Amazing and exciting things happened on Day 5 of the Sochi Olympics.
First off, how about that history making gold medal tie in women's downhill? It is the first ever gold medal tie in an alpine event in the history of the Olympics! Dominique Gisin of Switzerland, a relative unknown in the sport, was the first down with the fastest time of 1 minute 41.57 seconds. Tina Maze of Slovenia, the favorite to win the event, raced down the mountain later. And when she turned around at the finish line to check her time. It showed that she had tied the fastest with Gisin! And since the International Federation of Skiing rules say photo finishes winners are determined by up to the 100th of a second, it was ruled that Gisin and Maze were tied for gold! The first ever gold in an Olympic alpine event! And since there was tie for gold, there was no silver awarded! Instead, the second fastest skier, Lara Gut of Switzerland, won the bronze medal. I think it would've been nice though to bump Gut up to silver and so the bronze could go to the next person behind Gut.
And you what's even more interesting? This isn't the first time these gold medalist ladies have been in ties for winning: Dominique Gisin won her first World Cup race in 2009 in a tie with Sweden’s Anja Paerson; meanwhile, Tina Maze, in her first World Cup win, in 2002, she was in a three way tie with Nicole Hosp of Austria and Andrine Flemmen of Norway. It is also a glorious and wonderful achievement for the pair, as Tina Maze was edge out of the bronze spot by American Julia Mancuso in the super G earlier in the week; and for Dominique Gisin, this gold medal win was a much better experience compared to Vancouver 2010, where she suffered a terrible crash about 100yds from the finish line and tumbled across the finish line like a rag doll and laid semiconscious from the concussion. It is a truly magnificent golden moment for these two friends who are now linked forever by gold.
What an amazing Men's Individual Nordic Combined Normal Hill 10km race! In this event, the athletes ski jump off a hill in the morning; and based on their points that morning, their time to start ski racing is determined. Each point you score earns a 4 second lead. That means if you scored 1 point higher than the next person, you get to ski first while the next person has to wait 4 seconds before they can start racing, chasing after you. So, the highest jumper in the morning starts first, and however many points he scored ahead of the next person is multiplied by 4 seconds, to determine how much time the second person has to wait before he can start racing. And the first person to cross the finish line win gold and so forth.
And the Orange crush rolls on as the Dutch skater Stefan Groothuis edges out Canadian Denny Morrison for the gold in men's 1000m speed skating. Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010 champion, American Shani Davis, was unable to complete the three-peat. And it's Michel Mulder of the Netherlands, who won gold in the 500m speed skating sprint, who delivers the Dutch the bronze, adding to the country's impressive medal count.
Meanwhile at the women's halfpipe snowboarding final, a new champion is crowned and welcomed into the sisterhood of the golden girls. It was the battle of Olympic champions! Heavily favored American Kelly Clark, Salt Lake 2002 gold and Vancouver 2010 bronze medalist, faced off against American Hannah Teter, Torino 2006 gold medalist, and Australian powerhouse, Torah Bright, defending Vancouver 2010 gold medalist. And these champions fought hard against the harsh halfpipe conditions and displayed amazing talent and skills in a titanic battle for gold. But in the end, it was up and coming newcomer, American Kaitlyn Farrington, who came out on top after throwing down a fantastic run that included high jumps and difficult turns and executing flips and rotations more smoothly than any other competitor, earning her the gold. Torah Bright claims the silver for Australia after a powerful, spectacular run. And American Kelly Clark earns the bronze for a hard fought performance.
Over in Pairs Figure Skating, tears of joy and agony as the skaters put in some extraordinary performances and some heartbreaking misses. After an absence from the top of the podium, the Russians return in top form, Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov taking gold, and Fedor Klimov and Ksenia Stolbova, silver. To be honest, I thought the silver pair skated a much more clean and engaging performance. But the gold pair definitely put out power. I actually remember the gold pair from Vancouver 2010, where they actually competed against each other with different partners. Maxim Trankov was on the Russian team; and Tatiana Volosozhar was competing for Ukraine. I remember Tatiana Volosozhar, who had so much speed, she was noticeably much faster and more fiery compared to her then partner. And I remember Maxim Trankov, showing so much strength, that his then partner seemed fragile and unable to keep up with him. So to see Volosozhar's speed paired with Trankov's strength, naturally, they combined into a powerful pair of complementary forces, and it showed in their performance.
It is heartbreaking bronze for the Germans, world champions several times over, yet denied a gold again, and for the very same reason: they fell and made mistakes. Still, a bronze from Vancouver 2010 and a bronze here at Sochi is an achievement still worthy of praise. Sometimes, even the very best skaters don't win Olympic medals, remember Michelle Kwan?
But for me, the most beautiful and sad and moving performance of the night belonged to the 4th place Chinese pair of Pang Qing and Tong Jian. For twenty years they skated together, since they were first paired up as children. And throughout a long and wonderful career, with two world championships and a silver from Vancouver 2010, they've put their own personal lives on hold to compete in a sport that requires long hours, physical and mental demands, and travels to far off places, never spending enough time at home. They put their wedding on hold for 3 years now to pursue this last goal. And today, they bid farewell to a sport that brought them together and has consumed their lives for 20 years, putting their own plans to start a family on hold. And they leave figure skating in the most beautiful and heartfelt way, skating with genuine emotion, and radiating a light of pure joy and love for the sport, and more importantly, the love and respect and faith they have for each other. No other pair of skaters demonstrated the level of beauty and heartache and bliss and sadness and such transcendence the way these two skaters did tonight.
And the world of figure skating and its fans lose some of the brightest and most enchanting stars that have long glowed in the figure skating skies. And I wish them well and much happiness and good fortune in the beginning of their new lives. Thank you for the years of entertainment and dedication. The world of figure skating is so much richer and wonderful because of your presence and your wonderful contributions.
It was a battle of the bros over in Men's Luge Doubles! Andreas and Wolfgang Linger of Austria, Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010 champions were aiming for a third gold. But they settle for silver instead. Latvian brothers Andris and Juris Sics, Vancouver 2010 silver medalists, leap their way onto the podium for bronze. Another pair of brothers, Lukas and Antonin Broz of the Czech Republic, finished in 13th place. And it's Germany's "Two Tobis", Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt, who win the gold for Germany, the third one in a row for the luge events at Sochi. And with this win, the German golden luge machine gears up for a possible gold medal sweep in the Olympics debut of the upcoming luge relay event.
Andris and Juris Sics bronze win delivers Latvia its first medal of the Sochi; and it is an amazing feat considering how far these two have come in light of Juris Sics horrible car crash in the rain less than 3 years ago. He broke his hips, pelvis, collar bone, internal organs, and required a five hour operation and months of recovery. The entire Latvian luge team donated blood. The advice from the doctors was to give up the sport, because Juris would never walk normally. To this day, 18 screws hold together his pelvis. When Andris rushed to the hospital that terrifying day, he confessed that he was angry and afraid that he would lose his older brother; at the same time, Andris' wife was due to give birth that same day. When Juris recovered enough from surgery that day, he told Andris that he, Juris, was ready to have a child, and he and Andris would win a medal again. Andris' son was born 2 weeks later on June 5; one year later on June 5, Juris' son was born. And now, the Sics brothers from Latvia have a bronze medal to go with their Vancouver 2010 silver, the goals set after a life changing event is fulfilled.
Oh my gawd! How about that women's hockey game between the US and Canada? It's a preliminary game, meaning, it doesn't have any bearing on medal standings, because the two teams will advance to the semifinals. And the US and Canada are heavily favored to fight for gold. Prior to this, the US beat out Canada in 4 straight exhibition games in December 2013. Before that, Canada beat US in 3 straight games in October and November 2013. And when these two teams meet, it's always very physical and explosive. In the first period, the Canadians physicality went toe to toe with US speed, and it was no score at the end of the period. But in the second period, the US came out swinging and won the 1st goal of the game. By the third period, Canada picked up its game and scored 2 goals in mad scramble! The US answers with another goal towards the chaotic rush of the last minutes. Canada gets another goal. And in the end, Canada manages to hold on to the lead, giving them a much needed boost to face the Americans again for a medal. And it promises to be another thrilling, and heart stopping match as defending Canadian Vancouver 2010 champions face off against the formidable Vancouver 2010 silver US team, hungry for gold!
Things keep getting more and more exciting! And more tense and heart pounding as the athletes continue in their quest for Olympics glory.