Olympic Daily News - Wednesday, February 19th

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Ted Ligety skidded out, sliding onto his left side.

No, the American skier hadn't just blown another chance to take his rightful place as the Olympic giant slalom champion.

He was celebrating.

In clear conditions at the Rosa Khutor course, Ligety carved out a big lead with a masterful morning run Wednesday that all but guaranteed him the gold barring a big mistake in the afternoon.

Teammate Bode Miller called it a "clutch performance." You might call it a moment eight years in the making.

Ligety took a lead of .93 seconds into the second run, then held on to beat France's Steve Missillier by .48 seconds for his second Olympic gold medal but first in the event he's dominated for years on the World Cup circuit.

Ligety finished with a combined time of 2 minutes, 45.29 seconds, winning the first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics for the U.S. alpine skiing team.

Alexis Pinturault earned the bronze behind his French teammate.

Widely considered the best giant slalom skier of his generation, Ligety skied out of the race in 2006 and finished ninth in 2010.

Until he filled the biggest hole in his resume on Wednesday, Ligety's greatest Olympic feat had been a surprising win in the men's combined as a 21-year-old in 2006.

"Today was awesome. There's not really any other way to put it," said Ligety. "This is something I've been working for since I was a little kid. Being the favorite in alpine skiing is never easy, because it's an event that's so far from being guaranteed and not an event that's super simple to win even if you're skiing the best in the world."

Miller finished 2.53 seconds behind Ligety in 20th place in what could be the 36-year-old's final Olympic race. Miller became the oldest Olympic medalist in alpine skiing on Sunday when he tied for bronze in the Super-G for his sixth Olympic medal, including a silver in the giant slalom in 2002.

"It's asking a bit much of my left knee still on those kinds of bumps. Right in the middle, there's a left-footed turn that just seems like crazy big bumps. I just look at it thinking maybe I could do it, but confidence-wise I don't feel comfortable dropping it in that way and it's cost me both runs there. This is pretty aggressive stuff for the lower leg," noted Miller.

Ligety is only the second American skier with two Olympic alpine gold medals after Andrea Mead Lawrence, who won both women's slalom events at the 1952 Oslo Games.

He finished his first run in 1:21.08 and had the 14th-fastest time in his second run, 1:24.21 -- more than a second slower than Missillier but good enough.

Ligety appeared relieved at the bottom of the hill, sliding into the snow and exhaling.

Defending Olympic champion Carlo Janka of Switzerland finished in 13th place and Sochi downhill gold medalist Matthias Mayer of Austria ended sixth.


Rzhanaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - American track and field star Lauryn Williams may not have made history on Wednesday, but did walk away with a silver medal in the women's bobsled event.

Williams, a two-time medalist in the Summer Games, was trying to become just the second Olympian to win gold medals in both the Winter and Summer Games. And it looked as if she was going to get there after her and teammate Elana Meyers led the 19-team field after the third heat at the Sanki Sliding Center.

However, the tandem stumbled a bit in the fourth run after a nearly flawless heat from the Canadian team of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, who became the first women bobsledders to repeat as Olympic champions with a total time of 3 minutes and 50.61 seconds, .10 seconds ahead of the Americans.

The 28-year-old Humphries took gold four years ago in Vancouver and won the world championship in both 2012 and '13. Moyse, meanwhile, won gold with Humphries in 2010 after finishing fourth in 2006.

Instead of joining fellow American Eddie Eagan, who took gold in boxing in 1920 before winning in bobsledding during the 1932 Games, Williams had to settle for becoming just the fifth-ever athlete to medal in both the Summer and Winter Games.

Williams is a two-time Olympic medalist at the Summer Games, having won a silver medal in the 100-meter sprint at the 2004 Athens Olympics before grabbing gold in the 2012 Games in London. She ran the qualifier for the 400- meter relay and the U.S. went on to win the final.

Another United States duo of Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans snuck in for the bronze medal.

Fellow track star Lolo Jones was not as fortunate as Williams, as she and teammate Jazmine Fenlator finished in 11th place, 3.36 seconds off the pace of the leaders.


Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Norway captured the first-ever gold medal in the biathlon mixed relay on Wednesday, giving Ole Einar Bjoerndalen the all-time record with his 13th medal in the Winter Olympics.

Bjoerndalen had won the men's 10-kilometer sprint earlier in these Sochi Games, but had failed to reach the medal stand in his three other events. With Norway's win on Wednesday, though, he moved past cross-country skiing compatriot Bjorn Daehlie for the most medals all-time among Winter Olympians.

Bjoerndalen, who is competing in his sixth Olympic Games, will have a chance to tie the overall gold medal record with his ninth on Saturday in the men's 4x7, 5-km relay.

The 40-year-old Bjoerndalen was behind when he started his leg but breezed through the course and was 5-for-5 in his two shooting stations, handing Emil Hegle Svendsen a 43.1 second advantage.

Svendsen, who won the men's 15-km mass start on Tuesday, then closed out the relay for Norway in a winning time of 1 hour, 9 minutes and 17 seconds to give the country three biathlon golds and five overall medals in the sport in these games.

The Czech Republic finished 32.6 seconds behind Norway to win the silver, while Italy claimed the bronze with a time of 1:10:15.2

For the first time ever in the biathlon, a mixed relay event was staged after being voted onto the Olympic program in 2011.

The new mixed relay featured four athletes: two men and two women. The male athlete was required to ski 7.5-kilometer loops and shoot from both the prone and the standing position, while the females, who also shot from the standing and the prone position, were required to ski six- kilometer loops.


Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - The queen is still on top, but her reign has some worthy challengers.

South Korea's Kim Yuna began her quest for a second straight Olympic gold medal by posting the top score on Wednesday in the women's short program at the Sochi Olympics.

But Kim's advantage is slim. She scored a 74.92 as the 17th performer and her lead held solid until Italy's Carolina Kostner put together a routine that netted her a score of 74.12.

Russia's Adelina Sotnikova then sent the home crowd into a frenzy with a routine that scored at 74.64, putting her a mere .28 behind Kim, known in her home country as Queen Yuna.

Kim's score on Wednesday was good enough to put her first going into Thursday's free skate, with medals awarded following that event. Kim, a two- time world champion, is aiming to become the first repeat gold medalist in the ladies' singles since Katarina Witt in 1984 and '88.

The 23-year-old used a score of 78.50 in the short program en route to gold four years ago in Vancouver and was solid in Sochi despite a foot injury suffered in September that held her out of action until December.

Japan's Mao Asada, who won a silver four years ago, fell during her routine and was 16th with a score of 55.51.

The U.S. saw its three skaters finish in the top seven, led by Gracie Gold's score of 68.63 that landed her in fourth.

Ashley Wagner was sixth following a score of 65.21, putting her behind 15- year-old Russian fan-favorite Yulia Lipnitskaya. She earned a score of 65.23 despite a fall during her routine on a triple flip.

Another 15-year-old had a solid showing in American Polina Edmunds, who set a new season-best with a score of 61.04 to put her in seventh place.

The American woman have something to prove after failing to win an Olympic medal for the first time since 1964 four years ago in Vancouver. In fact, there's only been one U.S. medalist in the ladies' singles in the past two Olympics and that was a silver by Sasha Cohen in 2006.


Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - American-born snowboarder Vic Wild captured a gold medal for Olympic host Russia on Wednesday in the men's parallel giant slalom.

Wild trailed Nevin Galmarini of Switzerland by .54 seconds after the first run of their two-race final. He gained ground as Galmarini lost time in wide turns around the gates in the second run and won easily at the finish line.

Wild, 27, was born in White Salmon, Wash., and married Russian snowboarder Alena Zavarzina in 2011. He was granted Russian citizenship two years ago.

Galmarini settled for silver and Slovenia's Zan Kosir beat Germany's Patrick Bussler in the small final to win the bronze.

Earlier, two-time Olympic champion Philipp Schoch of Switzerland and 2010 gold medalist Jasey Jay Anderson of Canada -- competing in his fifth Olympics -- were both knocked out in the first round of finals.

So were top morning qualifier Andrey Sobolev of Russia and Austria's Benjamin Karl, the 2010 silver medalist.

The only American in the field, Justin Reiter, failed to make it past the qualification round.

Simon Schoch, who took silver behind his brother in 2006, made the quarters but was knocked out by Wild.

Zavarzina fell in the semifinals of the women's competition on Wednesday but won the small final to capture bronze.


Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Swiss snowboarder Patrizia Kummer edged Japan's Tomoka Takeuchi in the finals of the women's parallel giant slalom Wednesday at the Sochi Olympics.

Kummer, who shares the World Cup points lead with Takeuchi, trailed her Japanese counterpart by .30 seconds after the first run, but made up the deficit early in the second run before Takeuchi took a spill midway through the race, allowing Kummer to cruise to gold for her first Olympic medal.

Takeuchi bettered her 13th-place finish from the 2010 Games by securing silver for her first Olympic medal.

Russia's Alena Zavarzina won bronze after edging Austria's Ina Meschik in the small final at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Zavarzina's husband Vic Wild won gold in the men's parallel giant slalom shortly after watching his wife bring home bronze.

Two returning medalists were bounced early in the competition, as Dutch Nicolien Sauerbreij, who won gold in Vancouver, and Russia's Ekaterina Ilyukhina, a silver medalist in 2010, both lost in the 1/8 final.

Three Canadians made it as far as the quarterfinals, but Caroline Calve, Marianne Leeson and Ariane Lavigne each fell short of the semis.

The United States did not qualify a rider for the event, which has been part of the Olympics since 2002.


Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Finland's Iivo Niskanen and Sami Jauhojaervi combined to win gold in the men's cross-country team sprint on Wednesday at the Sochi Olympics.

But it wasn't without some controversy.

Finland, Russia and Germany entered the final hill at Laura Cross-country Ski and Biathlon Center locked in a virtual tie for first before Jauhojaervi cut in front of Germany's Tim Tscharnke and sent him sprawling to the snow.

With the Germans out of the race, Jauhojaervi and Russia's Nikita Kriukov sprinted toward the finish line, but the 32-year-old Finn pulled away down the stretch to secure the first Olympic medals for the duo from Finland.

Niskanen and Jauhojaervi finished with a total time of 23 minutes, 14.89 seconds, just under a full second faster than Kriukov and teammate Maxim Vylegzhanin for second.

Sweden's Emil Joensson and Teodor Peterson posted a time of 23:30.01 to bring home bronze, while Germany, the defending silver medalists in the team sprint, finished a disappointing seventh following Tscharnke's tumble, which prompted an unsuccessful protest from the German's after the race.

Peterson and Joensson won silver and bronze, respectively, in the free sprint on Feb. 11.

Norway, which won gold in the team sprint in Vancouver, finished just outside of medal contention in fourth, while the American team of Simeon Hamilton and Erik Bjornsen ended up just ahead of Germany in sixth.


Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Norway's Marit Bjoergen and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg combined to win gold in the women's cross-country team sprint on Wednesday at the Sochi Olympics.

The Norwegian duo crossed the finish line in 16 minutes, 4.05 seconds, while Finland followed just under 10 seconds behind the Norwegians to secure silver.

With the win, Bjoergen and Oestberg both claimed their second medals in Sochi. Bjoergen grabbed gold -- the fourth of her career and eighth lifetime Olympic medal to that point -- by winning the 15-kilometer skiathlon on Feb. 8, while Oestberg took silver in the women's free sprint on Feb. 11.

Finland's team was made up of Aino-Kaisa Saarinen and Kerttu Niskanen, who were both part of Finland's 4x5-km relay team that won silver on Saturday.

Sweden, which won silver in the team sprint in Vancouver, outsprinted reigning gold medalists Germany down the home stretch to grab bronze.

The U.S. team of Sophie Caldwell and Kikkan Randall finished eighth with a time of 16:48.08.


Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Czech Martina Sablikova successfully defended her gold medal in the women's 5,000 meters on Wednesday, while the Netherlands grabbed two more speed skating medals to give it 21 total at the Sochi Olympics.

Sablikova won the fifth Olympic medal of her career and second straight in this event. She won both the 3,000- and 5,000-meter races four years ago in Vancouver along with a bronze in the 1,500m, and claimed a silver in these Olympics in the 3,000m.

The 26-year-old was golden again on Wednesday, finishing the event with a time of 6 minutes and 51.54 seconds.

Ireen Wust and Carien Kleibeuker took silver and bronze, respectively, as the Dutch continued their dominating presence on the medal stand. The Netherlands has won a total of 21 speed skating medals in men's and women's events here in Sochi, including six golds.

The women have claimed two golds, three silvers and four bronzes after Wust and Kleibeuker's latest performance at Adler Arena.

The only other medal the Dutch have won here in Sochi was a short track bronze by Sjinkie Knegt in the men's 1,000 meters.

Wust, skating in the same pair with Sablikova, finished 2.74 seconds off the gold-medal winning pace with a time of 6:54.28, while Kleibeuker had a time of 6:55.66.

Kleibeuker finished just .11 ticks better than Russian Olga Graf, while German Claudia Pechstein was fifth in her return to the Olympics.

Pechstein was banned for two years by the International Skating Union after blood samples taken in 2009 showed a high level of immature blood cells. Pechstein appealed, but it was upheld to make her the first athlete to be banned due to screenings in her biological passport and not a positive drug test.

That forced Pechstein to miss the 2010 Games in Vancouver and prevented her from adding to her career total of nine Olympic medals, the most in Olympic speed skating. Set to turn 42 on Saturday, the German has won five gold medals, including in this event in 1994, 1998 and 2002. She also took silver in 2006.

Pechstein, though, fell short of matching cross-country skiers Stefania Belmondo and Raisa Smetanina for the most all-time Winter Olympic medals among female athletes.

German Stephanie Beckert, who won silver in this event four years ago, finished eighth, while American Maria Lamb was last among the 16 skaters with a time of 7:29.64, 38.10 seconds off the lead.


Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - James van Riemsdyk, Dustin Brown and David Backes tallied in a three-goal first period, as the United States put 32 years of frustration to rest and gained a spot in the semifinals thanks to a 5-2 decision over the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

Zach Parise and Phil Kessel also lit the lamp for the Americans, who hadn't beaten the Czechs -- or its previous incarnation as Czechoslovakia -- in Olympic play since 1980 and will face Canada in a Friday semifinal.

The defending gold medalist Canadians squeaked past Latvia, 2-1, on a late power-play marker from Shea Weber.

Ryan Suter added three assists and Ryan Kesler picked up two more helpers to back a 21-save effort by Jonathan Quick.

Ales Hemsky recorded both scores for the Czechs, who came up short in their quest to medal for the first time since taking bronze in Torino eight years prior.

Starter Ondrej Pavelec was pulled early in the second period after yielding four goals on 12 shots. Alexander Salak finished up with 12 stops.

Van Riemsdyk measured Pavelec from the goal line to the right of his net just 1:39 after the drop of the puck, but Hemsky was credited with the tying score on a scramble in front at 4:31.

Pavelec was rescued by his post on a Kessel drive minutes later, but the iron was no reinforcement after Brown was left alone at the left side to accept a Backes pass and score into a half-open net to make it 2-1 for the USA at 14:38.

Backes sent the Americans to intermission with a 3-1 edge, scoring just ahead of the buzzer by taking a Ryan Suter miss that caromed off the back boards and tucking it home from the right side.

The end boards factored into the USA's fourth goal of the contest, as Joe Pavelski's point blast went wide, but Parise alertly followed up with a chance from the goal line off the carom at 9:31.

Kessel sped to the net and tapped in a long Ryan Kesler cross-ice feed to make it 5-1 for the USA and officially welcome Salak to the game just after the two-minute mark of the third.

Quick was finally beaten again on a blistering drive from Hemsky from between the circles with seven minutes to play, but the seasoned Czechs had nothing left for a comeback.


Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - In desperate need of offense, Canada got it again from its defense.

Shea Weber's power-play goal in the third period helped Canada hold off a determined Latvia team 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the men's hockey tournament.

Though still alive for a shot at a second straight Olympic gold medal, Canada has found offense from its forwards hard to come by. The Canadians came into Wednesday's contest having scored 11 goals in their first three games, but six were off the stick of a defenseman.

Weber had two of those and his third of the tournament kept Canada alive.

With time winding down on the power play, Weber and fellow defenseman Drew Doughty, who has four goals in this tournament, worked the puck back and forth before Weber unleashed a low one-timer from the left point low and just over the pad of Latvia's Kristers Gudlevskis.

That put Canada ahead with 6:54 to play and Latvia didn't have much left in the tank to mount a comeback.

The victory set up an expected matchup between Canada and the U.S., who bested the Czech Republic, on Friday in the semifinals. It will serve as a rematch of the final in 2010, when Sidney Crosby scored 7:40 into overtime for a 3-2 victory by Canada.

The rematch almost didn't happen despite Canada outshooting Latvia 57-16, only to see Gudlevskis stop 55 of them.

Canada outshot Latvia 16-6 in the first period, but found itself in a tie game after 20 minutes.

Patrick Sharp put Canada on the board with 6:23 left in the opening frame as Rick Nash found the forward in the low right circle after carrying the puck behind the net. Sharp went down to one knee and blasted a one-timer home.

Latvia evened the score just over two minutes later on Lauris Darzins' fourth goal of the tournament. He came off the bench on a line change and took a pass behind the Canadian defense, skating in and faking a shot before lifting a backhander over a sprawled out Carey Price.

Darzins had scored twice in Latvia's 3-1 upset win over Switzerland on Tuesday to move his country into the quarterfinals.

Price ended with 15 saves.

Latvia went 0-3 in Group C play before upsetting the Swiss. Destiny seemed to be on its side again on Wednesday as Canada saw a potential game-changing moment go against it.

With 11:23 left in the third, Jonathan Toews poked a rebound behind Gudlevskis, who fell backwards in his crease in an attempt to cover up. The puck was still gliding towards the goal line and looked on its way in before Latvia's Kristaps Sotnieks pulled it back with his glove hand.

The play was reviewed, but still ruled no goal.

Canada's struggling forward group also took a hit in the game when John Tavares was forced to exit in the second period after taking a hard hit. He did not return.


Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund each had a goal and an assist to help Finland eliminate Russia from the men's hockey tournament with a 3-1 win at Bolshoy Ice Dome.

Juhamatti Aaltonen also scored, while Tuukka Rask stopped 37-of-38 shots he faced for the Fins, who advanced to the medal round at the Sochi Games for the third straight Olympics.

The Finns, who have the most medals since NHL players began Olympic participation in 1998 with three, will now play Sweden in a rematch of the 2006 gold medal game in a semifinal matchup on Friday.

Sweden moved on to the next round earlier Wednesday with a shutout win over Slovenia.

Russia's strength in these Olympics had been its goaltending, but that wasn't the case on Wednesday, as Semyon Varlamov was pulled 6:42 into the second after allowing three goals on 15 shots.

Sergei Bobrovsky relieved him and stopped all seven shots he faced.

The loss was a bitter disappointment for the hometown Russians, who haven't won Olympic hockey gold since the breakup of the Soviet Union, although the Unified Team won the 1992 tournament in Albertville.

After Ilya Kovalchuk gave the Russians the lead, Finland answered 1:27 later on a pretty crossover move in front of the net off the stick of Aaltonen.

Selanne than gave the Fins the lead for good with 2:22 left in the first. On the rush Selanne took a beautiful pass from Granlund and buried it past Varlamov.

It was Selanne's 22nd career goal in the Olympics.

Selanne then played a part in Finland's next goal as his shot on net kicked out to Granlund, who put it past Varlamov to end the goaltender's day, as he was pulled 1:05 later in favor of Bobrovsky.

While Finland has medaled in four of the last five Olympics, including a bronze four years ago and a silver in 2006, it has never won a gold.


Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Carl Hagelin scored twice to pad the lead in the third period and Henrik Lundqvist made 19 saves to lead Sweden to a 5-0 win over Slovenia in the quarterfinals of the Olympic men's hockey tournament on Wednesday.

Daniel Sedin, Alexander Steen and Loui Eriksson also scored for the Swedes, who will face Finland in the semifinals. Finland defeated Russia to advance.

Sweden, seeded first, improved to 4-0.

Slovenia -- in the Olympics for the first time -- held Sweden scoreless for the first 18:50 and Robert Kristan stopped all 16 shots he faced in the second period, but Sweden scored four times in the third to put the game away.

David Rodman led Slovenia with six shots and Kristan ended up with 33 saves on 38 shots.

The Swedes clung to a 1-0 lead until Sedin gave them some breathing room 1:42 into the third on a one-timer from the left circle.

Eriksson made it 3-0 with a wrister from the right circle less than seven minutes later and Hagelin put the game away late.

Earlier, Steen scored on a sharp-angle rebound 66 seconds into a power play with 1:10 left in the first period.


Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Canadian center John Tavares will miss the remainder of the Sochi Games with a knee injury.

Tavares took a hard hit from Latvian defenseman Arturs Kulda in the second period of Canada's 2-1 win and did not return to the bench for the final 20 minutes.

Canadian head coach Mike Babcock confirmed after the game that Tavares would be sidelined the remainder of the tournament.

Tavares, the captain of the New York Islanders, is third in the NHL in scoring with 66 points in 59 games. He had not scored in four games for Team Canada.


Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Canada remained on track for a third consecutive gold medal in men's curling, as it advanced to the final game on Wednesday with a win over China.

Canada, which will be making its fifth straight gold medal game appearance, easily disposed of China, 10-6. The two-time defending Olympic champions turned a Chinese mistake in the seventh end into a game-changing triple.

Team skip Brad Jacobs then added another triple in the ninth to seal the win.

Awaiting Canada in the final will be Great Britain, which pulled out a dramatic, 6-5, win over Sweden on Wednesday at the Ice Cube Curling Center.

Trailing by a point in the 10th end, Great Britain was able to get two points thanks in part to a rare miss from Swedish skip Niklas Edin. Following the miss British skip David Murdoch sealed the victory with a delicate draw shot.

Sweden had lost just one other time in this tournament.

Great Britain, of course, is attempting to win an Olympic medal in men's curling for the first time since the sport was reintroduced to the Winter Games. The British won curling gold at the inaugural 1924 Chamonix Games, but have failed to reach the podium since curling returned to the Olympics in 1998.

China and Sweden will meet in Friday's bronze medal game.


Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Canada stayed undefeated in women's curling and moved on to the gold medal match with a win over Great Britain on Wednesday at the Sochi Games.

Great Britain, the reigning world champions, trailed by one going into the 10th end and had enough stones in the house to take the lead. However, Canadian skip Jennifer Jones placed her final shot on the inner edge of the blue circle to give Canada the point and a 6-4 win.

Canada, which has one gold, one silver and two bronze medals in four Olympic Games, improved to 10-0 in this tournament and will now try to close its remarkable run against Sweden in Thursday's gold medal matchup.

The only previous Olympic team to go through the qualifying phase with a perfect record is the Canadian men's rink skipped by Kevin Martin in the Vancouver Games in 2010.

That Canadian team won gold and Jones will try to do the same for the women, who haven't finished first in this tournament since 1998.

The Swedes, who have won the last two gold medals, defeated Switzerland, 7-5, in the other semifinal matchup on Wednesday to advance.

Great Britain and Switzerland will face off in the bronze medal game on Thursday.