Olympic Roundup: American disappointments accumulate

Feb. 12, 2014 at 3:09 PM
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SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- A snowboarder whose surgeries have far outnumbered her gold medals put some life back into an increasingly frustrating American Olympic effort Wednesday.

Kaitlyn Farrington got the best of three former Olympic champions to win the women's halfpipe and the American contingent once more had the chance to be very happy snowboarding is now part of the Games.

Some of the best known figures in winter sports have been unable to bring about the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the opening days of the Olympics. That has happened only when an American snowboarder has won a gold medal and Farrington was the third to do so.

At age 24, Farrington has been through three knee operations, five surgeries on a wrist and another on a thumb. But such distractions are part of a sport where there is a mishap waiting at every turn.

All of those visits to the doctor were made worthwhile Wednesday when she defeated the women who had won each of the last three halfpipe gold medals.

Her final run in a very close competition was judged to be worth 91.75 points. Torah Bright of Australia, gold medalist from four years ago, received 91.50 points and American Kelly Clark, who won the title in 2002, scored 90.75.

Another U.S. snowboarder, defending champion Hannah Teter, came in fourth.

The evening at least ended on a bright note for the Americans, who have suffered disappointments that have almost become an epidemic. They have struck an Olympic program that earned 37 medals in Vancouver, the most for one nation in a single Winter Games.

Bode Miller, who has won five medals in his Olympic career, twice had the best training run for this year's downhill and seemed poised for a victory but he clipped a gate and finished eighth.

Hannah Kearney was the defending champion in freestyle skiing moguls and was favored to make it two in a row, but she had to settle for a bronze medal.

Then came the shocking inability of snowboarding superstar Shaun White to win a medal in the halfpipe, an event he had owned in the prior two Olympics.

And on Wednesday, Shani Davis had a chance to do what White could not -- win a third consecutive Olympic medal in the same event. Instead, he could never gain momentum in the 1,000-meter speed skating race and wound up eighth.

Even though Davis' showing was the largest American downer Wednesday, it was not the only one. Julia Mancuso had raised hopes she might capture the downhill title after winning that race in the alpine combined earlier in the Olympics, but she, like Miller and Davis, finished in eighth place.

The U.S. women's hockey team also suffered a letdown in its final group game against Canada, a team it had beaten in four tune-ups for the Olympics. Canada was a 3-2 winner, although both teams will play in the semifinals and will likely meet again in the gold medal game.

Elsewhere, celebrations that have become commonplace took place once more among the Germans in luge, the Dutch in speed skating and the Russians in figure skating.

Tobias Arlt and Tobias Wendl won the doubles luge for Germany, giving that country three gold medals in three luge events at the Olympics. Germans will try to finish off a sweep of the golds Thursday when the first luge relay in the history of the Games will be contested.

Stefan Groothius was the winner of the 1,000-meter speed skating race in which Davis came up short. He gave the Netherlands its fourth speed skating victory in five tries and that country also won the bronze medal thanks to 500-meter champion Michel Mulder.

Of the 15 speed skating medals handed out thus far, 10 have gone to skaters from the Netherlands. Dutch athletes have not won a medal in any other sport.

And the Russian duo of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov overwhelmed the competition in pairs figure skating, adding that gold medal they won in the inaugural Olympics team event over the weekend.

There was also a double celebration at the women's downhill race since two gold medals were handed out in an alpine race for the first time in Olympic history. Tina Maze of Slovenia and Dominique Gisin of Switzerland were both timed in 1:41.57.

Since there is no photo with which to study two skiers at the end of a race, the time must be the determining factor.

Thursday's action will feature another attempt by Norway's Ole Einar Bjorndalen to set a record for most Winter Olympics medals won in a career. He will take part in the 20-kilometer biathlon race.

All 12 teams in the men's hockey tournament will be in action with those from the United States and Canada playing their first games. The Americans will take on Slovakia and Canada will face Norway.

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