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Thursday, February 27, 2020

Olympics

Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall won gold medal in photo finish

Jessie Diggins Kikkan Randall

As if winning the first Olympic gold for America in cross-country skiing weren’t already thrilling enough, the tight margin by which Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall won added an extra level of drama to the matter.

Diggins chased down Sweden’s Stina Nilsson and outstretched her to cross the finish line first in the women’s team free sprint by 0.19 seconds:

Watching Diggins come from behind to overtake Nilsson was special.

“In the final stretch I was just thinking, Go, go, go, I’m giving it everything I had and I’ve got someone who I really love and care about waiting for me at the finishing line and I just want to make her proud,” Diggins said, via the New York Times.

Diggins and Randall combined for a gold medal-winning time of 15:56.47. They were 0.19 seconds ahead of Sweden and 2.97 seconds ahead of Norway’s team to win gold.

Not only was it the first Olympic gold for the U.S. in cross-country skiing, but it was the first cross-country skiing medal for the country since 1976. And while the finish wasn’t quite as tight as one we saw in speedskating, the comeback victory was one heck of a way to get it done.

Leafs players wear Team Canada sweaters after losing Olympic bet

A pair of Scandinavian players on the Toronto Maple Leafs are paying up on a friendly Olympic wager.

Center Leo Komarov, who is part Finnish, and right wing William Nylander, who is Swedish, wore Team Canada sweaters to practice on Wednesday after losing a bet with their coaches. Here is footage, via Mark Masters of TSN.

Lance Hornby of the Toronto Sun provided more context about the bet.

For reference, Canada defeated Finland 1-0 in their men’s hockey quarterfinal on Wednesday in PyeongChang. Meanwhile, Sweden did not cross paths with Canada, but also got eliminated in the quarterfinal with a 4-3 loss to Germany.

While the Leafs’ bet definitely made for a classic moment, it is probably only the second funniest storyline we have seen involving Canadian hockey at this year’s Games.

Lindsey Vonn changes skis after burning hers out in downhill

Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn said on Twitter Thursday in South Korea that she will need to race with new skis during the combined event at the Olympics after burning hers out the day before in the downhill.

Vonn shared the following photo on Twitter and said that her skis got burnt out in the downhill race on Wednesday:

Some may view this as an excuse for not winning gold in the downhill, but it’s pretty impressive that Vonn still won a medal in the event despite an equipment failure.

It sounds like she was going so fast on the slopes that there was enough friction to melt part of the base of her skis. That sort of damage could be enough to have slowed her down to finish behind Sofia Goggia or Ragnhild Mowinckel. Vonn ended up 0.47 seconds behind Goggia and 0.37 seconds behind Mowinckel.

Russian figure skater credits K-Pop group for her strong Olympic performance

Evgenia Medvedeva is drawing inspiration from a seemingly unlikely source in PyeongChang.

The Russian figure skater, who broke her own world record with a score of 81.61 in the women’s short program on Wednesday, revealed that she is a big K-Pop fan and credited her favorite group EXO for her strong showing.

“It’s unreal inspiration and it really improved my mood,” said Medvedeva of listening to the group’s music before her performance, according to the Associated Press. “I feel more confident because of them.”

Medvedeva, 18, finished the short program in second place, putting her in position for a medal ahead of the free program event on Friday. Interestingly enough, she has also been known for her Sailor Moon-themed routines.

As luck would have it, EXO will be performing in the closing ceremony on Sunday. Thus, Medvedeva has an opportunity for a very special weekend in a women’s figure skating field full of awesome storylines.

NHL players have mixed feelings about absence from Olympic hockey

NBC Olympics

For the first time since 1994, a full slate of NHL players are absent from the men’s ice hockey tournament at the Winter Olympics. That has inspired mixed feelings among current players, who are enjoying the tournament but would prefer to be playing in it.

“It’s fun, it’s the Olympics,” said Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, via Bill Beacon of the Canadian Press. “It’s different to be on the other side of the TV, but at the same time it’s exciting and you know how much it means for the guys that are there and what’s at stake.”

New York Rangers forward Rick Nash, a two-time gold medalist, said he ultimately felt it would be better for the game if NHL players were involved.

“I think it’s pretty cool that the guys that went have that opportunity,” Nash said. “They look like they’re having fun. The hockey is fast. It’s pretty good checking hockey. But I think what everyone looks forward to every four years is NHLers to be in the Olympics, especially in the States — how much it grows the game when you have a Canada-U.S. match-up. So I think it’s unfortunate NHLers aren’t there.”

American forward Blake Wheeler of the Winnipeg Jets admitted that he didn’t mind not having to travel away from his family to play in the Games.

“You always love representing your country,” Wheeler said. “I had a great experience in Sochi. That being said, it is a sacrifice. I’ve got three young kids and I don’t mind spending the extra time with them either. Had we gone and I was invited, I would have been thrilled about it. But to be here with my family, I’m not all that disappointed about it either.”

The NHL didn’t get the financial return they requested to release NHL players to go to the Olympics, but haven’t ruled out returning to previous policy in 2022. That said, while the tournament may not be of as high quality as it has been in years past, it has allowed for a lot of great moments from some players who wouldn’t otherwise get an opportunity to play on a stage like this.

Lindsey Vonn’s father was not happy with her downhill run

Lindsey Vonn emotional

Lindsey Vonn’s bronze medal run during the downhill was clearly not satisfactory to her father.

Alan Kildow had praise for his daughter, but he made no secret of the fact that he was not satisfied with a bronze medal, and that she should have been more aggressive in her run.

“It’s great skiing, but it reminds me of something that Buddy Werner used to say. He said there’s two places in the race, first and last, and I only want one of them,” Kildow told Josh Peter of USA Today Sports. “She needed to go for it a little bit more. She needed to risk more.

“Just little, little spots. Just not quite risking enough. Not straightening the line out, just the ski was little … not quite carving in some places like it should have. But a great result. A great result.”

For her part, Vonn simply credited her opponents on a great race. Her father, who was seeing her live at the Olympics for the first time, was feeling a little bit less charitable in what was likely her final Olympics.

Adam Rippon hilariously roasts himself in tweet

Adam Rippon

Adam Rippon has become a superstar at the PyeongChang Games, and now he is proving himself to be a self-aware superstar at that.

A Twitter user cracked a joke on Tuesday based around the American figure skater quadrupling his number of followers in the last week.

Rippon himself soon replied, one-upping the tweet with a hilarious self-roast.

For reference, the quad in figure skating (also known as the quadruple) is a difficult jump with four revolutions. Rippon’s refusal to even attempt a quad (either in the team event or in the men’s singles competition) actually became something of a storyline in PyeongChang — though his routine places more of an emphasis on artistic and aesthetic elements rather than challenging jumps.

While his lack of a quad may have played a factor in Rippon’s tenth-place finish in singles, he still took home a bronze medal with the U.S. as part of the team competition. That combined with his newfound viral stardom is more than enough to give Rippon the confidence to poke fun at himself on occasion.