Vladimir Putin hugs gay Olympic speedskater Ireen Wust (Video)

Vladimir-Putin-hugs-gay-athleteA lot was made about Russia’s anti-gay laws leading up to the Winter Olympics in Sochi. Fortunately, it does not seem like there have been any issues for athletes and visitors during the first week of the Games. In fact, Russian president Vladmir Putin even hugged an openly gay competitor earlier this week.

Dutch speedskater Ireen Wust was the first openly gay athlete to win a gold medal in Sochi. After she won the 3,000-meter race, she told Dutch national broadcaster NOS that she shared an intimate moment with Putin.

“I got a cuddle from him,” Wust said, according to ABC News. “He congratulated me and asked if everything was OK in Russia and I congratulated him on (Russian speedskater) Olga Graf, of course, for her third place (in the 3,000 meters). He was happy to see me, but then he had to leave again. But I cuddled him.”

Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law prohibits information about homosexuality from being given to minors. Putin has maintained for months that homosexuals will not be discriminated against at the Olympics, though he did come under fire for the way he phrased his reassurance in one interview. Hopefully the sexual preference of athletes continues to be a non-issue.

Danny Davis: Shaun White losing is good for snowboarding

Shaun-WhiteShaun White turned in a disappointing performance in the men’s halfpipe event at the Winter Olympics on Tuesday. The stage was set perfectly for the gold medal favorite, as he was the last boarder to ride in the final round. White’s score of 90.25 was not enough to earn a medal. Switzerland’s Iouri Podladtchikov took home the gold.

While many Americans felt that White’s performance was a letdown, fellow US snowboarder Danny Davis saw it as a positive.

“You know it’s good for snowboarding, man,” Davis said, per Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports. “The world knows now that there are other snowboarders besides Shaun. It’s great, man, because there are a bunch of good riders in our sport and they deserve some credit, too.”

Davis, who finished 10th after wiping out twice, also thought the judges did White a favor by giving him a high enough score to finish fourth.

“Well, fourth was a gift, first of all,” Davis said.

White failed to land one of his tricks, which usually makes it incredibly difficult to score above a 90. His name may have contributed to the score, but White is proud of what he has done for the sport of snowboarding.

“I think I have affected a lot of people,” he said. “People who had never seen the sport before … I always want to be more than just a snowboard. This is a big part of who I am, but it’s not all of who I am.”

White is to snowboarding as Tiger Woods is to golf. Golf was not nearly as popular among the younger generation before Tiger came along. Now, Woods is struggling to win tournaments because the people who grew up idolizing him are keeping pace with him on the course. White has grown the sport of snowboarding, which means he faces more competition now than ever. That was evident in Sochi.

Canada scores controversial go-ahead goal against US in women’s hockey (Video)

US-Canada-controversial-goalCanada and the United States squared off on Wednesday in what many feel is certain to be a preview of the women’s hockey gold medal game. The US was fortunate that it was not an elimination game, because the Canadians may have benefitted from a controversial call on their go-ahead goal in the third period.

The goal that gave Canada a 2-1 lead appeared to be whistled dead, though the puck still continued into the net. The official who blew the whistle must have thought US goaltender Jessie Vetter had the puck underneath her pads, but she did not. Replays showed that the whistle was blown just as the puck was getting to the goal line.

Technically, a referee should only blow the whistle if the puck is frozen. But even if it’s not, the whistle still signifies a stoppage of play. Canada deserved the goal, but by the rule book it seems like the play should have been ruled dead as soon as the whistle sounded.

Canada went on to take a 3-1 lead later in the period after a US turnover in the attacking zone. It seems almost certain that the Americans will have a chance to avenge Wednesday’s loss later in the tournament.

Video via Sports Grid

What is the Yolo Flip? I-Pod’s halfpipe trick explained (Video)

iPod snowboardingJust like many of you, I’m not an expert on snowboarding much less halfpipe tricks. But I first heard about Iouri Podlatchikov (known as I-Pod) and his “Yolo Flip” trick that helped him win gold in the halfpipe at Sochi a few weeks before the Olympics. The Yolo flip is something new that he created seemingly in response to the Double McTwist, a 1260 move that Shaun White did at Vancouver to win gold in 2010.

I-Pod, who is a Swiss snowboarder, won gold in the halfpipe on Tuesday despite doing just five tricks on his final run instead of six like most of his competitors. That’s because the Yolo Flip is that insane.

So what exactly does the Yolo flip entail?

It’s a 1440 move that includes two head-over-heels flips and two 360-degree turns. Announcers called it a cab double cork 1440 when he first landed it at X Games Tignes, but I-Pod named it “YOLO” flip. Yolo, of course, is an acronym for “You Only Live Once.” It’s a saying popularized by rapper Drake.

Store Your Board blog furthers breaks down the trick:

Cab = switch frontside. I-pod said himself that the term “Cab”, which comes from Steve Caballero of skateboarding legend, should be reserved for skateboarding tricks. He refers to the YOLO Flip as a switch frontside trick.
Double Cork = 2 inverts
1440 = 2 inverts + 2 rotations

So that’s the Yolo Flip. Think about how insane it is to get enough speed, momentum and hangtime to rotate 1440 degrees on one trick. And I-Pod did it in the Olympics to win gold. White says he landed it in practice, which led him to try it in the Olympics, but he was unable to land it in competition.

Now you know about the Yolo Flip. And if you don’t know about the Drake song — and you probably do — I regretfully have posted it below:

Shaun White suffered a nasty black eye in training before Olympics

Shaun White black eye

Shaun White has made snowboarding look pretty easy over the past several years, but we’re starting to see that it’s not all that simple.

White finished fourth in the halfpipe during the Winter Games in Sochi, and the US failed to medal in the event for the first time since it was introduced to the Olympics in 1998. White’s struggles came when he was unable to execute the Yolo flip, a trick created by Swiss snowboarder Iouri Podladtchikov, who is known as I-Pod. I-Pod won the gold in the event by executing his trick to the pleasure of the judges.

White said that being able to execute the Yolo flip in training was his downfall, because that convinced him he could do the difficult trick in competition.

White’s fourth-place finish in the event reminds me of a photo White posted on his Twitter account on Jan. 27, two weeks before the competition. The photo shows him with a massive black eye he suffered in training.

Now I’m starting to wonder if he got that trying the Yolo trick in practice.

White has also opened himself up to a lot of second-guessing. He pulled out of the Winter X Games before the Olympics, and he also pulled out of the slopestyle event in Sochi so he could focus on his best event. And now he didn’t even medal.

Irina Rodnina now claims racist photo of Obamas was a hack job

Irina-RodninaFormer Russian figure skater Irina Rodnina is an Olympic hero in her home country. Rodnina was one of the two people who were given the honor of lighting the Olympic torch in Sochi last Friday. In addition to being internationally known for her decorated figure skating career, Rodnina also made headlines back in September for tweeting a racist photo of the Obamas.

Rodnina was criticized at the time, but she defended herself by saying she was simply exhibiting her right to “freedom of speech.” For whatever reason, she decided to apologize on Monday and claim she was hacked.

Hacking is a horrible excuse to begin with, let alone using it five months later after basically refusing to apologize the first time around. If Rodnina was hacked, she undoubtedly would have said that from the start. Since Twitter hacking is pretty damn close to a mythical concept anyway, we know that’s not what happened. At least she finally apologized.

H/T Deadspin

Matt Lauer temporarily replacing Bob Costas for Olympic coverage

Bob Costas pink eye glasses

Bob Costas has temporarily accepted defeat. If you have watched any of NBC’s Olympic coverage since the start of the Sochi Games, you know that Costas has been battling a nasty case of pink eye. He made fun of himself for the infection earlier in the week, but it has gotten worse in recent days and spread to both eyes. As a result, Costas is being replaced by Matt Lauer on Tuesday.

“As a practical matter, I simply couldn’t do my job because my eyes had become so blurry, watery and sensitive to light,” Costas said in a press release on NBC’s Olympic website. “I’m hopeful the symptoms will improve in the next couple of days and I can return to the broadcast. Also, the last thing I want is to go through the rest of my life owing Matt Lauer a bunch of favors.”

Costas has had a great sense of humor throughout the entire ordeal. He said he would continue doing the broadcast if it was simply a matter of being uncomfortable, but the infection has gotten so bad that he can barely see. He called into “The Today Show” to speak with Lauer on Tuesday morning.

“Well, even worse than when you saw me this morning, Sochi time,” Costas said when asked how he was feeling, via USA Today. “So, reluctantly, I was trying to throw a complete game here, but I think we’re going to have to go to the bullpen. I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but you’re Mariano Rivera, at least tonight.”

Costas drank vodka on television with Mary Carillo on Monday night and said his eyes can’t get any redder, but he may have been wrong. While we have poked fun at him and made poop particle jokes like everyone else, we wish Costas a speedy recovery. You hate to see anyone on the shelf with an injury.