Olympic roundup: Vonn crashes, U.S. hockey pulls out tight game
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Lindsey Vonn went down hard. Zach Parise made sure the U.S. men’s hockey team didn’t.
Hours after Vonn broke her right pinkie in a giant slalom crash, the hockey guys found themselves in trouble against Switzerland. The game was scoreless a couple minutes into the third period until Parise broke through. He added an empty-net goal in the closing seconds to seal a 2-0 victory and put the Americans into the semifinals.
The Canadians advanced, too, finally looking like the juggernaut they’re supposed to be – and they did it against Russia, the matchup many expected to be for the gold medal, but happened in only a quarterfinal.
Next up for the U.S. squad is Finland. NBC already has said it will show that game live, in all time zones, at noon PST Friday. Canada advances to the other semifinal, against Slovakia, which beat Sweden 4-3 Wednesday night.
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Vonn’s status isn’t so clear. She landed on her left hip and battered her chin with a ski during her fall. Besides the finger, her back hurt, as did the bruised right shin that’s slowed her for weeks.
The cover girl coming into these Winter Games, Vonn’s scorecard so far shows two medals (a gold and a bronze) and two wipeouts. It wasn’t known if she will ski her final event – the slalom – on Friday.
The second leg of the giant slalom was delayed until Thursday because of fog so thick “you cannot really see the snow on the ground,” a Finnish skier said. More delays could give Vonn more time to heal, as happened with her shin, but there isn’t much time left in the Olympics.
Also Wednesday, Canada’s victory in women’s bobsled moved the hosts into a tie with the United States and Germany for the most gold medals with seven. So much for that “Own the Podium” concession speech, eh? Canadians had their best day yet, snagging a gold, two silver and a bronze. Both the seven golds and the four medals in one day matched Winter Olympics records for the hosts.
Americans added to their overall haul with bronze in women’s bobsled and short-track speedskating’s women’s relay. The total is up to 28, inching toward their record of 34 set at Salt Lake City in 2002.
Germany has 24 medals, perhaps missing another when a bobsled crew lost control on its final run, the brakeman flying out the back and the driver flying down the course inside the sled. Both walked away.
HOCKEY: Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller kept the Americans scoreless by stuffing Parise several times, with two more of Parise’s shots clanking against the goal posts.
Then there was the shot that Hiller tried swatting away, but it went off his shoulder and into the net – a millisecond or two after the second period ended.
“We kept saying on the bench, ‘Don’t get frustrated,'” Parise recalled.
Parise finally scored 2:08 into the final period by redirecting a shot by Brian Rafalski early in a power play. Switzerland fought to tie it, but Ryan Miller made 19 saves and Parise scored again with 11.2 seconds left. The Americans are two wins from their first Olympic gold medal since the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980.
Canada gave its nervous nation a huge sigh of relief, jumping to leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in the first period alone on its way to 7-3 trouncing of Alex Ovechkin and the world champion Russians.
“We just wanted to step on the gas pedal from the drop of the puck,” defenseman Chris Pronger said.
This was the first time Canada beat Russia at the Olympics in 50 years, and only the second time in 11 Olympics games against the Russians or Soviets.
Sweden lost its chance to defend the gold in a 4-3 loss to Slovakia. Entering the game, Sweden’s Henrik Lundqvist had not given up a goal during the games, but then he stopped just one shot in the second period. He finished with just 10 saves and was clearly off his game.
Finland, the 2006 silver medalist, advanced with a 2-0 victory over the Czech Republic, breaking a scoreless tie when Nicklas Hagman tipped in a power-play goal with 6:26 left and stretching it with an empty-netter.
GIANT SLALOM: While this is Vonn’s worst event, no skier wants to go out like she did.
“I was like a pretzel,” she said, “so tangled up.”
American Julia Mancuso, the defending Olympic champion, was next, and starters made the mistake of sending her out while Vonn was still down. That meant a restart, which is tough on the body and the mind. She wound up 18th – and furious. She’ll have at least one night to keep stewing over it.
Elisabeth Goergl of Austria was the leader. The top American was Sara Schleper, in 14th place.
Also notable in this event was Marjan Kalhor becoming the first Iranian woman to compete at a Winter Olympics. The 21-year-old Kalhor, who wore a pink head scarf beneath her safety helmet to comply with Islamic dress code, was all smiles at the end of her run, despite being the slowest of 68 skiers who finished the run.
SHORT TRACK SPEEDSKATING: The 3,000-meter relay team of Allison Baver, Alyson Dudek, Lana Gehring and Katherine Reutter was last across the finish in the four-team final, but got promoted to third when the apparent winners from South Korea were disqualified.
Reutter also set an Olympic record in winning her heat in the 1,000 meters. The rest of the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals are Friday.
Apolo Anton Ohno is a baby step closer to another medal, too, winning his 500-meter heat. He, too, has to endure three more rounds if he’s going to extend his record of Winter Olympics medals by an American. He has seven, including gold in this event four years ago.
Teammate Simon Cho also advanced.
BOBSLED: Just a few days ago, American Erin Pac said she didn’t feel safe on the Whistler Sliding Center track, then she strained her left hamstring in training.
Now she and brakeman Elana Meyers have a bronze medal, finishing behind a pair of Canadians.
This was the first U.S. medal in sliding after getting shut out in men’s and women’s skeleton and two-man bobsledding. However, Americans are now 3-for-3 in women’s bobsled since it was added to the Olympic program.
When Canada’s 1-2 finish was official, Terrance Kosicar, the paramedic who worked frantically to save Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili’s life when he was killed in a training-run crash, grabbed a Canadian flag, held it high and sprinted through the final curve.
SPEEDSKATING: Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic captured her second gold medal in Vancouver, adding the 5,000 meters to the 3,000 title she’s already won.
“If there was another 100 meters I would not have made it,” Sablikova said through a translator.
Stephanie Beckert of Germany got silver, and 37-year-old, defending Olympic champion Clara Hughes of Canada thrilled the crowd by taking bronze.
“This crowd gave me wings,” said Hughes, who also won two bronze medals in cycling at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. “It was one of the best races of my life. Now, I am officially retired.”
Jilleanne Rookard was the top American, finishing eighth.
SVEN KRAMER: The coach who cost Sven Kramer the gold medal in speedskating’s 10,000 meters will be keeping his job.
“I don’t want to blame anyone,” Kramer said. “That doesn’t help you to move on from this.”
In the Netherlands, 6.7 million of the nation’s 16 million people watched the race on television. “How is this possible!” screamed the headline in the mass circulation newspaper De Telegraaf.
Coach Gerard Kemkers said he still hasn’t seen the replay. Nor does he need to.
“It is burned into my retina,” he said.
IOC president Jacques Rogge called Kramer the “best speedskater of his generation,” comparing him to the sport’s all-time greats such as Eric Heiden and Johann Olav Koss.
AERIALS: Australia’s Lydia Lassila not only prevented China from sweeping the women’s event, she wound up atop the podium. It’s especially satisfying for her after tearing up her knee during qualifying at the Turin Games.
“Everything worked out,” she said.
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: Marcus Hellner was so far ahead at the end of his anchor leg that he had time to collect a Swedish flag to wave as he skied to the finish of the team relay, earning his second gold medal of these Olympics and Sweden’s first in this event since 1988.
Norway got silver, and the Czech Republic took bronze. The Americans were 13th.
ATHLETES COMMISSION: Angela Ruggiero is at her fourth Olympics as a hockey player. She’ll be around the games for the next eight years as a member of the International Olympic Committee.
Ruggiero and British skeleton racer Adam Pengilly were voted onto the IOC and its athletes’ commission in an election of their fellow athletes. Voting took nearly three weeks, with seven others vying for the job.
The U.S. now has three members on the 114-member IOC.
JOHNNY WEIR: Figure skater Johnny Weir wants the French broadcasters who made derogatory comments about his masculinity to “think before they speak.” He said understanding was more important than an apology.
“I don’t want, 50 years from now, more boys and girls to go through this same thing,” he said.
MEN’S CURLING: The reigning world champion British men aren’t going to get a medal. They’re headed home, eliminated by a Swedish team that will next face top-seeded and unbeaten Canada.
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