Rachael Flatt of Colorado Springs had nothing to regret about her Olympic debut Tuesday night in the ladies short program at Pacific Coliseum.
Taking the ice after some stunning performances by the world's top-ranked skaters, including Canadian champion Joannie Rochette setting aside the grief of her mother's death, Flatt still fought through pressure and nerves to place a strong fifth with a clean, energetic performance. That gives her a chance for a medal going into the long program Thursday night.
And given how well the other contenders skated, being fifth and less than a point out of fourth was a fitting placement for Flatt.
South Korean world champion Kim Yu-Na, nailing every element and mixing in abundant style along the way, took a sizable lead with 78.50 points. Next was Japan's Mao Asada, who landed the night's only triple axel jump en route to earning second place with 73.78 points.
The pro-Canadian crowd clearly was moved by Rochette, who was able to skate less than 72 hours after her mother died of a massive heart attack soon after arriving in Vancouver to share in her daughter's Olympic experience. Rochette, ranked second in the world, bravely fought through her program and was a solid third with 71.36 points, then she let her emotions flow as soon as the music stopped.
Flatt's turn came just two skaters later, and the 17-year-old from Cheyenne Mountain High School looked expressive and relaxed after landing her opening triple-triple jump combination. The routine was worth 64.64 points, down from the 69.35 she received at the U.S. championships last month, but that difference could be attributed to the tougher international judges.
She was fourth until the final skater, former world champion Miki Ando of Japan, skated a comparable program and finished just ahead of Flatt at 64.76.
The other American, 16-year-old Mirai Nagasu of Arcadia, Calif., was sixth at 63.76 after turning her triple-triple combination into a triple-double.
Afterward, Flatt called her program "better than Nationals, even though my score wasn't as good. It's a new personal best for me internationally. I had the time of my life."
Flatt admitted being less than perfect on landing a triple lutz, her choice for the required separate triple jump.
"It was a little shaky," she said. "I got ahead of myself. I was having a little too much fun and had a little too much energy."
Once again, the Colorado-driven U.S. athletes in the sport of Nordic Combined have made history at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Led by Johnny Spillane, Todd Lodwick and Billy Demong — all from Steamboat Springs — the U.S. took a silver medal Tuesday in the Nordic Combined team event, the first time Americans have made the podium in the event.
It also means two silver medals in two Nordic Combined events at Whistler, as Spillane earlier had finished second — and narrowly losing out on the gold — in the individual event of the sport that combines ski jumping with cross-country skiing.
The U.S. team was second after the opening jump portion, and wound up finishing just five seconds behind the gold medal-winning Austrians in the concluding 4 x 5-kilometer relay. The other U.S. team member was Brett Camerota of Park City, Utah.
Germany took the bronze medal, keeping pace in the overall medal standings.
With this silver, the United States now leads Germany 26-23 in total medals, with no other events wrapping up tonight.
So I'm walking up Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver at the end of another Olympic day/night, heading from the Main Media Center to my room, thinking about whether to grab something quick to eat.
And then, through the crowd on the dimly lit sidewalk, a voice says, "Hey, Ralph Routon. That looks like Ralph Routon."
Then he identifies himself, coming close enough to be recognized. It's none other than Marty Wakelyn, an outstanding hockey goaltender for Colorado College from 1982-86 who went on to play a while in the pros with the New York Islanders organization.
Wakelyn, who still lives in Colorado Springs but is a native of Victoria in British Columbia, brought his wife and son back "home" for a few days and events at the Olympics.
He was still stinging from Canada's loss to the United States in the early round of men's hockey, though his wife Denise quickly said, "It bothered him, but not me."
It was just another instance of running into people from Colorado Springs at the Winter Games, especially at hockey. Practically every game I've covered, spectators in the concourse have called out, "Hey, Ralph," some of whom I didn't even recognize.
Canada had reason to celebrate Monday night, after its ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skated a superb free dance to take the Olympic gold medal by a convincing margin before a thrilled crowd of 14,000 in Pacific Coliseum.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White, the American champions who were second after the original dance, came away with the silver.
The other American contenders and 2006 silver medalists, Canada-born Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, wound up fourth this time. The bronze went to Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia.
It was the first gold medal ever won by a North American nation in ice dance.
The medal for Davis and White, combined with the U.S. women's hockey team guaranteeing itself of at least a silver by winning in the semifinals, gives the United States at least 26 medals, ahead of the 25 won by American athletes in 2006 at Torino, Italy.
That means the U.S. is certain of winning more medals than ever before at a Winter Games in another country. Americans took 34 medals at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Rachael Flatt of Colorado Springs had to be hoping for a favorable starting position among the field of 30 in ladies figure skating for the short program at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
She got just that. Flatt, the current U.S. champion, will start 28th, in the final warmup group of the competition's initial phase Tuesday night in Pacific Coliseum.
Also in that last warmup is Canadian champion Joannie Rochette, a strong medal contender planning to compete despite the death Saturday night of her 55-year-old mother, who suffered a fatal heart attack shortly after arriving in Vancouver. As if that weren't enough, the group includes former world champion Miki Ando of Japan and world medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy.
Flatt, who placed fifth at the 2009 Worlds, is considered a medal contender here if she can skate as well as she did at the U.S. championships last month.
The ladies favorite, South Korea's Kim Yu-Na, drew the 23rd starting position, putting her in the next-to-last warmup group.
Mirai Nagasu, the other American in the ladies event, will skate 11th, starting the third of six warmup groups.
The short program is planned to last four and a half hours, from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.
Monique Lamoureux scored a hat trick, including two goals in the third period, as the United States steamrolled to a 9-1 victory against Sweden on Monday in their Winter Olympics women's hockey semifinal at Canada Hockey Place.
Angela Ruggiero and Caitlin Cahow contributed goals in the first six minutes of the second period, and center Karen Thatcher fired in another as the United States took a 5-1 lead after two periods and then cruised from there before a crowd of about 19,000, one of the largest audiences ever to see a women's hockey game.
Lamoureux and Meghan Duggan scored 69 seconds apart in the first period, as the Americans moved quickly to begin avenging their unexpected 3-2 shootout loss to Sweden in the 2006 Olympic semifinals. This time, the U.S. women expect to face Canada in the gold-medal game Thursday night.
U.S. goalie Jessie Vetter made a point-blank save early in the game but wasn't tested much thereafter, as the Americans dominated the shots on goal by a 46-12 margin.
"Our journey's still going," Vetter said. "Personally, I'd rather play Canada. They're a challenge."
Lamoureux took a pass just inside the blue line, saw an opening and skated in on the net, slipping the puck under Swedish goaltender Kim Martin's pads at 7:14 of the first period for a 1-0 lead. With thousands of Canadians cheering for Sweden, the U.S. went on a power play soon thereafter, crashed in on Martin, and Duggan lifted the puck over the prone goalie at 8:23 to make it 2-0.
They were particularly impressive on their defensive end, blocking most of Sweden's attempts and controlling the puck. But after the Americans' two goals in the middle period, Sweden made it 4-1 with a power-play goal.
That was Sweden's only moment to celebrate.
"It's probably the best Monday we could ever have," four-time U.S. Olympian Ruggiero said. "We're at the Olympics, we win to put us in the gold-medal game, and we have such a big crowd. But this wasn't our best game. We still have more in the tank."
As the final week begins at the 2010 Winter Olympics with the United States' medal count at 24 so far, there is good reason to expect at least one more podium finish on Monday despite only four events deciding medals on the schedule.
But one of those is ice dancing, and U.S. teams are in second and fourth places going into the free dance tonight at Pacific Coliseum. Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who have won the past two national titles, are in position to challenge for the gold medal along with Canadian champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the leaders after the original dance. The second American team, Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, are a close fourth and did win the silver in 2006.
This afternoon will bring the women's hockey semifinals, with Team USA facing Sweden followed by Canada against Finland, the same pairings at this stage as in 2006. Actually, the Americans will be looking to avenge their nightmare of 2006, when Sweden hung a 3-2 shocker on the U.S. in a shootout. This time, almost everyone expects the finale Thursday to be Canada vs. USA, the same as in 1998 (when the U.S. won) and 2002 (when Canada prevailed).
Bode Miller waited through more than a dozen years and three Winter Olympics as a world-level skier, but the mercurial 32-year-old American from Franconia, N.H., finally won his first Olympic gold medal Sunday afternoon.
After a steady downhill run in the morning, Miller attacked the slalom course and made it to the bottom in a total time of 2:44.92, and none of the favored Europeans could catch him on Whistler Mountain. Slovenia's Ivica Kostelic, rated as the strongest slalom skier in the field, would up 0.33 of a second behind.
It was Miller's third medal of these Winter Games — a perfect set of gold, silver and bronze — tying the most ever won by an Alpine skier for any nation at a single Olympics, and it was the fifth medal of Miller's career. He won two in 2002 at Salt Lake City, but was shut out in 2006 at Torino despite entering those Winter Games as the world's top-rated skier.
Here at Whistler, despite a lackluster World Cup season, Miller has found a level of consistency that he hadn't known in several years.
"I don't know how long we can keep this up," Miller said. "I can't ask for anything more."
Fellow American Ted Ligety, who won the super combined in 2006, had the fastest slalom time but had to settle for fifth overall.
Miller and Ligety have two more chances in the technical events here, Tuesday in the giant slalom and Friday in the slalom.
And the record-smashing U.S. team, which has won at least one medal in each Alpine event at these Winter Games, now has eight total medals in six events. The previous best by a U.S. Alpine team was five medals in 1984 at Sarajevo.
We've had enough serious stuff, so how about a break from all the events and medals?
How about awarding the gold medal for the most outlandish competition uniform at the 2010 Winter Olympics?
Some might look first at figure skating, with its sometimes-garish costumes (such as the feathery garb worn by several men skaters).
But my vote, without question, goes to the Norwegian men's curling team. And this should be one of those times when the photo is sufficient, far more than words could express.
Give 'em the gold....
Scott Blackmun isn't taking any of the credit for the United States athletes' unexpectedly strong showing so far in the 2010 Winter Olympics at Vancouver. After all, the U.S. Olympic Committee's new CEO has been on the job less than two months.
But Blackmun, in an interview with the Independent, admits that the Americans' 23 medals through Saturday are "ahead of our projections, and by a fair amount." He held off from saying what the USOC's specific projections were, based on off-the-record input from the winter sports' national governing bodies, but he implied that the number was somewhere between 25 and 30 for the entire Winter Games.
And the U.S. total could hit 25 on Sunday. First, there's the men's super-combined ski event, with downhill in the morning and slalom in the afternoon, with Bode Miller on a hot streak at Whistler and Ted Ligety having won the super-combined gold in 2006. But they're up against a strong field of Europeans.
Later in the day, at Cypress Mountain, there's the men's ski cross event with former Alpine skier Daron Rahlves and Casey Puckett considered as medal contenders.
And at the Whistler Sliding Center, bobsledders Steven Holcomb and Curt Tomasevicz of Colorado Springs have a chance for a medal in the 2-man event with the final two runs tonight.
Not for medals, but still with much interest, the U.S. faces Canada in men's hockey tonight to wrap up pool play, with the outcome to determine seeding for the medal round.
Never in Apolo Anton Ohno's career has a bronze medal tasted so good. Because this one made history.
Ohno, who spent much of his earlier short-track speedskating years living and training in Colorado Springs, won the bronze with a dramatic comeback finish Saturday night in the men's 1,000 meters. That gives him seven career Olympic medals and puts him No. 1 on the list for the most career medals by any American in the Winter Games.
"It feels amazing," Ohno said. "I really had to fight."
But it nearly didn't happen. In an incredibly stacked final race against two Koreans, ranked Nos. 1 and 4 in the world and scheming tactically, plus two brothers from Canada who had many in the screaming crowd at Pacific Coliseum cheering for them, Ohno was the odd man out strategically.
He was a strong second toward the end of the race, then briefly slipped and, with just two laps remaining, Ohno was fifth and last.
But the 27-year-old staged a frenzied comeback, passing Canada's Francois Hamelin first, then Charles Hamelin, to finish third for the bronze. Korea's Lee Jung-Su won the gold, and Lee Ho-Suk the silver.
"I can't wait to watch the tape of that," Ohno said. But he waited to celebrate, holding a flag but not waving it, until the result became official.
Ohno's seventh medal pushed him out of a tie with former long-track speedskater Bonnie Blair, who had six in her career that spanned 1988, 1992 and 1994.
Blair was in attendance Saturday, congratulated Ohno afterward and said: "I'm very happy for Apolo's accomplishment. It's a great feat for him, U.S. Speedskating and the United States of America. We hope that more kids will see his accomplishments and want to try our great sport."
Also in the crowd was Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, the hero of the 2008 Beijing Simmer Games with eight gold medals, making him the most-decorated Summer Games athlete with 14 in his career.
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun released a statement, saying, "Apolo's medal today is truly a testament to his hard work, his dedication, and his commitment to reaching his dreams. He has created a lasting legacy, not just for his medals won, but for the sportsmanship and character he has displayed throughout his quest."
J.R. Celski, who spent most of the past year at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs rehabilitating from a severe cut to his right leg, advanced to the semifinals but crashed and was disqualified, leaving him eighth overall.
Ohno's seven Olympic medals:
o 2002 - 1500m - gold
o 2002 - 1000m - silver
o 2006 - 500m - gold
o 2006 - 1000m - bronze
o 2006 - 5000m relay - bronze
o 2010 - 1500m - silver
o 2010 - 1000m - bronze
Ohno still could win more medals here in the 500 meters, which he won in 2006, and the 5,000-meter relay.
Shani Davis of the United States couldn't pull off a double-gold in men's long-track speedskating at the 2010 Winter Olympics, but he did the next-best thing Saturday.
Davis, skating in the last pair of the night at the Richmond oval, raced to a time of 1:46.10 and won the silver medal, adding to his gold in the 1,000 meters.
Mark Tuitert of the Netherlands flashed to a time of 1:45.57, and nobody in the field of 39 skaters could challenge that.
That gives the United States two medals for the day, with two more possible in short-track speedskating at the Pacific Coliseum.
Katherine Reutter has advanced to the semifinals of the women's 1,500 meters, while former Colorado Springs resident Apolo Anton Ohno and American J.R. Celski have made the men's 1,000-meter semis. Both events will conclude later tonight.
Lindsey Vonn couldn't beat all the top Europeans in the ladies Super-G ski race Saturday at Whistler Mountain, but she came close enough to make it onto the podium.
Vonn secured the bronze medal with a run of 1:20.88, topped only by Andrea Fischbacher of Austria with 1:20.14 and Tina Maze of Slovenia in 1:20.63.
Vonn's second medal of the Winter Games, along with her gold in the downhill, made it seven Alpine skiing medals for the United States. The previous U.S. best in Alpine at any Olympics was five in 1984.
"I didn't do as well as I could have on the bottom, and that's why I didn't get another gold today,"Vonn said. "But no matter what happens now, I'm going home really happy."
The other American contender, Julia Mancuso, skied first through many more shadows than the medalists (who made their runs with the sun higher), and her 1:21.50 left her in ninth.
It was the 21st medal of these Winter Games for the United States.
Apolo Anton Ohno has achieved almost every goal imaginable in his short-track speedskating career. Tonight the former longtime Colorado Springs resident has a chance to make history at a higher level.
Ohno skates in the men's 1,000 meters at the 2010 Winter Olympics, with three grueling rounds starting with the quarterfinals in the late afternoon and ending with the finale tonight. He faces stern opposition, particularly from Korean and Canadian skaters, but he's definitely a medal contender.
And if Ohno can make the top three, he'll stand alone as the most decorated U.S. Winter Olympic athlete in history. His six career medals, including a silver here in the men's 1,500 meters, put him in a tie for first place with former long-track speedskater Bonnie Blair. But Ohno hopes to leave Vancouver with either seven or eight, depending on the outcome tonight and later in the men's 3,000-meter relay.
Also tonight, U.S. skater Katherine Reutter tries for a medal in her specialty, the women's short-track 1,500 meters.
This morning, the women's skiers are back on Whistler Mountain for their Super-G, with Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso on a hot streak and looking for more success.
Entering the day, the United States has 20 medals (six gold, six silver, eight bronze) with Germany next at 13.
When three-time Canadian figure skating champion Patrick Chan came to Colorado Springs in December, he was dealing with a calf injury and losing his coach, which threatened to sidetrack the 19-year-old's Olympic season.
Two months later, Chan made a few mistakes in his performances at the Winter Games, but his fifth-place finish puts him in excellent position going into the skating's 2010 World Championships in Torino, Italy. Not to mention the next four years.
"I'm definitely going back to Colorado, at least through Worlds," Chan told me late Thursday night after his long program in Pacific Coliseum. "I think I've learned a lot from this. It's only my first Olympics, and there could be more for me."
He's "disappointed" with his skating in Vancouver, but not with the outcome.
One of his new coaches, Christy Krall of Colorado Springs, thinks Chan could be much better in another month at Worlds. She's also hoping he'll decide to continue training at the World Arena Ice Hall, where he's already bonded with many of the skaters. Chan also told media here that he really likes being able to train at the 6,000-foot altitude in the Springs.
"Patrick has come a long way in the last three month, but he had no time for it all to jell before coming here," says Krall, a former Olympian herself. "When he came to us, we went to work on everything: his injury, nutrition, (off-ice) training. He's a lot more solid now. He should even be able to have a quad (jump) for Worlds."
Krall, who actually started helping Chan with video analysis of his jumps and moves last spring, sees unlimited potential for him. After all, the top two Olympic finishers, Evan Lysacek and Evgeni Plushenko, aren't expected to stay in the competitive ranks. And Chan already has a silver medal, losing only to Lysacek, at the 2009 Worlds.