Olympic Roundup: Shaun White comes up empty

Feb. 11, 2014 at 4:10 PM
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SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- For the second day in a row at the Winter Olympics, the results displayed on the scoreboard Tuesday looked nothing like the ones that had been forecast.

And the shock of the upset could be felt throughout the world of extreme winter sports.

Shaun White, who has been at the forefront of a new wave of athletic expression that has affected not only the playing field but the business of selling unique sports to the world's youth, failed to win a medal at the Sochi Games.

White has jumped higher and made more acrobatic moves on the snowboard than anyone else on the planet in the past decade and he was an overwhelming favorite to win his third Olympic gold medal in the halfpipe event. That would have made him the first American man to win the same event at three consecutive Winter Games.

Instead, he made a big-time mistake in his first run and was less than his best on the second. That added up to a fourth-place finish and once again the big story in Sochi concerned something that somebody did not do.

On Monday, Norway's Ole Einar Bjorndalen had been expected to become the most decorated athlete in the history of the Winter Olympics. He, too, failed to medal in his biathlon race and thus remained tied with Norwegian cross-country star Bjorn Daehlie for most medals in a Winter Olympic career. They both have 12.

Bjorndalen will still have a chance to set the record. White is almost certainly not going to have another chance to win three straight gold medals.

Instead of White, the halfpipe gold medal went to Switzerland's Iouri Podladtchikov. Japanese snowboarders took the silver and bronze.

White's score of 95.75 in the qualifying portion of the event would have been good enough to win in the finals. He simply was unable to put together a routine worthy of that score.

In other quarters, Tuesday's action will be remembered for the first time women competed in an Olympic ski jumping competition and also for an Olympic-record performance of a South Korean speed skater who, unlike White, was able to win her favorite race for the third straight Games.

Carina Vogt of Germany won the first Olympic ski jumping gold ever awarded to a woman. She had not posted a single victory during this year's World Cup circuit.

Korean Sang-Hwa Lee captured the 500-meter speed skating race for the third time in a row, setting an Olympic record with her two-heat, combined time of 74.7.

Both Germany and Norway won two gold medals during the day's events -- the other German victory coming in women's luge from Natalie Geisenberger. American Erin Hamlin finished third in the luge, becoming the first woman from the United States to win a medal in the event during the 50 years it has been contested.

Norway's wins were achieved in a sweep of the cross-country sprint races. Maiken Caspersen Falla won the women's event and Ola Vigen Hattestad captured the crash-marred men's race.

Three of the six competitors in the men's cross-country sprint final fell during a chain-reaction collision, leaving Hattestad and Teodor Peterson to fight for the gold and silver medals.

The bronze in that race went to Emil Joensson of Sweden, who was so exhausted from the grueling series of races leading up to the final that he fell behind early and began coasting along the course. When he realized that half the field had fallen, he began putting effort into his skiing and he won a medal almost by default.

Norway had four medals overall Tuesday, putting that country at the top of the chart with 11. Four of those medals have been gold, tying Norway in that category with Canada and Germany.

Although Hamlin won the historic luge medal for the United States and Devin Logan captured a silver in the debut of freestyle skiing slopestyle, the Americans had to be disappointed because of what might have been.

Not only did White miss out on his golden opportunity, Sophie Caldwell and Heather Richardson were unable to take advantage of big chances.

Richardson was fourth after the first run in the 500-meter speed skating race and she could have become the first American woman to medal in the event since Bonnie Blair won the last of her three straight golds 20 years ago. Instead, Richardson faded to eighth place in the second round.

Caldwell recorded the highest finish ever in a cross-country race by a woman from the United States when she made the finals and wound up sixth in the sprint. She had a good chance for a medal, though, and that chance ended when one of her skis came in contact with a pole being used by Sweden's Ida Ingemarsdotter.

Caldwell fell and thus lost her bid for what would have been a surprising medal although as it turned out it would not have come close to being the biggest surprise of the day.

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