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Team USA freeskiers kept their Olympic medal streak going in men’s slopestyle Wednesday at the 2022 Beijing Games — in a big way.
(Looking for a recap of Tuesday’s events? We’ve got you covered.)
Americans won gold and silver in the event, earning Team USA a spot on the podium in the event for the third consecutive Olympics.
Alex Hall shot to the top of the leaderboard with an outstanding first run, and it stood up throughout the competition to earn him the gold.
Nick Goepper took home the silver and now owns three medals in the freeski discipline after claiming silver and bronze in the first two Olympic competitions in 2014 and 2018.
Meanwhile, the U.S. men’s hockey team is facing Slovakia in an attempt to reach the semifinals for the third time in the last four Olympics .
The Americans lost in the 2018 quarterfinals but beat Slovakia twice that year. The USA, using a young roster featuring many college players, went 3-0 in the preliminary round in Beijing.
And in the men’s aerials finals, another American trio – Justin Schoenfeld, Chris Lillis and Eric Loughran – advanced for a chance at gold. Lillis and Schoenefeld teamed with Ashley Caldwell to help the U.S. win gold last week in the Olympic debut of mixed team aerials.
Figure skating has the night off (but NBC re-aired the women’s short program in prime time Tuesday night). The women’s competition resumes Thursday with the individual free skate.
– Mike Brehm
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Late goal pulls US even with Slovakia at first intermission in men’s hockey
BEIJING — The U.S. knew Slovakia’s Juraj Slafkovsky could present problems against them, even if he’s just 17 years old.
But the defense forgot about him during a critical possession in the defensive zone. The USA couldn’t clear a puck along the boards, and the mistake cost them. Peter Ceresnak found a wide-open Slafkovsky in the slot. His wrister past the glove of U.S. goaltender Strauss Mann made it 1-0 with 8:15 to go in the first period. Slafkovsky now leads the tournament in goals (five).
In net, Mann’s rebound control has left much to be desired. That could come back to bite the Americans, who are in a position they cannot afford such circumstances.
But as they’ve done all tournament, the U.S. answered. The transition game has been strong against Slovakia, and Kenny Agostino streaked up the ice with less than a minute left. The puck wound up on Matty Beniers’ stick, and he dished to Nick Abruzzese, whose nice move in front of Patrik Rybar tied it at 1.
— Chris Bumbaca
Alex Hall, Nick Goepper give USA gold, silver in slopestyle
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – Americans are on the Olympics freeski slopestyle podium again.
Two-time Olympian Alex Hall won his first medal, using a unique run with difficulty and style to land at the top of the podium. Teammate Nick Goepper took silver, his third Olympic medal, and Sweden’s Jesper Tjader won bronze.
Hall jumped out to a big lead after his first run, using long rail slides and unique jumps to take the lead. On the first jump, whose winged takeoffs make tricks more difficult, Hall landed a double cork 1620, flipping 4 ½ times while doing two off-axis flips.
Goepper put down a big second run to claim his third Olympic medal. He took a unique line by using the rail atop the guard shack on the course and then landed back-to-back double cork 1440s on the final two jumps to get in podium position.
— Rachel Axon
U.S. women on the ropes with curling loss to Canada
The U.S. women’s curling team will head into its final round-robin match 4-4 and very much hanging to its medal round hopes by a thread.
The U.S. lost to Canada on Wednesday, 7-6, after Canada skipper Jennifer Jones converted a wide-open draw for the winning point. In a sense, the Americans were fortunate to even be in that position after Jones shockingly whiffed on a shot in the ninth end that would have pretty much ended the game, allowing the Americans to steal one and tie it up.
But with the hammer in the 10th, the Canadians committed to just knocking away every guard the Americans tried to put up. Tabitha Peterson, the U.S. skipper, couldn’t place her final stone in a position to put any pressure on Jones, who needed to only put something in the vicinity of the button to win.
It was one of a few moments where the Americans’ strategy seemed questionable.
Down 5-3, the U.S. team got into a bit of a bind in the seventh end when Canada put three in the house, including one on the button, necessitating an extremely skillful shot from Peterson to squeeze out a point with the hammer. Instead, the best Peterson could do was knock two out, allowing Canada to take a 6-3 lead.
Canada cracked the door open for the U.S. to get all three back in the eighth end with a double takeout, but Peterson elected for the safer play to score two points, hoping for another opportunity in one of the final two ends. Though the Americans did tie it up, they never got the hammer back, which proved to be decisive.
The U.S. will play its final round-robin game on Wednesday night (morning in the U.S.) against Japan and will certainly need a victory to be in contention for entry into the medal round for the first time since 2002. Even then, they will likely need some help depending on how the final round-robin games and tiebreakers shake out.
— Dan Wolken
Team USA looks to continue surprising run in men’s hockey
BEIJING — Through three games, the U.S. men’s hockey team has used a combination of speed, youth and toughness to claim the No. 1 seed entering the quarterfinals and emerge as the surprise story of the tournament.
Of course, that means nothing anymore. A few bad bounces, and it could mark the end of the line for the Americans in Beijing.
Strauss Mann, who picked up the win in a 4-2 victory against Canada in group play, will start in net against Slovakia.
Slovakia is led by Juraj Slafkovsky, a potential top 10 NHL draft pick this summer. The 17-year-old is tied for the tournament lead in goals (four).
The U.S. will have to stop him without one of its top defenders. Jake Sanderson (undisclosed injury, day-to-day) isn’t dressed for the second consecutive day.
— Chris Bumbaca
Karen Chen performs to ‘Requiem’ at 2022 Olympics
BEIJING — Skating first in the final group, American Karen Chen fell on a planned triple loop jump in the second half of her program, grimacing with frustration as she left the ice.
“I didn’t skate the way I wanted to skate and definitely not what I am capable of,” Chen said. “I need to just think about what went wrong and then move on into the long program.”
Performing to “Requiem for a Dream” and “Requiem for a Tower,” Chen’s score of 64.11 on Tuesday was slightly lower than her short program score in the team event earlier this month, which was 65.20. She also fell in that program.
Chen, 22, went on to skate a redemptive long program as Team USA won silver in the team event.
The only returning Olympian of the three American women in the field, Chen placed 10th at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang. She’s currently in 13th place entering Thursday’s free skate in Beijing.
— Tom Schad
Alysa Liu skates to music from Don Quixote at Beijing Games
BEIJING — Alysa Liu barely stopped smiling Tuesday, from the moment she took the ice for her Olympic debut to the moment she left.
Skating to “Gypsy Dance II” from Don Quixote, Liu didn’t attempt the notoriously difficult triple axel, which has helped distinguish her from her compatriots, but she turned in a clean, energetic performance in her short program, recording a score of 69.50 and moving into second place at the time.
“I am happy with what I did,” Liu said. “All of my training has been to get to the Olympics, and my dream has come true.”
Her father, Arthur Liu, was one of the more vocal critics of the recent decision to allow Russian teenager Kamila Valieva to compete despite a positive drug test in December.
“She tested positive for a banned drug. What’s not clear about it? She should be out,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “That is as simple as that. What kind of message are they sending to millions of young boys and girls in sports — particularly figure skaters? That cheaters are allowed to compete in the Olympics, the holiest competition on the planet. It totally destroys the Olympic spirit.”
Liu, 16, is not only the youngest member of the U.S. figure skating team, but also the youngest member of Team USA in Beijing, period. A two-time national champion, she was favored to win a third title in January but tested positive for COVID-19 in between the short program and long program, forcing her to withdraw.
She’ll begin Thursday’s free skate in eighth place.
— Tom Schad and Chris Bumbaca
Americans Alex Hall, Nick Goepper in solid medal position in men’s slopestyle
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – The U.S. men have a good chance to keep their medal streak alive in freeski slopestyle.
Americans Alex Hall and Nick Goepper lead the way with the best scores in the field entering the third and final run. Colby Stevenson, Team USA’s third entrant, is sixth.
Since the event was added to the Games in 2014, at least one American has medaled in each edition. In Tuesday’s qualifying at the Beijing Olympics, the U.S. trio all qualified in the top six for the final.
“I still got a little bit left in the tank,” Goepper said after qualifying. “I’m more relaxed than I was eight years ago. I just think that comes with experience and age.”
Goepper helped the USA start its streak, earning bronze in Sochi as part of a USA sweep in the event’s debut. Joss Christensen won gold in that competition, while Gus Kenworthy took silver.
Goepper, 27, also won a silver medal in Pyeongchang four years ago.
In addition to the field – Switzerland’s Andri Ragletti is the top-ranked skier in the world this year and qualified in first – Goepper will contend with his teammates for the podium.
Hall, a two-time Olympian, entered these Games fresh of a gold medal in big air and a bronze in slopestyle at X Games last month.
Stevenson, meanwhile, has an Olympic silver medal in big air from that event’s debut last week.
— Rachel Axon
Mariah Bell skates to music by Yiruma at Winter Olympics
BEIJING — Mariah Bell became the oldest American woman in 94 years to compete in Olympic figure skating on Tuesday night, when she took the ice for her short program.
Making her Olympic debut, Mariah Bell, 25, performed her short program to “River Flowers in You” by Yiruma. However she fell on the second part of her triple flip-triple toeloop combination at the beginning of her program but landed her next two jumps to record a score of 65.38, which was good for second place at the time.
“I have very mixed emotions about it,” Bell said. “I am bummed with the mistake on the opening element, but I am happy how I came back with everything else. Ultimately, I just really enjoyed skating on Olympic ice.”
Bell, who won the most recent U.S. national championship, was the first of three American women to take the ice Tuesday. She ended up in 11th place heading into Thursday’s free skate.
— Tom Schad
OPINION: As Valieva takes the ice, American Mariah Bell upstages her where it matters
How do figure skaters choose the music for their programs?
BEIJING — For casual viewers, it can be what stands out.
For Olympic figure skaters, it can help pave the way to a medal.
The music behind a figure skating program plays critical roles on multiple fronts – setting the tone of a performance, shaping the choreography and, in some cases, even helping fuel the emotion of the skaters on the ice. It can be one song, or several stitched together. Something iconic, or relatively unknown.
“There’s a lot,” American pairs skater Brandon Frazier said, when asked about the process of selecting the music for a program. “We try to find music we relate to. That’s number one. We rely heavily on our choreographer’s opinion, on what they see us doing. … But all in all, when we’re skating to it, we have to feel it.”
There’s also the obvious: When you pick a song for a program, you’re signing up to skate to it almost every day, for months at a time.
— Tom Schad
What is trimetazidine, the heart drug at the center of Russia’s doping scandal?
Russian star figure skater Kamila Valieva was temporarily suspended after she tested positive for trimetazidine a month before she won the team event gold medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
But what kind of drug is trimetazidine? TMZ is a drug used to treat angina and other heart-related conditions. It works by increasing blood flow to the heart and limiting rapid swings in blood pressure. The drug is not approved for use in the United States.
Since 2014, it has been on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances and is categorized as a “hormone and metabolic modulator.” This is illegal for athletes to use both in and out of competition as it can increase blood flow efficiency and improve endurance.
Her lawyer argued Valieva had accidentally taken TMZ since her grandfather uses it for his heart issues.
— Gabriela Miranda
Two-time Olympic medalist living off Team USA’s ‘camping meals’
ZHANGJIAKOU, China — At least Nick Goepper can look forward to going back to the hotel to a nice warm home cooked … camp-style meal.
Open lid, add hot water, stir. Every day. Sometimes a few times a day.
After qualifying slopestyle finals with a strong run that started on the big house at the top of the slopestyle course and then ended with his final jumps – a switch double misty 1260 into a double cork 1080 on the quarter pipe jump into a double cork 1440 on the last jump – Goepper was feeling it.
Goepper, a two-time Olympic medalist, was the top American in Tuesday’s freeski slopestyle qualifying, in third, and advanced along with teammates Alex Hall and Colby Stevenson. The final is Wednesday.
– Lori Nickel
US-born Chinese figure skater admits online criticism ‘did hurt me a little bit’
BEIJING — There is a California-born teenager competing for host China at the 2022 Winter Olympics receiving online hate, and it’s not free skier Eileen Gu.
Quite contrary to the adulation that Gu has received for embracing China, women’s figure skater Zhu Yi faced harsh online criticism in China after she fell during the women’s short program in the team event early in the Olympics.
Zhu, who moved to China last year after living the first 18 years of her life in southern California, crashed into the wall and finished last.
“In the beginning, (the comments) did hurt me a little bit,” Zhu said Tuesday. “Of course, I was able to just see it from a different light. And just use it to my own advantage.”
The performance dropped China from third to fifth. According to CNN, the hashtag “Zhu Yi Has Fallen” reached 200 million views on the social media website Weibo. Zhu, whose American name is Beverly, also had been criticized online for not speaking fluent Chinese.
On Tuesday, Zhu ended the individual short program ranked 27th out of 30, meaning she didn’t qualify for Thursday’s free skate.
— Chris Bumbaca
Team USA medal count up to 17
Heading into Wednesday’s action in Beijing, the United States is tied with Canada for fourth in overall medals with 17, after adding a bronze in the men’s speedskating team pursuit.
Veteran Joey Mantia paced Team USA as it outlasted the Netherlands in the bronze medal race, giving the 36-year-old Ocala, Florida, native the first medal of his career in his third Olympics.
Norway leads the total medal count with 26, including 12 gold. Germany is in second with nine gold medals, while the Russian Olympic Committee (20 total medals) and Germany (18) are just ahead of the U.S. and Canada overall.
Russia’s Kamila Valieva returns to the ice
Russian phenom Kamila Valieva took the ice Tuesday amid international controversy after testing positive for a banned heart medication called trimetazidine. She was provisionally suspended, then reinstated upon appeal, allowing her to compete despite differing opinions between the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the International Olympic Committee.
Valieva, 15, twisted off-axis on the first of her three jumps – the notorious triple axel – and touched the ice on her descent. But she landed the other two jumps, scoring 82.16.
She leads the women’s competition heading into Thursday’s free skate. The highest-ranked American in the field, Alysa Liu, is in eighth place.
OPINION: As Valieva takes the ice, American Mariah Bell upstages her where it matters