The first weekend at the Olympics has been all about snowboarding for the Americans. The snowboarding slopestyle event at Sochi has yielded two golds and a lot of thrills, while figure skating and the poor performance of Bode Miller have left disappointment for woe-ridden fans.
It is just over a day since Americans were celebrating Sage Kotsenburg’s historic win at the first men’s slopestyle event. Today, Jamie Anderson duplicated the feat, taking home the first women’s slopestyle gold medal. Unlike Kotsenburg, who came out of the gate with a shocking score and ultimately a victory, Anderson started with a poor run and a ton of pressure. She was practically anointed the gold medal winner three years ago when the event was announced for the Olympics, and the pressure was definitely evident for the queen of female snowboarding. After a disappointing first run, Anderson had to sit and wait for almost an hour while the rest of the competition set the bar. With only three riders left to go, she took the hill, let the nerves wash away, and then let it rip. Her second round 95.25 vaulted her to first place and an eventual gold medal. Anderson, a Lake Tahoe native, had her family of almost ten sitting on the sidelines cheering her on. There love and support was a key in her victory, she said.
Though no one was surprised over Anderson’s gold medal, British bronze medalist Jenny Jones shocked the world with her historic finish. Jones’ run was not flashy or huge like Anderson’s. It was far more technical and precise, attributes the judges felt earned her an 87 score and a brief stay in first place. Jones’s bronze is the first ever British medal awarded in a snow-based event. Enni Rukajarvi placed second and won the silver medal for Finland.
Meanwhile, as snowboarding golds continue for the US, figure skating woes and Bode Miller continue to plague the poorer, more disappointing side of the winter games. Like slopestyle, team figure skating is in its first year at the Olympics. The American team was favored to win this inaugural event, and although the competition is not quite over, the medals have already been decided. Russia, a perennial figure skating powerhouse, had of late fallen off the radar in the competitions they had so long dominated. Today, they reestablished their dominance by securing the gold in team figure skating. Though many Americans will be disappointed that team USA failed to win the gold, there is a silver lining to the story. Well, more like a bronze lining, as the American team has also secured third place and a bronze medal finish in the event. Canada, in a strong showing of their own, will win the silver medal. The dance free skate event still remains in the competition, and it will surely be a display of prowess and strength for those athletes who will compete. It may be the best of all the events, as the competitors have nothing to lose, and should be in a position to take a lot of risks.
Off the ice, rumors have began to circulate about a possible collusion attempt between the US and Russia. An unnamed Russian coach was quoted in a French newspaper as saying that the Russians were working with the Americans to ensure that both countries took home gold. According to the story, the Russians allegedly would help Americans Charlie White and Meryl Davis beat the Canadian tandem of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in ice dancing. In return, the American team would help the Russians win the gold in both the pairs and team competition.
The US figure Skating team denied such allegations, calling them “completely false.” This rumor may throw some doubt into this year’s competition. However, it is hard to find any truth in the accusation. White and Davis are currently the top figure skating team in the world. Although Virtue and Moir are right behind them, it is hard to believe the Americans would need help in winning the gold medal. Besides that, the two teams practice together and share a coach, making such an unsportsmanlike gesture seem out of the question.
In turn, the Russians have also denied all allegations. Given they have dominated the team event since day one and have secured the gold, it seems highly unlikely they would require help in their efforts.
In what was the surprise of the day, Bode Miller was shut out of the Downhill medal awards. Miller, the hands down favorite to win the event, finished a surprising eighth, over a half second behind Austria’s Matthias Mayer, the eventual gold medal winner. Miller thought that his run was pretty clean, and he seemed confident before he took the hill. He had blown away the competition in trials, but the weather was not as perfect during the final round, and it cost him. Travis Ganong, Miller’s teammate, finished fifth. He noted that Miller’s run appeared perfect, but that he lost valuable time halfway through the course when he cut a corner too sharp. As a result, he lost speed going into a straightaway and never recovered.
The first weekend in Sochi has been a series of ups and downs for the American Olympic team. The snowboarding dominance should continue with golds in the half-pipe next week, while figure skating woes should improve when individual and couple events start. As for poor bode Miller, well, he has two more chances for medals in the super-combined and super-G events next weekend. He should bounce back nicely for these events; he was a medalist for both four years ago in Vancouver.
By Chris Chisam