Team USA earned its first figure skating medal of the 2022 Beijing Olympics thanks to a clutch performance from its ice dancers.
The U.S. took home the silver in the team figure skating competition after Madison Chock and Evan Bates turned in a season-best score in the ice dancing free program.
The news was not so good for skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin. The defending Olympic champion will not repeat in the women’s giant slalom.
Shiffrin’s first of five potential events in Beijing ended in disappointment Monday when she wiped out on her opening run.
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BEIJING — Nina O’Brien, the top U.S. woman in the giant slalom after Mikaela Shiffrin went out, crashed just ahead of the finish line Monday and appeared to seriously injure her left leg.
O’Brien was taken off the course on a stretcher, but U.S. Ski & Snowboard said on Twitter that she was “alert and responsive.”
“She was worried about delaying the race,” the organization said. “And also she wanted to know how fast she was skiing.”
O’Brien had one gate left in the second run and was going at top speed when she lost her balance. Her legs flew wide and she tumbled past the last gate and into the finish area. O’Brien immediately clutched at her left leg, and still photographs showed her ankle going the opposite direction of how it should.
— Nancy Armour
ZHANGJIAKOU, China — There would be no repeat gold for Team USA’s men’s snowboard slopestyle team. There would be no medal, even.
Four years after Red Gerard pulled off a surprising Olympic win, the 21-year-old finished just off the podium here at the Beijing Olympics.
Gerard, 21, was a surprise gold medalist in Pyeongchang four years ago – even to himself. He has since embraced the competition scene and came to Beijing gunning for a medal.
He sat in third until Canadian Mark McMorris landed a big run to bump Gerard and take bronze himself. Canadian Max Parrot, who won silver in slopestyle four years ago, claimed gold, while 17-year-old Chinese phenom Su Yiming took silver.
Americans had won the gold in both previous contests since slopestyle was added in 2014, with Sage Kotsenburg claiming it in the debut and Gerard winning in 2018.
“Fourth never feels good. One off from being cool,” Gerard said. “I haven’t really fully put it together yet. I’m just happy that I landed a run, and I was really happy with the run, probably the best run I’ve ever done.”
Gerard used a unique line to put himself in contention.
On his first run, he landed 1620s on the first and third jumps. But in the rail section, he did a trick off the roof of the guard tower feature and on the second jump he used the quarter pipe to launch himself into double cork 1080.
He flubbed a trick in the rail section on his third run, leaving him to wait to see if his score would hold. But McMorris put down a run with three triple corks on the jumps to give himself a bronze medal for a third consecutive Games.
Americans Chris Corning and Sean Fitzsimons finished sixth and 12th, respectively.
— Rachel Axon
BEIJING — The U.S. men’s drought in the Olympic downhill continues.
Ryan Cochran-Siegle was the top American finisher Monday, finishing in 14th place, 82 seconds behind Olympic gold medalist Beat Feuz of Switzerland. Bryce Bennett, the top U.S. man in the downhill this season, was 19th while Travis Ganong was 20th.
It’s the second consecutive Olympics that the U.S. men have failed to have anyone finish in the top 10.
Johan Clarey of France won the silver and Matthias Mayer, the 2014 Olympic champion, took the bronze in the race, which was rescheduled from Sunday because of high winds.
“I can’t think of anything more beautiful than flying home with a gold medal around my neck,” said Feuz, who four years ago was the bronze medalist in the downhill and silver medalist in the super-G.
Only two American men have won the Olympic downhill, and Tommy Moe was the last to do it, at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer. Bode Miller was the last U.S. man to win a medal in downhill, a bronze in 2006.
— Nancy Armour
Even during an Olympics with extreme COVID-19 protocols, it was a bizarre look for Canadian and Russian women’s hockey players. Both teams took the ice Monday wearing KN95 masks underneath their hockey masks.
The start of the preliminary group game was delayed by more than an hour because the Canadian team did not receive a report on Russia’s COVID testing status and didn’t want to take the ice until that happened, according to Toronto Sun reporter Rob Longley.
The Associated Press reported that the IOC told the IIHF, the international hockey federation, that players were required to wear masks due to “safety and security reasons.”
The Russians returned for the third period without their masks, however. The Canadians kept theirs on.
— Roxanna Scott
BEIJING — A prominent U.S. figure skater has tested positive for COVID-19, and at the worst possible time.
U.S. Figure Skating announced Monday that Vincent Zhou, who is scheduled to skate the men’s short program Tuesday, tested positive on Sunday. It is now unclear whether he will be able to compete.
“Under the guidance of the USOPC medical staff, Zhou is undergoing additional testing to confirm his status,” the national governing body said in a statement. “If the results are negative, Zhou will be able to compete in the men’s short program, which begins Tuesday. At this time, we ask you respect his privacy as we await the results.”
The news of the positive test comes at a devastating time for Zhou, who skated the long program for Team USA in the team competition on Sunday morning.
With the draw already having been completed, it is unlikely that the U.S. would be able to have an alternate skate in Zhou’s place. Nathan Chen and Jason Brown are the other American men in the field.
— Tom Schad
BEIJING — In the final event of the team figure skating competition, Russian skater Kamila Valieva landed a trick that no woman had ever achieved on Olympic ice.
Then she did it again in the same program.
Valieva, 15, became the first woman to land a quadruple jump at the Winter Games, making four rotations in mid-air. She also became the first woman to land two of them in the same program, kicking off her program with a quad salchow before later landing a quad toe.
That she fell on a third quad attempt later in the program proved to be a mere footnote.
Valieva’s performance capped a dominant gold-medal-winning performance by the Russian Olympic Committee in the team event. Valieva is also one of three Russian wunderkinds who will be vying for podium spots in the women’s individual competition, and there is a chance they could sweep the podium.
— Tom Schad
BEIJING — After the first day of the team figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Team USA was dreaming of gold.
Instead, it squeaked out a silver.
Buoyed by a strong final performance from the ice dance team of Madison Chock and Evan Bates on Monday, the Americans edged Japan to win their first silver medal in the team figure skating event. They won bronze in both 2018 and 2014.
The Russian Olympic Committee, which entered as the favorite, won gold in dominant fashion.
“We’re celebrating silver,” Bates said. “Winning a silver medal at the Olympic Games is an incredible achievement, and the fact that we all get a silver medal, the whole team — I’m so happy. I’m so happy.”
The U.S. and Japan were tied in the standings with 48 team points entering the final two events of the competition — the free dance and women’s long program. But Chock and Bates, the captains of the U.S. team, turned in a stellar performance to finish first in their event, and Karen Chen did enough in a redemptive long program to hang on.
— Tom Schad
BEIJING – There is no bigger star in China at these Olympics than Eileen Gu, the 18-year old freestyle skier from San Francisco who is headed to Stanford after these Olympics.
Despite her American roots, Gu chose in 2019 to compete for China, the country where her mother grew up and where she has become a fashion model and a breakthrough star.
Given the hype surrounding her debut at the Beijing Games, Gu admitted there was some pressure to perform well Monday in the first Big Air competition for skiing ever at the Olympics. After two of her three runs, though, Gu’s place in the final was uncertain. After her ski fell off on the second jump, her only choice was to produce a clean run or be eliminated from the competition.
“I would not feel satisfied if I didn’t make finals,” she said. “I was just focusing on the trick itself. I wasn’t thinking about there are people who want to watch me or that there was this pressure on me. It’s a right 9 (or jump with 2 ½ rotations). I’ve been doing right 9s since I was 14, and I know I can do that trick so I was just kind of talking to myself in that way.”
Gu pulled it off, securing her place in what will be a widely-watched final here on Tuesday at the Big Air Shougang.
Among the four-woman American contingent, only Darian Stevens qualified for the final after landing a left 900-degree trick on her third try after finding trouble on her second jump.
“I was obviously feeling the heat,” said Stevens, a native of Missoula, Mont. “I had a really good first jump I was very happy with and had a little bit of a speed issue on the second one so there was a lot of pressure riding on that third jump but I was really happy to land it.
— Dan Wolken
NBC prime-time Olympic host Mike Tirico will have a shorter stay in Beijing than originally planned.
Tirico’s final show from Beijing will be Monday night. He will fly from China to NBC Sports headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, to host Wednesday’s and Thursday’s shows before heading to Los Angeles on Friday to anchor Olympic and Super Bowl coverage through Sunday.
Tirico will then head back to Stamford for the final week of Olympic coverage. The Games conclude on Feb. 20.
Maria Taylor, who signed with NBC on the eve of last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, will host Tuesday night’s show while Tirico is flying back.
Tirico was originally scheduled to stay in Beijing through Thursday before going to Los Angeles. NBC officials, though, have reiterated that his schedule was subject to change based on COVID-19 and other factors.
This is the first year that the Olympics and Super Bowl are taking place at the same time. Four years ago, Tirico missed the Super Bowl as he was preparing for his first Olympics as prime-time host in Pyeongchang.
NBC has its announcers and hosts working out of its Connecticut headquarters. It has a limited group of reporters on the ground in China. NBC News’ Craig Melvin is still in Beijing and will host “prime plus coverage” (which is late night in New York but prime time in Los Angeles) over the weekend.
— Associated Press
BEIJING —The U.S. is all but assured of winning silver in the team figure skating competition after a clutch performance from Madison Chock and Evan Bates in the free dance.
Chock and Bates won their event with a season-best score of 129.07, widening the gap between the Americans (58) and Japan (54), which is in third place. There is one event remaining, with Karen Chen set to skate in the women’s free skate.
Teams are awarded points based on their finish in each event, with 10 points to the winner, nine to the runner-up and so on.
The U.S. had been squarely in silver-medal position entering Monday, but a last-place finish from Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in the pairs’ long program allowed Japan to knot the score.
The Russian Olympic Committee has all but locked up the gold, while the other two finalists, Canada and China, only had remote chances of medaling entering Monday.
The Americans have won bronze medals in the team event at each of the past two Olympics.
— Tom Schad
YANQING, China — Mikaela Shiffrin’s first chance for a gold medal was over almost as soon as it began.
Expected to contend for multiple medals at the Beijing Olympics, several of them gold, Shiffrin lost an edge on the fifth gate of the first run of the women’s giant slalom and skied out. It’s the first time she’s failed to finish a GS race since January 2018.
“It’s a huge disappointment. Not even counting the medals,” Shiffrin said afterward. “The easiest thing to say is I skied a couple of good turns and skied one turn a bit wrong and really paid the hardest of consequences for that.”
Shiffrin has said she hopes to do all five individual events at the Beijing Olympics. Her next race will come Wednesday, in the slalom. She won gold there in 2018, making her the youngest champion in that event.
— Nancy Armour
BEIJING – Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai told a French newspaper that her long-planned dinner with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has already occurred.
In a story published Monday by L’Equipe, Peng said the two met for dinner Saturday. She also once again denied having accused anyone of sexual assault, after alleging in a social-media post in November that she had been assaulted by Zhang Gaoli, a former high-ranking Chinese government official.
Peng’s post was later scrubbed from Chinese social media, and she disappeared from public view for several weeks. She also disagreed with that characterization.
“I never disappeared, everyone could see me,” Peng told L’Equipe.
Activists have expressed concern that Peng’s movements and statements have been monitored or influenced by the Chinese government in the wake of her allegation.
IOC spokesperson Mark Adams confirmed that Bach and Peng had dinner Saturday night. When asked Sunday about the dinner, he said he had no update.
— Tom Schad
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – Cupping, dry needling, ice, pressure and some kind of brush for her face — all day, every day, every hour, for the last several days. This was Kai Owens’ entire existence.
With a lot of persistence and medical treatment, the Chinese-born, American raised freeskier was able to compete in the Beijing Winter Olympics Sunday night, finishing in 10th place in the women’s moguls. Australia’s Jakara Anthony led the field with a gold medal performance of 83.09. American Jaelin Kauf won the silver with a score of 80.28, and Anastasiia Smirnova of Russia took bronze.
Her ability to get to this night came down to the wire. Owens, 17, missed the opening qualifying round several days earlier, last Tuesday night, when her eye was swollen shut from a crash during a practice run on the same day. Owens, who also had a concussion earlier in the season, was held out by coaches.
“The first day I couldn’t even move my arm,” said Owens. “I was in a sling because of my rotator cuff. And then I couldn’t see out of my eye.”
By Sunday night, her eye was still visibly injured, but remarkably healed given how bad it was a few days earlier.
“I’m just so thankful to be here,” said Owens. “I owe a huge ‘thanks’ to our Team USA staff, U.S. ski and snowboard staff. They helped get me out here tonight.”
— Lori Nickel
BEIJING — In what could be the first of five races at the Beijing Olympics, and perhaps as many medals, Mikaela Shiffrin competes Monday in the giant slalom. She is the reigning Olympic champion in GS and is currently third in the World Cup standings, with two wins and a second-place finish in five races this season.
The GS will be followed Wednesday by the slalom, where she became the youngest Olympic champion in the event in 2014. Shiffrin also has a silver, from the Alpine combined in Pyeongchang.
Shiffrin won the season-opening GS race in October in Soelden, Austria. But she didn’t race GS again until December – she won one race and finished second in the other – and her training time throughout the season has been limited.
In fact, she said Friday that she has spent more time training GS since coming to Beijing than she has the rest of the season.
“That’s not ideal,” she said.
Despite that, Shiffrin said she feels she’s in a “pretty good place,” both in GS and overall.
“There’s a lot of potential there,” she said. “What are the odds on a day where all the variables are controlled? My odds aren’t bad. I’m just going to have to see where the chips fall.”
— Nancy Armour
BEIJING – Everywhere you turn at these Olympic Games, friendly staff members and volunteers are impeccably dressed in uniforms depicting white snow peaks and blue Chinese skies. As the competitions get underway in full force, we will see hundreds of technical officials wearing similarly attractive grey and white gear with red accents on their sleeves.
But it’s the logo over the right breast that your eyes should be drawn to.
The nondescript symbol, which looks vaguely like the silhouette of an impala’s head or perhaps a pickaxe, represents Anta Sports, a Chinese sporting goods giant that endorses several NBA players, including Klay Thompson and Gordon Hayward. It is also the parent company of a subsidiary that owns legacy American brands like Wilson and Louisville Slugger. The founder of Lululemon, Canadian billionaire Chip Wilson, is heavily invested in the company.
In China, the world’s second-largest economy, Anta is a very big deal. It’s also at the center of arguably the biggest political controversy surrounding these Olympics involving alleged genocide and human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwest China.
— Dan Wolken
Ocala, Florida, is a town of about 60,000 people located between Gainesville and Orlando. Palm trees dot downtown. Temperatures last week touched 80 degrees.
It’s not the kind of place you’d expect to produce Winter Olympians.
But in a strange twist – and with the almost inadvertent help of a Florida grandmother – that is exactly what’s happened.
Three of the top U.S. speedskaters at the 2022 Winter Olympics – Brittany Bowe, Erin Jackson and Joey Mantia – all hail from Ocala, which does not even have a year-round ice rink. All three are legitimate medal contenders. And all three started out as inline skaters on a team that is now called Ocala Speed, coached by the same woman, Renee Hildebrand.
— Tom Schad
BEIJING – After Day 1 of the Olympic figure skating team competition, U.S. athletes talked about skating with intensity and building momentum for an improbable gold-medal run against the Russians.
On Day 2, the conversation turned, sharply. Thoughts of momentum were replaced by concerns about “picking each other up.” High-fives and fist bumps were gone. Hugs and kind words showed up in their place.
That’s because, given the chance to rise to the occasion, both Karen Chen and Vincent Zhou turned in flat, lackluster performances, leaving the United States likely settling for the team silver medal and wondering what might have been had Chen and Zhou been able to skate cleanly – or how things would have been different had U.S. Figure Skating officials chosen other skaters in their place.
— Christine Brennan