(Miss something? Get caught up on all of Thursday’s action right here.)
Gu soared to freeskiing gold in the women’s halfpipe, giving her medals in all three of her events, and making her one of the biggest stars of these Olympics.
Elsewhere, Team USA lost to Canada in the bronze medal match in men’s curling, as the defending gold medalists will not reach the podium in Beijing.
And in figure skating, the pairs short program begins Friday night (5:30 a.m. ET), even though much of the attention is still focused on the stunning developments from the women’s free skate as gold-medal favorite Kamila Valieva stumbled throughout her performance and finished fourth.
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MEDAL COUNT: How every country has performed at the Beijing Games
ZHANGJIAKOU, China — Official Olympics merchandise of Bing Dwen Dwen, the Beijing Games’ mascot, is hard enough to come by. But a panda hat? That might be tougher.
So three-time Olympic medalist Eileen Gu was a little hesitant to say where she scored one as she spoke to the media after winning gold in the halfpipe on Friday.
(It was one of her sponsors, Anta, who also made organizers’ uniforms for the Games.)
But Gu was more excited about why she likes it.
“You know how Bing Dwen Dwen is very rare right now and people can’t find it? So this is like the ultimate collectable, so I kind of had to flex because how sick is this?,” Gu said. “And also because I feel like, it’s the essence of freeskiing. This sport is so unlike any other because it’s so creative. It’s so unique. It’s so expressive.”
In addition to winning gold in halfpipe and big air here, to go with her silver in slopestyle, Gu is a model who has appeared on the covers of the Chinese versions of InStyle, Vogue and Elle.
“Especially for me coming from the fashion industry as well and just being able to have my own style and have fun with it,” she said. “I’m a kid. Let me wear my panda hat. It’s so awesome. It’s warm and it’s fun.”
— Rachel Axon
BEIJING — After winning the gold four years ago in Pyeongchang, the U.S. men’s curling team will come home from these Olympics empty-handed.
The Americans lost the bronze medal match to Canada, 8-5, and simply got out-played in crucial moments in the second half of the game. In both the semifinals against Great Britain and the bronze medal game, skipper John Shuster continually got put in tough positions and could not manufacture shots to get out of trouble.
It eventually caught up with the U.S., which led 5-4 after six ends but always felt as if it was playing from behind.
“They’re going to give you maybe five or six cracks to get them during the course of the game, and if you give them any more cracks than that, they’re just a great curling team,” Shuster said. “Hats off to them. We’re a great curling team, too. That’s just how our game works.”
The door was cracked open slightly for the U.S. to take control in the seventh until Canadian skipper Brad Gushue pulled off a tough double takeout, eliminating a steal possibility for the U.S. after Shuster had put him in a difficult position.
Before the eighth end, Canada requested to mop the ice, as Gushue felt that a piece of debris had affected one of his shots. Typically, the ice is only mopped after the fifth end. The Americans did not object to the request, though they could have.
“There’s nothing against the rules, and it would be weirder if we said no,” said U.S. team member Matt Hamilton. “At the end of the day, this is a gentleman’s game and if they felt like they were a little uncomfortable with the ice, I don’t want an excuse that we beat them because the ice was bad. I’d rather beat them by making more shots. If they ask to sweep the ice go ahead it doesn’t bother me at all.”
It’s impossible to know how it impacted play, but the Americans’ hopes of winning a medal certainly turned worse after that.
The Americans momentarily breathed a sigh of relief in the eighth end when Gushue threw a bit too heavy with the hammer, missing an opportunity for three points. Still, getting two gave Canada a 6-5 lead, putting the Americans in the same situation they faced in the semifinals against Great Britain.
At that point, Shuster’s ideal game plan was to either take the lead with two in the ninth or play for a blank to retain the hammer for the 10th and final end.
Instead, Canada set up the board perfectly, luring Shuster into a tremendously difficult double-takeout attempt. He could not execute it, giving Canada a steal of two and an 8-5 lead. Though the U.S. did not concede, a comeback was almost impossible and Canada closed out the game easily in the 10th.
Shuster, playing in his fifth Olympics, was hoping to add a third medal to his collection to go along with the bronze from 2006. Instead, the U.S. will have to settle for fourth place.
“For me, it’s disappointing to get fourth,” Shuster said. “But I told myself before we came here, if we prepared well, played hard, played great, had great attitudes and enjoyed being here with our teammates, whatever happens was going to be just fine. We very, very much accomplished those goals. It probably makes (the experience) a little more satisfying than I’d have expected with a fourth-place finish.”
— Dan Wolken
ZHANGJIAKOU, China — For the first time since freeskiing was added to the Olympic program, an American woman did not medal in the halfpipe.
Though three qualified to the final at Genting Snow Park on Friday, none finished higher than Olympic newcomer Hanna Faulhaber in sixth.
“I’m really disappointed I couldn’t have skied the way I wanted to,” said Brita Sigourney, the bronze medalist in Pyeongchang four years ago. “It’s hard not to have expectations, and it’s hard when you’re not able to display what you want to when it matters.”
Sigourney finished 10th in her third, and final, Games. Carly Margulies finished 11th after having troubles with her skis on her first two runs.
Besides Sigourney, the Americans have a gold medal from 2014 when Maddie Bowman reached the top of the podium in the event’s debut.
Eileen Gu, an American-born teen who competes for her mother’s native China, won gold to claim her third freeskiing medal of these Games. The 18-year-old also won big air in its Olympic debut and took silver in slopestyle.
Canadians Cassie Sharpe and Rachael Karker claimed silver and bronze, respectively.
Faulhaber made her first Games at 17 and came into them with a silver at X Games last month. She struggled throughout practice before the competition, fighting windy conditions to land a run.
“I think I just cracked. It was tough,” Faulhaber said. “I think I put quite a bit of pressure on myself going in. Just to be able to put something down in finals made me so happy, made me have fun again.”
Margulies, meanwhile, was competing in her first Games after missing more than two years of competition with knee injuries.
The brake on her ski popped off on her first run, and she had a problem with her back-up ski on her second run and didn’t finish it. On her third run, she landed a right 900 on her last hit, the first time she’d ever done that trick in competition.
“I am so happy,” she said. “Even though it was kind of sloppy, I’m really happy with myself for putting (the right 900) down.”
The American women did not earn a medal here in any of the three freeskiing events.
— Rachel Axon
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – Ryan Regez led a 1-2 finish by Switzerland in the Olympic skicross final on Friday at Genting Snow Park.
Regez grabbed the lead early and never relinquished it along a course filled with bumps, jumps and rolling terrain. He raised his arms in triumph shortly after crossing the finish line.
His teammate, 36-year-old Alex Fiva, finished with the silver medal and Russian athlete Sergey Ridzik grabbed the bronze.
As a kid, Regez always thought his future was in Alpine skiing, more specifically the downhill. When that didn’t pan out, he started an apprenticeship as a structural draftsman before discovering skicross.
It paid off in gold.
In the small final, Italian skicross racer Simone Deromedis won the heat with a little bit of flair. He was coming off the last jump and did the splits before crossing the finish line.
— Associated Press
BEIJING — International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said Friday that he was “very disturbed” by Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva’s disastrous performance the night before, while also ripping members of her inner circle who did not visibly support her.
In his first comments on the Valieva story, which he called “very sad,” Bach said he watched Thursday night’s long program on television and was struck by the pressure that Valieva, 15, must have been feeling. He said he struggled to watch her struggle through her program and repeatedly try to compose herself.
Bach also ripped Valieva’s “closest entourage,” in an apparent nod to her controversial coach, Eteri Tutberidze, and the “tremendous coldness” she showed toward her skater when she came off the ice.
“It was chilling to see this, rather than giving her comfort, rather than to try to help her,” he said.
Bach said the Valieva scenario has also raised questions about whether there should be a minimum age limit for Olympic competition. He said discussions over the issue have already begun in the IOC’s executive board.
— Tom Schad
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – To hear the International Olympic Committee tell it, gender equity is just around the corner.
Ushered in by the organization’s addition of mixed team events over the past three Winter Olympics, the most gender equal Games are happening here in Beijing, organizers declare.
Despite that, the Games are hardly equal and contrary to the IOC’s proclamations, the mixed team events have done little to make them so.
A USA TODAY Sports analysis of mixed team events in these Games found that rather than improve the place of women at the Olympics, those mixed team competitions draw few new athletes in and favor men both in participation and medals.
Rather than helping women catch up to the men, they leave them behind in the name of equity.
— Rachel Axon
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – It was ambitious to set out for three Olympic medals, a logistical challenge Eileen Gu has pursued with little rest over the past two weeks.
Lofty as it was, the goal was realistic for the 18-year-old who has been one of the most dominant athletes her sport has seen. That expectation became coronation on Friday as Gu won the third medal, and second gold.
Gu, competing for her mother’s native China, took the lead after landing back-to-back corked 900s a first run that featured the biggest amplitude of the day, and then extended her lead on a similar second run, scoring 95.25.
Canadians Cassie Sharpe and Rachael Karker won silver and bronze, respectively. All three American women in the event – Hanna Faulhaber, Brita Sigourney and Carly Marguiles – finished off the podium.
— Rachel Axon
At the end of what was a difficult week for the Russian Olympic Committee women’s ice skating team, a silver medal wasn’t enough to keep emotions from spilling out of Alexandra Trusova.
Moments after the results of the competition were revealed and after Trusova saw she won silver behind her teammate Anna Shcherbakova, broadcast cameras captured Trusova crying in the post-competition “kiss-and-cry” area.
“Everyone has a medal, everyone has, but I don’t!” Trusova said in Russian during the broadcast, according to a translation by USA TODAY video producer Anastasiia Riddle. “I hate it all. I’m never going to … never …”
Trusova did not finish her sentence and didn’t say explicitly that she would never skate again, as some translations have indicated. When asked after the competition about her comments and whether they meant she would never skate again, Trusova told reporters, “We’ll see.”
“I am not happy with the result,” she said. “There is no happiness.”
— Lorenzo Reyes
BEIJING – Alysa Liu ensured that she will be the top-finishing American woman at the Beijing Olympics after another relatively smooth program.
With an overall score of 208.95, Liu took over first place at the conclusion of her program, ahead of compatriots Mariah Bell (202.30) and Karen Chen (179.93). There were still seven skaters remaining after Liu and she ended up finishing seventh overall.
Liu, 16, is the youngest member of Team USA in Beijing. Skating to Tchaikovsky’s “Violin Concerto in D op. 35” by Joshua Bell, she attempted and cleanly landed a planned triple axel in her long program Thursday, but it appeared to be underrotated.
– Tom Schad
BEIJING – Mariah Bell’s first Olympics ended on a high note.
The 25-year-old, and oldest U.S. women’s figure skater since 1928, put together a clean free skate the judges ruled a 136.2 to temporarily move her into first place. However, there were 11 more skaters remaining.
Skating to “Hallelujah” by k.d. lang, Bell’s first half went smoothly and her more difficult back end of the program was well-executed. Both triple lutzes went according to plan for the 2021 U.S. national champion.
Coach Adam Rippon had his hands in the air for those big jumps and greeted her with a warm embrace as she stepped off the ice.
– Chris Bumbaca
BEIJING – A mistake-filled Olympics for Karen Chen has mercifully come to end.
Chen almost made it through her free skate without falling but took a hard spill toward the end on a triple loop, the same move she fell on in the short program two nights ago. Earlier in the skate, her hand touched the ground on the first triple loop, a jump she expressed confidence in Tuesday night – and described as a cornerstone of her performance.
Chen’s score of 197.93 temporarily placed her in fifth. She will not medal.
The 2018 Olympian also fell during the short program of the team competition, in which the United States still took silver, but stayed upright in the long program.
Chen, who finished fourth at the world championships ahead of the last two Olympics, skated to “Butterfly Lovers” by Takako Nishizaki. The 22-year-old is expected to return to Cornell University.
– Chris Bumbaca
BEIJING – It was heartbreaking, all of it. A young woman, just 15, having tested positive for a banned substance, enduring a shocking meltdown on the grandest stage in her sport, the women’s figure skating long program at the Olympic Games.
At the end of an excruciating week of controversy, anger and uncertainty surrounding Russia’s Kamila Valieva, one of the most unsettling and stunning moments in Olympic history awaited.
The overwhelming gold medal favorite fell apart so completely that she dropped to fourth place in the final standings. It was difficult to watch, a young woman succumbing totally to the pressure of the moment, the pressure that the adults who coach and surround her forced on her.
Never lost in this terrible doping saga was the fact that this was a 15-year-old in the worldwide spotlight. And then that young woman – that girl – came apart in front of our eyes. She never should have been allowed to skate; that’s been said thousands of times the past week. Now we can be sure of it: because of the positive drug test, certainly, and because of what the pressure has done to her.
— Christine Brennan
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BEIJING — Chris Plys went to his first Winter Olympic Games as an alternate on the U.S. men’s curling team 12 years ago and has a tattoo of the Olympic rings to show for it.
Since then, Plys has covered himself in tattoos. “I have a couple that, I mean, I’m not losing sleep over it,” he said, “but I’m like, ‘Ah, I wish I had that spot for something new.’”
However, it’s the moments imprinted on his psyche that Plys really wanted to bump into oblivion over the last decade.
He narrowly lost some national titles and came up short in his quest to make another Olympic team since that Olympic debut in Vancouver.
And then when the door finally opened for Plys to return to the Olympic ice in 2022? “It just felt all the more sweet,” he said.
Plys and Team USA fell to Great Britain on Thursday in the semifinals, so they’ll play for bronze on Friday against Canada.
— Karen Rosen
BEIJING – Brian Boitano and Ashley Wagner have been spending a lot of time together during the Olympics at NBC Sports’ studios in Connecticut, co-hosting the Peacock show “Olympic Ice.”
They were made for that role. Figure skating has been their life: Boitano is the 1988 Olympic men’s gold medalist, Wagner the 2014 Olympic team bronze medalist. Both won multiple national championships.
They have definitely seen the best of their sport. Thursday, they saw the worst of it.
“I’m still thinking about what happened. This can be a brutal sport at times but this took it to a whole other level. I don’t think I’ve seen anything as difficult to deal with, especially on the shoulders of a young girl (Kamila Valieva). To have to deal with this kind of pressure, it’s probably the hardest situation I’ve ever seen, with an outcome that is going to change her life and even make it more terrible,” Boitano texted just hours after the event.
“I can’t watch this,” Wagner wrote on Twitter. “They all look devastated. This just shows that these children are put in a position that is so wildly unhealthy and harmful to them. I’m sick to my stomach.”
— Christine Brennan
BEIJING – The outrage over figure skating phenom Kamila Valieva’s presence in Beijing has centered largely on Russia’s blatant, and continued, contempt for the norms and values of the Olympics. Russia technically doesn’t even have a team here, punishment – weak as it is – for its efforts to rig the system with a state-sponsored doping program.
But the anger over the International Olympic Committee’s decision not to hold the medals ceremony for the team figure skating event is just as fierce. Why should the American and Japanese athletes be punished, robbed of their chance to stand on a podium during the actual Games, because of Russia’s wrongdoing?
USA TODAY’s Nancy Armour spoke with two athletes who experienced a similar loss four years ago. They found it’s impossible to replace a memory that never existed, one more thing stolen by the cheaters.
The results could have been better on Thursday at the Beijing Olympics for the United States, but Team USA did add two more medals to its overall total.
The U.S. women’s hockey team fell to Canada and will take home the silver medal after winning gold four years ago. In addition, speedskater Brittany Bowe won the bronze medal in the women’s 1,000 meters. That brings the United States’ total to 21 medals, tied with Germany for third overall.
Norway leads the way with 13 gold medals and 28 total. Germany is second with 10 golds and the U.S. is third with eight.