Day 13: What’s hot at the Beijing Winter Olympics

Swiss Gisin wins women’s combined gold, Shiffrin fails to finish

Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin retained her Olympic title in the women’s combined on Thursday as American Mikaela Shiffrin yet again failed to finish.

Gisin won the gold medal with a total time of 2:25.67, a comfortable 1.05 ahead of compatriot Wendy Holdener. Italy’s Federica Brignone finished in the bronze medal position.

The victory was the fifth gold for the Swiss team at these Games and the second medal for both Gisin and Holdener.

Gisin, the combined winner at Pyeongchang 2018, won bronze in super-G here while Holdener finished third in slalom.

Shiffrin was a heavy favourite to win gold in the event and was well placed after finishing fifth fastest in the morning’s downhill leg.

But returning to the Ice River course, where she had skied out in both the giant slalom and slalom, her favourite events, Shiffrin missed a gate and incredibly skied off the course yet again.

Six-times world champion, Shiffrin won gold in giant slalom in Pyeongchang after winning the slalom title at Sochi in 2014. She also claimed the silver medal in the combined four years ago at the Olympics in South Korea.

She has competed in every individual event in Beijing but was only able to complete the speed events, finishing ninth in the super-G and 18th in the downhill.

Canada reclaim golden crown, U.S. win silver

Canada beat the United States 3-2 to win the women’s ice hockey final at the Beijing Olympics on Thursday, reclaiming the gold medal the Americans had taken from them four years ago in Pyeongchang.

Captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored twice, including the game winner, after Canadian sharpshooter Sarah Nurse got the team going midway through the first period, as an outgunned U.S. team recorded 40 shots on goal to Canada’s 21 across the entire affair but were unable to convert where it counted.

Four-time Olympian Hilary Knight got the United States on the board with a shorthanded effort with less than four minutes to go in the second and Amanda Kessel converted on a power play with 13 seconds to go in the third after the U.S. pulled their goalie to bring the contest to a nail-biting conclusion.

Once the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Canadians celebrated, throwing their gloves in the air and mobbing each other in a scene of utter joy, having earned sweet redemption four years after the Americans ended their run of four straight golds in a devastating shootout loss.

Nurse made history with the most points and assists in a single women’s Olympic tournament, while Poulin – who had already well-earned the nickname “Captain Clutch” before Thursday’s effort – ended the day as Beijing’s second scoring leader.

Finland defeated Switzerland the previous day to take bronze.

Fun and friendship fuel Norway’s Olympic gold rush

Norway could set a record for the total number of gold medals won by a country at a single Winter Olympics in Beijing but for chef de mission Tore Oevreboe enjoying themselves and creating good relationships is more important than winning.

With Norway’s chances of claiming more gold in the remaining biathlon and cross-country races looking good before the Games close on Sunday, the record is within reach but Oevreboe and the Norwegians measure success in different terms.

“The main objective for us is to make the athletes have fun all the way through the Games,” he said as Norway won the men’s cross-country team sprint for a 13th Beijing gold, one medal shy of the record jointly held with Canada and Germany.

The Norwegians put their winter sports success in recent years down to a three-pronged approach.

“One of them is to have a very high quality of daily training, which is the main thing to do to achieve development over time, and we are also very specific in the work with the competitions, preparations and execution,” he told Reuters.

“But there is a third area that we are very, very eager at working with – it’s to establish and develop good and safe relationships between the athletes themselves and also between the athletes and their coaches and the staff around.

“We are very occupied with creating a good environment, a stable environment, a safe environment, an environment full of fun, so they can really enjoy life when they are doing sport at a high level,” Oevreboe added.

Creating those conditions for success begins long before the likes of Olympic champions Johannes Klaebo and Marte Olsbu Roieseland get to the elite level.

“This is part of the Norwegian sports model, all the way from the start from childhood – it should be physical activity based on fun, many types of activities, variety, different sports,” the 56-year-old former Olympic rower said.

“Lots of small competitions, but we do not track the results of the athletes.”

Oevreboe prefers an approach whereby youngsters can try as many sports as possible before specialising at a later age, rather than hand-picking talented children for specific events.

He believes the aim should be not just producing great champions but also good Norwegians at every level of society.

“Many of the kids have good opportunities to realise their potential in a variety of fields, and sport is one of them … and then they will develop their potential as humans and citizens,” he said.

Schulting and Fontana shine as women take centre stage

Record breaker Arianna Fontana and rising star Suzanne Schulting put the women in the spotlight at the short track speed skating events at the Beijing Olympics, providing most of the entertainment and emotions at the Capital Indoor Stadium.

The 24-year-old Schulting of the Netherlands claimed four medals, two of them gold, as she continued her meteoric rise, while Fontana cemented her status as Italy’s greatest female Olympian amid a stand-off with her own federation.

In a highly competitive fortnight, all women retained their individual titles with Fontana successfully defending her title for 500 metres, Schulting winning the 1,000 metres again and Choi Min-jeong claimed another gold in the 1,500 metres as South Korea topped the medals table.

The sport’s powerhouse, South Korea got off to a rough start amid allegations that hosts China benefitted from refereeing bias, but they ended up with two golds and three silvers.

China were second with two golds, one silver and one bronze along with Schulting.

She was the force behind her country’s gold in the women’s 3,000m relay that they won in memory of their Peyongchang team mate Lara van Ruijven, who died two years ago.

The rest, Schulting did on her own.

“I can feel really proud of these Olympics. My gold in the 1,000 where the pressure was super high and our gold with the relay,” a tearful Schulting said.

While it is a given that Schulting will be at the next Games looking to reduce the gap with Fontana, who now has 11 Olympic medals to her name – more than any other short tracker, female or male – the Italian’s presence at her home Games in Milan and Cortina in 2026 is far from guaranteed.

The 31-year-old won three medals in Beijing to become Italy’s most decorated Olympian at the Winter Games.

She trains in Hungary following a dispute with the Italian national skating federation, which opposes her choice of husband Anthony Lobello as coach, and accusations of aggression against her while training on the ice in Italy.

“Old story. Everyone makes mistakes,” she said when asked about the alleged aggressions.

“I can forgive, even if I don’t forget.”

The Italian skating federation said last week it would do everything to have Fontana at the 2026 Games.

Fontana, however, is not ready to back down.

“Things with the federation are what they are and the president said he’ll do everything he can but that I have to stay in the system, which I left to be here and successful,” she said.

“If they start like that there’s no way I’m gonna be there as an athlete (in 2026).”

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