Olympic Daily News - Thursday, February 20th

The Sports NetworkFebruary 19, 2014 

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Russia's Adelina Sotnikova won women's figure skating gold at the Sochi Olympics, edging South Korea's Kim Yuna for the title on Thursday night.

Sotnikova trailed the 2010 Olympic champion by just .28 points after the short program on Wednesday, but had a brilliant free skate on Thursday. She earned a top score of 149.95 for a two-day total of 224.59, becoming the first Russian woman to win Olympic figure skating gold.

Kim, skating last on Thursday, earned a free skate score of 144.19 for a total of 219.11 to claim a silver medal. She was trying to become the first women's figure skater to win consecutive Olympic gold medals since Katarina Witt in 1984 and 1988.

Italy's Carolina Kostner placed third to earn a bronze medal in her third Olympics. She was ninth in the 2006 Games and 16th four years ago in Vancouver.

Kostner, the 2012 world champion, was third after the short program and set a personal best with a score of 142.61 as the first of the top four skaters to perform in the free skate on Thursday.

Sotnikova took the ice after Kostner and thrilled the home crowd with a vibrant program that included a pair of triple flips. She did have a wobble on a landing, but it didn't cost her in the judges' evaluation.

After Americans Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner completed their free skates, it was Kim's chance to top Sotnikova. Despite a flawless program, she couldn't match the Russian's flair.

Sotnikova became the first Russian woman to earn a figure skating medal since Irina Slutskaya won bronze in 2006. Slutskaya also had the previous best finish for a Russian woman with a silver medal in Salt Lake City.

Gold opened with a pair of perfect combination jumps, but a fall on a triple flip late in the program likely cost her a medal opportunity. She was fourth heading into the free skate and earned a score of 136.90 for a two-day total of 205.53 to finish fourth.

Wagner was clean in her free skate, but did not receive strong marks. She had the seventh-best score of the night at 127.99 and finished seventh overall, behind 2010 silver medalist Mao Asada of Japan.

Asada skated early on Thursday after a disappointing finish of 16th in the short program. She was sensational in her free skate with the third-best score and vaulted up to a sixth-place finish overall.

Russian fan favorite Yulia Lipnitskaya fell on a jump for the second straight night and earned a score of 135.34 to finish fifth overall. The 15-year-old Lipnitskaya helped the host country earn gold in the team competition with first-place finishes in the short and free programs on the first weekend of the Games.

The Americans finished off the podium for the second straight Olympics. There had been at least one U.S. women's medal winner in women's figure skating since 1968. With the men also shut out, it marked the first time the U.S. failed to earn a medal in men's and women's skating since 1936.

CANADA RALLIES TO BEAT U.S. FOR GOLD IN OT THRILLER

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Even with a two-goal lead heading into the closing minutes of regulation, the United States still couldn't find a way to beat Canada for Olympic gold.

Canada claimed its fourth straight gold medal in women's hockey, rallying for a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the Americans in Thursday's classic battle at the Sochi Games.

Marie-Philip Poulin scored the two biggest goals of the tournament, notching the tying goal for the Canadians with 55 seconds left in regulation before winning it with a power-play marker from the left circle at 8:10 of OT.

Poulin helped deliver the 21st straight win for Canada at the Olympics. The Canadians haven't lost at the Winter Games since 1998, when the U.S. beat them in the gold-medal game at the inaugural women's Olympic tournament in Nagano.

Brianne Jenner scored the other goal for Team Canada, while Shannon Szabados turned aside 27-of-29 shots for the win.

"I'm just so proud of my team and the way we stuck together," Team Canada captain Hayley Wickenheiser said. "We found a way to stay composed and calm. No matter what the score was, we believed in ourselves the whole way through. There was never an ounce of panic, so that was good."

Wickenheiser, widely considered to be the greatest women's hockey player ever, won a fourth Olympic gold at her fifth Winter Games. This may have been the last run at the Winter Games for the 35-year- old, and it would be a fitting end to a stellar Olympic career, which also included an appearance for Canada's softball team at the 2000 Summer Games.

Canada's Jayna Hefford joined Wickenheiser as the only hockey players to have won four Olympic golds. Six men from the Soviet Union and two other Canadian women have won three.

Meghan Duggan and Alex Carpenter scored for the U.S., which settled for silver for the third time in the last four Winter Games. The Americans, who beat Canada to take four of the last five world championships, won bronze at the 2006 Olympics.

Jessie Vetter made 28 saves in a losing effort for the Americans. She was less than four minutes away from a shutout before Canada turned the tables on the U.S.

The Canadians went 2-0 against the Americans at the Sochi Games. They also posted a 3-2 regulation win in the preliminary round.

The overtime session was played with a 4-on-4 format that was scheduled to go 20 minutes before heading to a shootout, if necessary. Thanks to Poulin, the Canadians didn't let it get anywhere near the penalty shot stage.

Poulin's winner came with Canada working on a 4-on-3 advantage. The power play was awarded after Hilary Knight hauled down Wickenheiser, who was attempting to go in alone on a breakaway before Knight committed a cross-checking penalty.

Laura Fortino held the puck in the high slot on the ensuing power play and faked a slap shot before dishing to Poulin in the left circle. Poulin quickly wristed a shot on net to beat Vetter, sending the Canadians into celebration mode as the U.S. was left to wonder how it all went so wrong.

"I think that's the most heartfelt game we've ever played. We played for each other," said U.S. forward Lyndsey Fry. "It stinks, but we're incredibly proud of what we've accomplished."

The U.S. carried a 2-0 lead into the final four minutes of the third period, but couldn't seal the deal. Jenner tallied with 3:26 remaining in the third to cut it to one and Poulin delivered the equalizer with 55 seconds left.

Canada sliced the two-goal deficit in half when Jenner wristed a shot from the left circle. The puck deflected off the leg of U.S. defenseman Kacey Bellamy at the top of the crease before getting past Vetter.

The Americans nearly restored the two-goal lead to potentially wrap up the elusive gold medal when Canada pulled Szabados in favor of the extra attacker. U.S. forward Kelli Stack shot at the empty net from her own zone and the puck appeared to be headed for the back of the cage before hitting off the right post and staying out.

Poulin made the most of that fortuitous bounce, evening the score at 2-2 in the final minute of regulation. Rebecca Johnston backhanded a pass from the end boards and Vetter attempted to redirect the puck out of danger with her stick. Instead, the disc went right to Poulin in the low slot and she sent a wrist shot past Vetter.

The first period featured plenty of action up and down the ice, but no goals.

The U.S. had two power-play opportunities in the first half of the opening period, but couldn't convert. Szabados came up with a couple of big saves against American defenseman Anne Schleper on the first penalty kill of the game.

All told, there were five penalties called in the first 20 minutes with the Americans getting three power-play chances to Canada's two. Szabados stopped 11 shots during the physical first period and Vetter made nine saves.

Canada had the jump in the early part of the second period, but the U.S. weathered the storm before Duggan and the Americans took advantage of a turnover by Catherine Ward.

Ward sent the puck off the boards in the neutral zone and the disc went right to American forward Jocelyne Lamoureux, who charged down the left wing before dropping a pass back to Duggan in the left circle. Duggan calmly collected the puck and fired a beautiful wrist shot from the faceoff dot into the upper right corner of the net, beating a helpless Szabados over her glove hand to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead with 8:03 left in the second period.

The Canadians went on the power play shortly after the Americans opened the scoring and a even had a two-man advantage to work with late in the second period, but couldn't pull even with the U.S.

Carpenter handed the U.S. a two-goal cushion just over two minutes into the third period. Knight held the puck near the left boards and threaded a terrific pass to Carpenter, who was stationed at the right edge of the crease for a deflection goal at the 2:01 mark.

Earlier on Thursday, Switzerland rallied to beat Sweden 4-3 in the bronze medal game. It was the first Olympic medal for the Swiss in women's hockey.

SWITZERLAND STUNS SWEDEN TO GET THE BRONZE

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Switzerland scored four third-period goals to overcome a two-goal deficit then hung on late to upset Sweden, 4-3, to claim the bronze medal in the women's hockey tournament at the Sochi Games.

Sara Benz, Phoebe Stanz, Jessica Lutz and Alina Muller all scored for Switzerland, which managed just two wins in these Games, yet captured its first-ever Olympic medal.

Switzerland, which lost all three games in group play before beating Russia in the quarterfinals, came out slow and managed just one shot on goal through the first 20 minutes.

The Swiss had lost to Canada in the semifinals.

Trailing by two, Benz opened the scoring for Switzerland 1:18 into the third. When Sweden failed to clear the puck Sara Foster picked it up at the blue line and skated in. She then slid a pass to Benz, who put it past Valentina Wallner to cut the deficit to one.

Stanz then evened the game less than five minutes later with a terrific goal from her knees through the legs of Wallner.

Lutz gave the Swiss their first lead of the game with 6:17 left in the contest. After Sweden again failed to clear, Lara Stadler made a great play at the blue line and skated into the right circle, where she put a shot on net that Lutz eventually corralled and snuck past Wallner.

After the 15-year-old Muller seemingly put the game away with an empty netter with 1:07 to play, Sweden made things interesting on Pernilla Winberg's tally with 44 seconds remaining, but couldn't get the equalizer.

In the end it was more disappointment for a Swedish team that was also denied a bronze four years ago against Finland on a controversial overtime goal.

Sweden was trying for its third Olympic medal after winning bronze in 2002 and silver in 2006.

Michelle Lowenhielm and Erica Uden Johansson netted goals for Sweden, while Wallner stopped 22 of the 25 shots she faced.

Florence Schelling made 28 saves in the winning effort.

TROIS! FRENCH SWEEP MEN'S SKI CROSS

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Led by Jean Frederic Chapuis' gold medal, the French swept the men's ski cross podium on Thursday at the Sochi Olympics.

A fall by Canada's Brady Leman on the final turn confirmed the French sweep, leaving just the order to be decided. Chapuis, the 2013 FIS World Champion, held firm for his first Olympic medal, followed by Arnaud Bovolenta for silver and Jonathan Midol for the bronze.

Leman, meanwhile, was trailing the pack before his wipe out left him in fourth place.

Canada was held without a medal despite owning three of the top six seeds going into the 1/8 final. Canadians Christopher Del Bosco and David Duncan failed to advance out of their four-skier runs in the first race, while Leman placed first in his 1/8, quarter and semifinal runs before his fall in the big final.

Russia's Egor Korotkov won the small final to finish fifth.

The lone American in the event, 30-year-old John Teller, also did not make it out of the 1/8 final, while 2010 silver medal-winner Andreas Matt of Austria was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Swiss Michael Schmid, who won the first ever gold medal in this event when it debuted four years ago in Vancouver, was unable to ski in the event after suffering a left knee injury while training on Saturday.

Sweden's Victor Oehling Norberg had the best time in the individual seeding runs, but was on the wrong end of a close finish in the quarterfinals. He was leading in his race when he fell on the final kicker, causing Korotkov and Finn Jouni Pellinen to also tumble.

Switzerland's Armin Niederer crossed the finish line upright, while the other three tumbled across for a photo finish, with Korotkov's body coming across first.

Both Leman and Duncan finally hit Olympic snow after a disappointing turn of events four years ago. Duncan broke his collarbone while training at the Games and had to withdraw from the event, replaced by Leman.

However, the first alternate crashed during his training run and was unable to compete. Leman aggravated a broken tibia suffered in March of 2009, bending the road that had been implanted in his leg.

Del Bosco, meanwhile, finished fourth in Vancouver after his gamble for a silver medal failed. During the final and sitting in third, he made a push on the final jump and ended up falling, knocking himself out of a medal.

MADDIE BOWMAN WINS FIRST-EVER WOMEN'S FREESTYLE HALFPIPE

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - American Maddie Bowman won the first-ever Olympic gold medal on Thursday in the women's freestyle halfpipe event.

The two-time defending X Games champion was third after qualifying, but posted the two best runs in the final round, including a score of 89.0 in her second run to edge France's Marie Martinod by 3.6 points.

Japan's Ayana Onozuka claimed the bronze with a score of 83.20. She was also a third place finisher at the world championships.

Although she had won four of her six events to start the season, Bowman may have been a bit overlooked here in Sochi due an 11th-place finish at the Olympic test event here last February.

Martinod, meanwhile, had been retired, but returned after a five-year absence when she learned that halfpipe skiing would be added to the Olympic program. It was Canadian skier Sarah Burke, who had helped coax her out of retirement.

However, Burke, one of the bigger advocates for this sport's inclusion into the Olympics, died following a nasty spill in training in 2012.

Rosalind Groenewoud was the top Canadian finisher, ending in seventh place.

The course continued to be the story at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, as skiers fell throughout the final round, including the three other Americans, Brita Sigourney, Annalisa Drew and Angeli Vanlaanen, who finished sixth, ninth and 11th, respectively.

Snowboarders, of course, have been using the halfpipe for their death-defying tricks since the Nagano Games back in 1998, but the decision was made in 2011 to add the ski halfpipe to the Olympic lineup for the Sochi Games.

American David Wise won the men's competition on Tuesday.

NORWAY WINS GOLD IN NORDIC TEAM COMPETITION

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Joergen Graabak's mad sprint at the end helped Norway win the gold medal in the Nordic team competition on Thursday.

Norway, which sat in third place after the jumping portion of the event, posted a total time of 47 minutes and 13.5 seconds to narrowly edge Germany by three-tenths of a second and win its 10th gold medal of the Games.

Graabak, who won gold in the large hill race, was able to hold off German Fabian Riessle in the 4x5-kilometer race. Thanks to Eric Frenzel the Germans led after the jumps and began the second leg of the competition with seven- second edge on Austria.

Austria, the defending gold medalist in this event, finished at 47:16.9 to win the bronze. The Austrians had kept pace with the leaders for most of the race, but Mario Stecher faded off near the end of the anchor leg.

The U.S. was eighth after the jump and ended the race in sixth place, 2:21.6 behind the leader. The Americans, of course, were able to win silver in this competition four years ago in Vancouver

CANADA REMAINS PERFECT TO CLAIM CURLING GOLD

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Canada completed a perfect run to gold in women's curling at the Sochi Olympics, beating Sweden 6-3 on Thursday to end the tournament with an 11-0 record.

The Canadians, led by skip Jennifer Jones, became the first team to post a perfect record en route to a gold medal in women's curling and earned their country's first gold medal in the event since the 1998 Nagano Games.

The only previous team to go through an Olympic tournament with an unblemished record was the Canadian men's rink skipped by Kevin Martin in the Vancouver Games in 2010. Canada's men will have a chance at a third straight Olympic gold when it faces Great Britain on Friday.

Thursday's win earned the Canadian women a bit of redemption after losing to Sweden for the gold medal at the Vancouver Games. The Swedes headed into Sochi as two-time reigning Olympic champions, but had to settle for silver this time around.

Sweden has earned a medal at four of the five Winter Games where women's curling has been a medal sport. The only time the Swedes failed to reach the podium was at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

Canada opened the scoring with a point in the opening end, but Sweden tied it with a single in the second. The Canadians used the hammer to score two points in the fourth, but once again Sweden was able to even the contest in the following end.

The score remained tied at 3-3 until the eighth end, when a measurement was needed to award Canada a point and the 4-3 lead.

The Swedes held the last shot of the ninth end, but couldn't use it to their advantage. With Canada in position to score one, Swedish vice-skip Maria Prytz actually knocked one of her own team's stones further away from the button and allowed the Canadians to steal two points. The miscue put Canada ahead 6-3 heading into the 10th and final end.

Earlier on Thursday, Great Britain edged Switzerland 6-5 for the bronze medal.

GREAT BRITAIN CLAIMS BRONZE IN WOMEN'S CURLING

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Skip Eve Muirhead's perfect final stone gave Great Britain a 6-5 win over Switzerland and a bronze medal on Thursday at the Sochi Olympics.

Tied going into the 10th and final end, Swiss skip Mirjam Ott placed her final stone in the white circle before Muirhead steadily dropped her stone into the button to secure Great Britain its first women's curling medal since taking gold in 2002.

Switzerland finished fourth for a second straight Olympics and was again denied its third women's curling medal. Ott was also part of silver medal- winning teams in 2002 and '06.

Switzerland went ahead early with two points in the second end and led 3-1 following the fourth.

Muirhead, the reigning world champion with Scotland, then stuck a deuce in the fifth end to even the score and the Swiss left a stone in the circle in the sixth for a 4-3 edge that gave the hammer to Great Britain.

The British didn't waste the mistake, clearing the circle to blank the seventh end before another deuce in the eighth. Muirhead was then clutch on the defense, placing two nice rocks in the ninth end to force the Swiss to settle for one point and a 5-5 tie.

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