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American-born snowboarder Vic Wild wins gold medal for Russia

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Olympic snowboarder Vic Wild was born and raised in White Salmon, Wash. Yes, the Washington that’s located on the west coast of the United States of America. Why, then, did Wild drape the Russian flag over his shoulders after winning a gold medal in the parallel giant slalom on Wednesday?

Wild is a citizen of Russia. He moved to the country in 2011 after becoming fed up with the US Ski and Snowboard Association’s lack of commitment to parallel slalom snowboarding. Instead, the US has been more focused on freestyle and halfpipe.

“I had no money,” Wild told the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. “I wasn’t going to continue banging my head against the wall. … I told everybody in the Russian snowboard federation, ‘If you guys take me, you’ll never regret it.'”

Wild became a citizen after marrying Russian Olympic snowboarder Alyona Zavarzina. Before the Olympics began, he told NBC Sports that he does not consider himself to be an American anymore.

“I don’t even think about me being American anymore,” Wild said. “I’m Russian. I might not speak Russian fluently, and I might not totally understand the culture, but I live there. I’m not some American guy who lives in America and wants to snowboard for Russia because it’s easier. If anything, I went the hard way.”

While some will undoubtedly say that Wild abandoned his home country, the US Snowboarding team was quick to congratulate him after he took home the gold.

Wild knew what he wanted out of life, created a plan, and executed it to perfection. Who can blame him for that?

Russian head coach takes jab at Alex Ovechkin after loss to Finland

Alex-Ovechkin-RussiaSpoiler alert — the Russian national hockey team broke the hearts of its home fans on Tuesday at the Winter Olympics. Finland simply out-hustled the Russians and was the better team for three periods, advancing to the semifinals where they will take on Sweden. Alex Ovechkin was very little help in the 3-1 loss.

Ovechkin may have been fatigued, but there were several moments in the third period where he looked like he was not skating hard. Russian head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov was quick to call him out by name after his team was eliminated.

”Tough to explain the loss, of course, why scored so little,” Bilyaletdinov said, according to Puck Daddy. “Players who score so many goals for their clubs, like Alex Ovechkin who scored 40 goals for his club [didn’t score]… Right now I cannot explain that.”

Ovechkin scored 1:17 into Russia’s first game of the Olympics, and that ended up being his only goal of the tournament. He is currently leading all NHL scorers with 40 goals, so you can understand why his performance was disappointing.

A lot of the blame will be placed on Ovechkin’s shoulders, but he was not the only one who failed to fulfill expectations. In fact, plenty of people are blaming Bilyaletdinov for the loss against Finland since he chose to start goalie Semyon Varlamov over Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped all seven shots he faced after Varlamov was pulled.

Ovechkin may have been expected to carry the team, but the disappointment is shared from top to bottom. Winning in front of the home fans isn’t always easy. Russia showed us that in Sochi.

Vladimir Putin can’t be happy about Russia being eliminated by Finland

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Many considered Russia to be the favorite to take home the gold medal in men’s hockey with the Winter Olympics taking place in their home country, but Alexander Ovechkin and company were a shocking disappointment. Finland defeated Russia 3-1 in the elimination rounds and crushed Russian president Vladimir Putin’s dreams in the process.

While Russia only managed to score one goal with what was supposed to be a potent offense, head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov is already taking the most heat for starting goalie Semyon Varlamov over Sergei Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky stopped all seven shots he faced after entering the game, including two spectacular saves late in the third period.

To make matters worse, Evgeni Malkin said after the game that he was the one who told Bilyaletdinov to pull Varlamov after he let in his third goal. Bobrovsky started for Russia against Norway and recorded a shutout to help his team advance to the quarterfinals. Varlamov had a shutout the game before against Slovakia, so both had been playing well.

Russia jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Tuesday before Varlamov let in a relatively soft goal:

As they often say in sports, hindsight is 20-20.

Photo via Twitter/Melanie Collins
GIF via @PeteBlackburn

US bobsledder Chuck Berkeley criticizes Lolo Jones

Lolo Jones bobsled

You know it would only be a matter of time before someone notable criticized USA Bobsled and Skeleton for choosing Lolo Jones as one of the three push athletes to represent the country at the Winter Games in Sochi. On Tuesday, it was bobsledder Chuck Berkeley who voiced his opinion.

Berkeley, who competed in the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, criticized officials for choosing Jones over three other push athletes. Jones and pilot Jazmine Fenlator ended up 11th after the first half of competition Tuesday. Here’s what Berkeley said:

This trend seems to follow Jones whether she’s bobsledding or doing track and field. Remember during the Summer Games in London when her teammates were jealous of her popularity? Then last month some bobsledders who didn’t make the team complained that Jones made it because of her popularity.

I guess the only way Lolo will get rid of her critics is by medaling. She has her work cut out for her to achieve that.

Plus, I counted at least three times where their sled hit the rails. Last I checked, Lolo wasn’t steering the rig.

Skier Emil Hegle Svendsen almost cost himself gold medal by pulling a DeSean Jackson

Norwegian cross-country skier Emil Hegle Svendsen took home a gold medal in the 15km biathlon on Tuesday. The race required a photo finish that would not have been necessary if Svendsen waited another second to celebrate.

As he approached the finish line after a race that took longer than 42 minutes, Svendsen raised his arms in triumph. You can certainly understand being overwhelmed with joy after winning a nine-mile race, but the premature celebration nearly cost Svendsen the gold. France’s Martin Fourcase, who was hustling to the finish line, almost passed Svendsen at the last second.

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As some of you may know, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson cost his team touchdowns twice by celebrating early. Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan did the same exact thing in the first game of the 2013 NFL season. Fortunately for Svendsen, he had just enough of a lead for it to not cost him. I’m sure he’ll realize how bad it could have been when he watches the replay.

GIF and screenshot via USA Today

Lindsey Vonn inspired by Bode Miller’s success

Lindsey VonnLindsey Vonn is 29 and will be 33 when the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea roll around. Sadly, she was unable to compete in the Games at Sochi because of a knee injury, but despite her age, she has some faith heading into the 2018 Games thanks to Bode Miller.

Miller is 36 and became the oldest alpine skier to win an Olympics medal when he won bronze in the super-G.

“It gives me a little confidence going into Pyeongchang in four years. I’ll be 33. If Bode can do it, I can do it,” Vonn said during an appearance on “Today” per For The Win.

Skiing is no different from most sports in that most athletes are at their peak in their 20s. In order to win an Olympics medal, you have to be one of the top three in the world at that particular event. As athletes age, their bodies lose strength, recover slower from injuries, and their reaction times worsen. All of these issues contribute to most Olympians — especially ones in high-intensity sports like skiing — from being able to compete at the highest of levels as they get older. Not only that, but most skiers have blown out their knees so many times by the time they’re 30, competing is less realistic. If anything will prevent Vonn from competing in the next Olympics, my money would be on another knee injury because those are so common.

Former Canadian skier Brian Stemmle upset about Stanley Cup visiting Canadian Olympic House

Patrich Chan Stanley Cup

The Stanley Cup is awesome. It’s probably the coolest trophy in professional sports, and it has to be the only trophy that has security detail 24/7/365. Having a chance to be around the cup is rare, so of course any time there is a cup visit, there’s going to be excitement. Which is what happened on Monday.

The Stanley Cup, which appears to have been in Sochi for a few days, was in the Canada Olympic House, where many Canadian Olympians seized the opportunity to take pictures with it. But there was one grumpy guy who complained about the cup’s presence.

Here’s what former Canada skier and current TV analyst Brian Stemmle had to say:

If so many athletes had a problem with the Stanley Cup’s presence, they probably wouldn’t have been so excited about checking it out and taking pictures with it:

Lighten up, Stemmle. The Stanley Cup is awesome and can do whatever it wants whenever it wants.

H/T The Canadian Press