Daily Briefing, Feb. 20
With six medals in four races, this could be the best U.S. Alpine team ever
The super-G is Lindsey Vonn's best event left; Julia Mancuso is also a threat
The U.S. has a good chance to go 1-2 in men's 1,500 long-track speedskating
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Forget the NFL, and apologies to baseball:
Alpine skiing has become our national pastime.
At least that's the case this week. The silver-bronze finish by Bode Miller and Andrew Weibrecht in yesterday's super-G gave the U.S. six alpine medals, an American record for a Winter Olympics. Is this the best alpine team the U.S. has produced? The answer is a definite maybe. As SI's Tim Layden points out, more medals are needed to claim solo dominance as the greatest Alpine Winter Olympics ever: In 1984, Team USA won five alpine medals, but three of those were gold and two were silver.
The debate could end today. No American female skier has ever won three medals in one Olympics, but Julia Mancuso can do so by reaching the podium in the women's super-G, a race in which Lindsey Vonn is the favorite. It's one of three marquee events on the schedule including the men's 1,500 (which pits Shani Davis, fresh off his gold in the 1,000, against Chad Hedrick, who has beaten Davis twice at this distance this season) and the 1,000 men's short track (where Apolo Ohno can surpass Bonnie Blair's U.S. Winter Olympic record of six medals.)
Other medals include men's and women's short track speedskating.
What to Watch
(All times Eastern)
China and Australia are in a heated battle for women's aerials (1 p.m.) superiority, with China's Li Nina and Australia's Lydia Lassila the strongest challengers in the field. Li took silver in Turin and is the No.1-ranked aerial skier in the world. Four years ago in Turin, Lassila ripped apart her reconstructed left knee in the qualifying competition. Others to watch include China's Mengtao Xu and Guo Xunxin and Switzerland's Evelyne Leu, the defending Olympic champion. The U.S.' Emily Cook has an outside shot to hit the podium.
The women's super-G -- a shorter downhill run with the turns of a giant slalom -- is Vonn's best remaining event. The race (which starts at 1 p.m.) isn't Mancuso's specialty, but she's been terrific in Vancouver and must be considered a medal threat. The usual suspects include Sweden's Anja Paerson, winner of the 2007 super-G world championship, Austria's Elisabeth Goergl and Andrea Fischbacher and Switzerland's Fabienne Suter. Germany's Maria Riesch, the super combined winner, is not expected to medal here.
Switzerland's Simon Ammann recorded the longest jump in yesterday's long hill individual training round, and the three-time gold medalist is the favorite in the men's long hill ski jumping competition (final round begins at 3:30 p.m.). His main competition comes from the Austrians -- Gregor Schliernzauer, Thomas Morgenstern, Andreas Kofler and Wolfgang Loitzel. Adam Malysz of Poland and Finland's Janne Ahonen could also surprise. Ammann, called the Harry Potter of ski jumping because he looks like the fictional wizard, won the normal hill event last Saturday.
It's another men's hockey tripleheader at Canada's Hockey Place:
- Norway vs. Switzerland (3 p.m.): The Swiss, back on the ice after its rousing performance against Canada, should hold off Norway (0-2), which has been outscored 14-1.
- Latvia vs. Slovakia (6:30 p.m.): Slovakia (1-1), the giant-killers of the Olympics after defeating Russia in a shootout Thursday, should have little trouble against Latvia (0-2)
- Germany vs. Belarus (midnight): The also-rans of Group C meet up in a game that should draw huge ratings in Berlin and Minsk. Not so much in the States.
The U.S. has a legit chance to go 1-2 in men's 1,500 long-track speedskating (7:15 p.m.), with Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick, whose relationship has received more scrutiny than the Gosselins. Both skaters repeated this week that their public spats are in the past. If Davis wins here -- he holds the world record with a time of 1:41.04 and won silver in Turin -- he enters the conversation as the greatest speedskater the U.S. has ever produced, along with Blair and Eric Heiden. But keep this in mind: Hedrick has beaten Davis twice this season in this event. South Korea's Mo Tae-bum, who finished second to Davis in the 1,000, and Canada's Denny Morrison, who once held the record in this event, are serious contenders here. Norway's Havard Bokko should also be considered.
Kris Freeman is the top American contender in the Men's 30K Pursuit (15 Classic+15 Free). Norway's Petter Northug is the heavy favorite to win. The competition begins at 4:30 p.m.
Some top contenders have pulled out of the two-man bobsled (competition starts at 8 p.m.), including Switzerland's Beat Hefti, who was scratched from the event Friday because of a mild concussion. Hefti won gold in four of eight races on the World Cup circuit this season, and was SI's pick for gold before he pulled out. The contenders include the teams piloted by Germany's Andre Lange, Karl Angerer and Thomas Florschüt, and Canadians Lyndon Rush and Pierre Lueders. Steven Holcomb and Curt Tomasevicz form the U.S.' best team and are a medal threat.
American Katherine Reutter goes for a medal in the ladies' 1,500 short track (competition starts at 8:45 p.m.), a race South Korea has owned (it went gold-silver in 2002 and 2006). China's Zhou Yang (the world record holder in this race), Wang Meng and Liu Qiuhong, along with South Korea's Lee Eun-byul are the major contenders. "If I don't screw up, I'll walk away with a medal," says Reutter. The distance is the biggest challenge for Mang, a brilliant sprinter who is looking for a sweep of the short track events.
Apolo Ohno can become the most gilded U.S. athlete in Winter Games history with a medal in the men's 1,000 short track race. The competition begins at 9:29 p.m. South Korea's Lee Ho-suk and Lee Jung-su and Canada's Charles Hamelin are among those trying to keep Ohno off the podium. American J.R. Celski will also compete.
Switzerland (1-2) takes on China (0-3) in women's hockey classification play (5:30 p.m.), followed by Russia (1-2) against Slovakia (0-3) at 10 p.m.
In a Winter Games in which the Americans have dominated, curling has become the ugly stepbrother. The U.S. men (1-4) play Sweden today at noon while the U.S. women (1-3) face Great Britain at 5 p.m.
Quote Of The Day I
"Are we going to live in fear of that or are we going to accept it? Or you can quit, which is the third option. It's a dangerous sport -- we all know this. We're going 90-plus miles per hour and either you're loving it or you shouldn't really be in here in my opinion. It's fast, it's challenging. That's why most of us do it. I love it and I live for the fear and the rush." -- U.S. bobsledder John Napier, on the dangers of his sport.
Quote Of The Day II
"Well, this is humbling. I'm just a doctor." VANOC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jack Taunton, upon being introduced after hearty cheers for Martin Brodeur, Scott Hamilton, Michelle Kwan and U.S. women's hockey player Angela Ruggiero. The group was at GE Plaza Friday to kickoff GE's Year of Better Health campaign.
By The Numbers
4-3 -- Final score of a mixed doubles table tennis match at the Athletes Village between Team Canada hockey players Shea Weber and Rebecca Johnston (winners) and Sidney Crosby and Meaghan Mikkelson.
4 -- Olympic alpine skiing medals for Bode Miller, the most ever by an American. He won two silvers in 2002, and silver and bronze in 2010.
2 -- Gold Medals for Norway cross-country skier Marit Bjoergen, the first Winter Olympian to claim two gold medals in Vancouver. She is the second Norwegian woman to win at least two gold medals at the Olympics, one behind Sonja Henie, who won three gold medals between 1928 and 1936.
What We're Reading Around The Web
1. Canada's Medal Projections Sliding Out Of Reach (by Paul Waldie, The Globe and Mail): The home country isn't having the Olympics it expected.
2. Canadians Should Lighten Up Over The Olympics: Britain is next (by Martina Hyde, The (U.K.) Guardian): Piss off Brits, e-mailers conclude.
3. Eleven Officers Sent Home For Improper Behavior (by Sarah Boesveld and Paul Waldie, The Globe and Mail): "Reports say the dismissals are linked to fights and the use of prostitutes on the unit's cruise ship accommodations, but V2010 officials would not confirm that or elaborate on what led to their dismissals."