Bob Costas returned Monday night, and by Tuesday, American gold medals started falling from the skies of Sochi. So did some flaky stuff that looked suspiciously like snow, at the halfpipe and biathlon, as well as rain at the snowboard cross. You will see actual snow at the Sochi Games tonight during NBC’s prime-time lineup. Set the DVR!
The snowfall on the freestyle halfpipe didn’t dampen American David Wise’s dreams. A cousin of Post columnist Mike Wise, David grabbed a surprising gold Tuesday, upsetting some of the top names in the sport. Canadian Justin Dorey, one of the favorites, fell on both his runs, including Shaun White-style , hitting the lip of the pipe with his skis and then his derriere. Mike Riddle of Canada won the silver and France’s Kevin Rolland the bronze.
Rain replaced fog at the snowboard cross, which had already been delayed a day by fog. Of the four Americans competing, Alex Deibold would have been most people’s fourth choice for a medal. But snowboard cross is is difficult to handicap — anything can happen. And it did, to favorites Nate Holland and Nick Baumgartner, knocked out in the qualifying round. Newcomer Travor Jacob had to race Deibold for a spot in the finals, and the friends rubbed each other like NASCAR drivers down the hill, with Deibold winning. Then the former wax technician went on to take the bronze medal. If NBC can’t make someone cry with that story, then I’ll eat my hat.
Pierre Vaultier of France took the silver and Nikolay Olyunin, a 22-year-old Russian with a truly old soul, filled with ennui, took the bronze. “I really want to be alone, I’m so tired,” Olyunin said. “Those delays, they really tired me. Yesterday was really hard for me but I decided … to prove to Russia, that snowboarding does exist.” Oh, the exquisite pain of it all.
Despite finishing off the podium, American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin did not succumb to Olyunin’s ennui, even though she already has been saddled with the “next Lindsey Vonn” tag, which probably thrills both Shiffrin and Vonn to no end. Shiffrin placed a very respectable fifth against the world’s best, including Tina Maze of Slovenia, who won her second gold of these Games. Switzerland’s Anna Fenninger now has a silver go with a gold in the super-G, and bronze medalist Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany was the defending champion.
After the first two of four runs in the bobsled, the USA-1 sled of Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams grabbed a .23-second lead over Canada-1, Kaillie Humphries driving. USA-2 — Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans — was in third, but nearly a minute behind their faster teammates. USA-3, with Jazmine Fenlater and Lolo Jones, is in 11th.
Four years ago in Vancouver, the Korean women’s 3,000-meter relay team won, only to be disqualified — not unheard of in this sport. That gave China the gold. Tuesday, Korea took its revenge, passing China on the last lap to take the lead in the same event — and then the gold medal. The Chinese were second but this time it was their turn to be disqualified. That pushed up the Canadians to the silver medal and the Italians the bronze. At least they were all warm and dry. Well, perhaps just warm.