The U.S. looks to grab more hardware Saturday at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Saturday’s action begins with the Olympic debut of mixed-gender team snowboard cross, where the USA is also a medal threat. Lindsey Jacobellis, fresh off her gold medal in the women’s event, leads the American hopefuls.
(Looking for a recap of Friday’s events? We’ve got you covered.)
American Jordan Stolz, 17, will make his much-anticipated Olympic debut in long track speedskating’s 500 meters. Stolz is considered a serious medal contender. He won both the 500 and 1,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic trials in West Allis, Wisconsin, breaking track records in both events.
Competition resumes in figure skating following Nathan’s Chen’s dazzling gold-medal performance as ice dancing takes center stage with the Rhythm Dance. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who took fourth in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, and Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who finished ninth, lead the U.S. contingent.
In men’s hockey, the USA (1-0) and Canada (1-0) will face off in a game that will play a big role in determining who wins their pool and gets a bye to the quarterfinals.
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MEDAL COUNT: How each country is performing at the Winter Games
BEIJING – There is an inherent contradiction in the way American skeleton racer Katie Uhlaender loves being at the Olympics and the lack of faith she has in the organizations tasked with keeping the competition clean and fair.
It is part of what she calls the “duality” of being human, knowing she was cheated out of a bronze medal at the Sochi Games in 2014 while also respecting the competitor who beat her by .04 seconds but was later implicated in Russia’s state-sponsored doping scandal. It explains why she keeps coming back – this is her fifth time now – despite wondering if the system that’s supposed to protect athletes like her will ever work.
“It just shows there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that exists at the same time of the Olympics being so amazing and inspirational,” she said.
It would be a remarkable, full-circle moment for Uhlaender if she could pull off something special Saturday and win the medal that was taken from her for good when the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturned Elena Nikitina’s lifetime ban in February of 2018 and let her keep the bronze from Sochi. Nikitina was one of 28 Russian athletes for whom the CAS ruled there was insufficient evidence to establish anti-doping violations.
That wrong may never be righted in Uhlaender’s mind, but a medal in Beijing is not out of her reach. Halfway through the women’s skeleton race, she sits in eighth place, half a second behind the leader Jaclyn Narracott of Australia, but only three-tenths out of third place on a tightly bunched leaderboard heading into the final two runs.
— Dan Wolken
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – U.S. Ski & Snowboard confirmed Friday that it opened an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior within the U.S. snowboardcross team, including some that have been levied against its current head coach.
Callan Chythlook-Sifsof, a member of the 2010 Olympic team, said in a series of Instagram posts that the coach, Peter Foley, has “taken naked photos of female athletes for over a decade” and made an explicit comment to her about another woman’s appearance in 2014.
“I cannot watch another Olympic Games without saying this publicly,” she wrote in one Instagram post.
Foley did not return a voicemail from USA TODAY Sports.
U.S. Ski & Snowboard spokesman Tom Horrocks said the organization is “aware of the recent allegations” against Foley.
“We take these very serious and these are being investigated,” Horrocks wrote in an email, adding that the organization would not comment further.
Horrocks did not respond to a question about whether Foley, who has been the coach of the team since 1994, would coach in Saturday’s mixed team competition. He also did not say who is investigating Chythlook-Sifsof’s statements.
— Rachel Axon and Tom Schad
ZHANGJIAKOU, China — The end caused Shaun White to reflect back on the beginning, and the story he told while choking back tears after his final halfpipe competition says as much about him as it does about snowboarding.
White recalled getting his first snowboard, running home from school for days to ask his mother whether it had arrived.
“And it wasn’t there. And then the next day, same thing. For like four days, I did that,” White said. “And then one day, she just burst into the classroom with a board in her hand, and I was like beside myself. She interrupted everyone just to give me my board, and from then on, it was just, I was on a mission.” (Read the full story)
— Rachel Axon
Former Olympic bronze medalist Adam Rippon is defending Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva and taking aim at the governing bodies that put the 15-year-old Olympian in a bad situation.
Valieva, the favorite to win individual gold at the Winter Olympics, tested positive for a banned substance yet Russian officials appealed her provisional suspension and she has been allowed to practice. A final decision on whether Valieva can skate in the women’s individual competition, which starts Tuesday, has not yet been reached.
The International Olympic Committee is pushing to have Valieva suspended, at which point the International Skating Union would likely disqualify the gold-medal-winning Russian Olympic Committee from the team skating competition and reward the United States with the gold medal.
“This entire situation is heartbreaking,” Rippon tweeted on Friday. “This young girl is just 15. She’s a minor. The adults around her have completely failed her. They’ve put her in this awful situation and should be punished.”
— Scott Gleeson
This entire situation is heartbreaking. This young girl is just 15. She’s a minor. The adults around her have completely failed her. They’ve put her in this awful situation and should be punished. https://t.co/5WCYTpLdIz
— Adam Rippon (@AdamRippon) February 11, 2022
The U.S. enters Saturday sitting seventh in the medal standings with 10.
Team USA has earned four golds, five silvers and one bronze through Friday with events on tap that could move them up the leaderboard.
Medal possibilities on Saturday exist in mixed team snowboard cross, where gold medalist Lindsey Jacobellis returns to action, cross country skiing, with star U.S. star Jessie Diggins leading the women’s relay team, and long track speedskating, where 17-year-old Jordan Stolz will race in the 500 meters.
Norway and Austria top the overall medal standings with 14 apiece, but Germany, with 11 total medals, leads the race for gold with seven.
Don’t worry, we still have more than a week’s worth of action to go at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
Next week’s schedule at the Winter Games will include women’s figure skating, more Mikaela Shiffrin on the slopes and the continuation of the women’s and men’s hockey tournaments, just to name a few.
The closing ceremony will take place on Sunday, Feb. 20 starting at 7 a.m. ET.
Russian figure skating doping appeal heads to Court of Arbitration for Sport
BEIJING – Breaking its silence on the Russian figure skating doping fiasco, the IOC is appealing a Russian Anti-Doping Agency ruling that allowed star Kamila Valieva to continue practicing for Tuesday’s women’s short program. The appeal now sets the stage for a dramatic legal hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
If the appeal is successful, the International Skating Union, the worldwide governing body for figure skating, would likely disqualify the gold-medal-winning Russian Olympic Committee from the team skating competition and reward the United States with the gold medal.
It’s hard to imagine something worse for the reputation of these already-controversial Games than having an Olympic drug cheat winning not one but two gold medals less than two months after she tested positive for a banned substance known to increase endurance and stamina.
That Valieva is a minor, only 15, is troubling, engendering plenty of deserved sympathy. It is the adults around her, those who encouraged her use of a banned substance, who truly deserve our scorn. But you can feel sorry for Valieva, the women’s gold-medal favorite and a once-in-a-lifetime talent, and still believe that she shouldn’t be allowed to step onto Olympic ice again. (Read Christine Brennan’s full column)
— Christine Brennan
Kessel leads U.S. women’s hockey after overcoming concussion
BEIJING – In her early 20s, U.S. women’s hockey forward Amanda Kessel had established herself as one of the best in the sport. She was named college hockey’s top player in 2013, and in 2014, she helped Team USA win a silver medal at the Sochi Olympics.
Kessel suffered a concussion during a scrimmage before those Olympics, and the concussion-like symptoms lingered after the Games, causing her to take a year off from school.
“There were some really dark times,” she told USA TODAY Sports. “I really thought my career might be over.” (Read the full story)
A referral to concussion expert Micky Collins at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center brought about a change to her treatment program and a return to elite status.
Kessel is now playing in her third Olympics.
During the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, she was part of the gold-medal squad. For Collins, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing someone who was “super sick,” like Kessel, hoist a gold medal.
“To see her get back to that level,” Collins said, “that’s what it’s all about.”
Kessel entered the quarterfinals against the Czech Republic leading the team in points with six (four assists, two goals) and is now tied for second as the Americans advanced to the semifinals.
— Chris Bumbaca