finished 20th in this event in Vancouver, crossed the finish line in 2 minutes, 35.49 seconds to claim her first Olympic medal.

The 23-year-old Oestberg followed in second, edging bronze medalist Vesna Fabjan of Slovakia by just .02 seconds to secure her first Olympic medal as well.

Sophie Caldwell put forth the best performance in this event by an American woman in Olympic history by making the final, but was tripped up late in the race and finished in sixth place.


Krasnaya Polyana, Russia ( - Norwegian cross country skier Ola Vigen Hattestad won the gold medal in the men's sprint free competition on Tuesday.

After finishing just outside of medal contention in this event at the Vancouver Games, Hattestad sped through the course in 3 minutes, 38.39 seconds to secure his first Olympic medal.

Sweden's Teodor Peterson finished just over a second behind Hattestad to claim the silver medal, while fellow Swede Emil Joensson brought home bronze, despite crossing the finish line nearly 20 seconds after Peterson.

A crash midway through the race involving multiple skiers created the gap between Peterson and Joensson.

Hattestad's gold-medal run came just minutes after countrymate Maiken Caspersen Falla won gold in the women's sprint free competition.


Krasnaya Polyana, Russia ( - Belarus' Darya Domracheva won the women's biathlon pursuit on Tuesday, spoiling Slovakian Anastasiya Kuzmina's bid to become the first women to capture gold in both the sprint and pursuit in the same Olympics.

Domracheva, who started 32 seconds behind Kuzmina, grabbed the lead from Sunday's sprint gold medalist after hitting all five shots at the second range.

Kuzmina missed on that second prone stop and had to take a penalty lap.

Domracheva, though, misfired from her final range in the standing position, but Kuzmina failed to capitalize, as she missed on the fourth of her five shots from that spot as well.

The 27-year-old Domracheva, who finished 15th in this event at the Vancouver Games, cruised after that and captured her first medal with a time of 29 minutes, 30.7 seconds.

Norway's Tora Berger finished nearly 38 seconds behind Domracheva to nab the silver, while 33-year-old Teja Gregorin took home the bronze, her first-ever medal in this her fourth Olympic games.

Kuzmina, who became the first woman in the biathlon to successfully defend an individual Olympic title by winning gold in the 7.5-kilometer sprint Sunday, finished sixth after winning silver in this event four years ago.

Susan Dunklee was the top American, ending 18th. She also had the best U.S. finish in Sunday's sprint with a 14th-place showing.


Sochi, Russia ( - South Korean speedskater Lee Sang Hwa easily repeated as Olympic champion in the women's 500 meters on Tuesday.

Lee beat Russia's Olga Fatkulina by .36 seconds for her second straight gold medal, setting Olympic records with a 37.28-second finish in her second race and an overall time of 74.70.

Margot Boer was third, .42 seconds behind Fatkulina to give the Netherlands eight of the first 12 speedskating medals at the Sochi Olympics.

American Heather Richardson, sixth in Vancouver four years ago, stood fourth after the first race Tuesday but ended eighth.

Christine Nesbitt, the 2010 gold medalist in the 1,000, was the top Canadian finisher, coming in 12th.

Prior to Tuesday, the Netherlands had won all three speedskating gold medals. The Dutch swept the men's 500 and 5,000 meters and Ireen Wust won the women's 3,000.

Lee, probably among the heaviest favorites in any event, entered the Olympics with a 7-0 record in World Cup races this season. She had a .15-second lead on Fatkulina after the first race and more than doubled it after the second.


Sochi, Russia ( - Russia remained perfect in Group B play on Tuesday with a 2-1 win over Japan in women's hockey at the Sochi Olympics.

Just as it was in Sunday's win over Germany, Russia appeared tentative against Japan and found itself tied midway through the third period. However, just minutes after Yekaterina Pashkevich was stoned by Nana Fujimoto on a shorthanded breakaway attempt, Alexandra Vafina gave the Russians the lead for good with a shorthanded goal.

Tatyana Burina had given the Russians the early edge with a marker 11:39 into the first period, but Ayaka Toko scored early in the third period to even the game.

Russian goaltender Anna Prugova made 21 saves in the win for Russia, while Fujimoto turned 36 shots aside in the loss.

Russia advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament, as did Sweden, which also remained unbeaten in Group B play with a 4-0 victory over Germany earlier Tuesday.

Emma Nordin gave Sweden a 1-0 lead just 1:00 into the game and the score stayed that way until Cecilia Osterberg tallied early in the third period. Johanna Olofsson and Pernilla Winberg scored later in the third to arrive at the 4-0 margin.

Sweden goaltender Kim Martin Hasson stopped 21 shots for a shutout, while German netminder Jennifer Harss surrendered four goals on 29 shots.

The Swedes, who will play Russia on Thursday, beat Japan 1-0 on Sunday.


Sochi, Russia ( - The Canadian men's curling team dropped its second straight match during Tuesday's curling action at the Sochi Olympics.

The Canadian men are chasing a third straight Olympic gold medal, but saw their quest take a hit as they followed Monday's 5-4 setback to Switzerland with a 7-6 loss against Sweden.

Trailing 6-4 heading into the ninth end, Canada notched two points to even the match, but Sweden responded with one in the 10th and final end to improve to 3-0 in round robin play.

The Canadian women, who finished runner-up to Sweden in Vancouver, exacted a measure of revenge against the reigning gold medalists by claiming a 9-3 win on Tuesday to improve to 2-0 in Sochi.

The struggles continued for both U.S. squads Tuesday, as the women dropped a pair of decisions while the men were handed a 9-4 setback at the hands of China.

The American women fell to 0-3 in Sochi after losing to Russia, 9-7, and being dominated by Great Britain, 12-3.

In other women's action on Tuesday, Korea earned a 12-7 win over Japan, which went on to top Denmark later in the day. China also edged Russia 7-5 later on Tuesday.

Also on the men's side, Norway defeated Russia 9-8, while Great Britain bested Germany 7-6.

Sweden sits atop the standings on the men's side, while Switzerland, which downed Denmark and Korea on Tuesday, occupies the top spot on the women's side at 3-0.


Sochi, Russia ( - Bob Costas' eye infection has become one of the more prevailing stories at the Sochi Games.

Now, with the conjunctivitis having spread to both eyes, NBC Sports has pulled the veteran broadcaster from primetime coverage. Today Show host Matt Lauer will fill in on Tuesday evening, marking the first time since 1988 that someone other than Costas has anchored the coverage.

"I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but you're going to be my Mariano Rivera tonight," Costas told Lauer on air Tuesday morning.

NBC had taken to using ever-wider shots to reduce the visual impact of Costas' infected eyes. Costas actually joked about his pinkeye on Monday, as he downed a shot of vodka with fellow on-air personality Mary Carillo, noting that his eyes couldn't get any worse.


Sochi, Russia ( - The International Olympic Committee executive board reinstated the National Olympic Committee of India after an ad-hoc meeting was held Tuesday at the Sochi Games.

The Indian Olympic Association was suspended in December 2012 for failing to comply with the Olympic Charter. The ban was implemented due to the IOA's election of several officials who had been previously charged with criminal activity.

The suspension was lifted after the IOA's general assembly held elections in Sochi for a new board. The elections, which installed head of the World Squash Federation Narayna Ramachandran as the IOA president, were observed by IOC member Robin Mitchell.

The ruling is effective immediately and means Indian athletes can compete under their nation's flag at the Sochi Olympics. Due to the suspension, India's three representatives at the 2014 Winter Games marched under the Olympic flag at last week's opening ceremony.

Indian luger Shiva Keshavan competed as an independent in the men's singles event earlier at the Sochi Games, but alpine skier Himanshu Thakur and cross- country skier Nadeem Iqbal now will be allowed to officially race for their home nation.

The IOC's decision also means Iqbal, Keshavan and Thakur can march with their nation's flag at the closing ceremony. The Indian flag also will be raised at the Olympic Village in Sochi.