TIME olympics

Ukraine Will Compete in Sochi Paralymics

Flag bearer Mykhaylo Tkachenko of Ukraine attends the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, March 07 2014. Julian Stratenschulte—EPA

Despite Russia's military forces moving into Crimea, Ukraine has decided to participate in the Winter Paralympics in Sochi just hours before the opening ceremonies and had earlier consulted with athletes

Ukraine has decided it will participate in the Winter Paralympics in Sochi even as Russian troops have taken over the Crimea region of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Paralympic Committee announced its decision just hours before the opening ceremonies of the games Friday, the Associated Press reports. It consulted with the athletes before opting not to boycott the competition amid a tense geopolitical standoff with Russia.

“I don’t remember a situation when the organizing country during a Paralympics started an intervention on the territory of a country taking part. I don’t know what to extent the team can focus on the result now,” the the AP quoted Valeriy Sushkevich, president of the National Paralympic Committee of Ukraine, saying to the R-Sport agency.

Sushkevich added that he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday to ask for peace during the games. Putin reportedly listened to his case, though he did not guarantee a truce. Sushkevich said Ukraine’s team will leave if the military conflict escalates further.

The International Paralympic Committee has asked Russia to recognize the U.N.’s Olympic Truce, which appeals for ceasefire during the Olympic games. The Ukrainian athletes chanted “peace to Ukraine” during the flag-raising ceremony in Sochi on Thursday night. The incident is now being investigated as a possible breach of Olympic rules that ban political protest.


TIME Africa

Ex-Girlfriend Says ‘Blade Runner’ Had a Temper and Loved His Gun

Samantha Taylor says Oscar Pistorius was trigger happy and quick to get angry

Oscar Pistorius’ ex-girlfriend said Friday that the Olympian double-amputee known as “Blade Runner” had a temper and was known to fire his gun when angry.

Samantha Taylor testified at Pistorius’ murder trial in South Africa that he was quick to get angry, would frequently scream at her and her family members, and cheated on her multiple times, including with Reeva Steenkamp, the woman he’s accused of murdering. She also said he never went anywhere without his pistol, and recalled at least two occasions when he had drawn or fired his gun out of anger, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Taylor said Pistorius had once fired his pistol out of an open sunroof because he was angry that a policeman had stopped the car and touched the gun. Taylor also described another incident when Pistorius had pulled a gun on a car that was following theirs.

Taylor’s testimony also rebutted one of the defense’s key arguments, that Pistorius sounded like a woman when he screamed. “When he screamed, it sounded like a man,” she said.

Pistorius killed his girlfriend, Steenkamp, very early on Valentine’s Day morning last year. His defense team says the Olympian athlete shot into the bathroom thinking he was shooting an intruder and protecting Steenkamp. The prosecution says Pistorius shot Steenkamp during an argument that was heard by multiple neighbors.

Taylor said that Pistorius did occasionally wake up and think there were intruders in the house, but she said he always woke her up when that happened.


TIME Appreciation

Awesome Dad Builds Fully Functioning Backyard Luge Track For His Kids

A little slice of Sochi, right here in the USA

Wanting to bring some of the excitement of the Winter Olympics to his very own backyard, Long Island dad Jay Venini built a luge track for his kids to enjoy. It’s very patriotic and his kids are super into it. Regular old sledding will never be the same again now that we know this exists.

TIME olympics

U.K. Ministers to Boycott Paralympics in Sochi

Sept. 6, 2012 Paralympics - London Great Britain's Sophie Kamlish and Japan's Saki Takakuwa after a race in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London A Steven Paston / Action Images / ZUMAPRESS.com

David Cameron says it would be "wrong" to send officials to Russia at this time of tension over Ukraine

Not even a feel good event like the Paralympics can bridge the widening chasm between Russia and the West. British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted Monday that U.K. ministers would steer clear of the event so long as the host country, Russia, was mobilizing thousands of troops across Ukraine.

“Because of the serious situation in Ukraine,” the tweet read, “@WilliamJHague & I believe it would be wrong for UK Ministers to attend the Sochi Paralympics.”

The New York Times reports that Prince Edward, a patron of the British Paralympic Association, has accordingly canceled a planned visit to Russia “on the advice of the government.”

[New York Times]

TIME olympics

Sochi Bids Farewell to the 2014 Winter Olympics

Athletes, performers and flags mark the pageantry of the closing ceremony

Athletes, performers and flags mark the pageantry of the closing ceremony

TIME olympics

Russia Pokes Fun At Itself By Recreating Olympic Rings Malfunction

Performers recreate the fifth Olympic ring that didn't open in the opening ceremony during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.
Performers recreate the fifth Olympic ring that didn't open in the opening ceremony during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. David J. Phillip—AP

In the closing ceremonies, things come full circle

Remember that (kind of hilarious) malfunctionduring the Sochi opening ceremonies when five giant snowflakes transformed into an incomplete set of glowing Olympic rings? Well, the Russians remember it too, and at Sunday’s closing ceremonies, decided to poke fun at themselves for the technical flub.

Following a choreographed routine, performers sporting some exceptionally sparkly get-ups moved into formation to create a giant set of Olympic rings — but deliberately left one ring as a small, disconnected circle. This, of course, was a winking nod to that original fail:

2014 Winter Olympic Games - Season 2014
Paul Drinkwater / NBC / Getty Images

Good job, Russia, for proving you’ve got a sense of humor.

TIME olympics

Must-See Photos from Sochi Olympics: Day 18

Bobsledding, cross-country skiing and more on Sochi's 18th day

TIME olympics

U.S. Fourth In Sochi Gold Medal Count

Total of 28 overall medals is nine fewer than won in Vancouver in 2010

Correction appended 10:16pm

The competition at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi came to a close Sunday, leaving behind a spate of disappointing defeats and surprising victories in its snow-sprayed wake.

With 13 golds and 33 overall medals, the host nation Russia emerged as the decisive victor of the games. Norway, the skiing king, won 11 gold medals and 26 overall, followed by Canada at 10 gold medals and 25 overall.

It was not a good year for the United States, who placed fourth in gold medals, with nine, and 28 overall medals—nine fewer than the last winter games in Vancouver.

Team USA’s most prominent American Olympians—Shaun White, Bode Miller, Shani Davis—won a total of one bronze medal between them. The Americans won no medals in speedskating for the first time since 1984 and no individual figure skating medals for the first time since 1936. The men’s hockey team, the inheritors of the Miracle on Ice legacy, was outscored by a total of 6-0 in the medal rounds.

(PHOTOS: See the closing ceremonies)

[USA Today]

An earlier version of this article had an inaccurate headline suggesting the U.S. had placed fourth in overall medal count, not in gold medal count.

TIME olympics

An Olympic First: The Judges Got It Right in Figure Skating

First-placed Russia's Adelina Sotnikova (C) shakes hands with second-placed South Korea's Kim Yuna (L) as third-placed Italy's Carolina Kostner looks on, on the podium after the figure skating women's free skating program.
First-placed Russia's Adelina Sotnikova (C) shakes hands with second-placed South Korea's Kim Yuna (L) as third-placed Italy's Carolina Kostner looks on, on the podium after the figure skating women's free skating program. Issei Kato—Reuters

A day after Russia’s first gold in ladies’ figure skating, judging controversy swirls again

When Adelina Sotnikova took to the ice in the ladies final on Thursday, she knew she was in a good position to win a medal. Second after the short program, Sotnikova was only 0.28 points behind the reigning Olympic champion, Korea’s Yuna Kim – practically a tie. And after her teammate, overnight sensation and crowd favorite Yulia Lipnitskaya finally faltered, falling on a jump and stumbling on another, Sotnikova hoped she had a chance to make history as her country’s first gold medalist in the event.

And at the judges table, some might argue, she might have had help. Sitting on the panel was one Ukrainian judge who had been banned for a year for attempting to manipulate the ice dance results in the 1998 Games in Nagano, and a Russian who is married to the head of the Russian skating federation.

Did the two judges collude and push Sotnikova over Kim? Nobody will know, since the judging is anonymous – something the U.S. skating federation wants to change at the upcoming International Skating Union gathering in the summer. At any rate, if both of the judges gave the Russian exceptionally high scores, one was thrown out as the high and low marks are discarded and the remaining seven of the nine numbers are averaged.

And yes, the judges still likely play with the components score, the one that incorporates their perception of how well the skater executed jumps and spins and other technical elements, as well as their overall choreography and skating skills – how fast they moved across the ice, how well they covered the entire ice surface, and other such intangibles.

But the new scoring system, in place since the 2006 Olympics, also makes it harder to manipulate the technical score. Each element is given a point value, and rather than earning points to a perfect 6.0, as skaters in the previous system did, skaters start out with a base value reflecting their planned elements and then start losing points if they don’t execute them, or if they don’t perform them well.

It was on the technical side where Sotnikova outpaced Kim – the Russian completed seven triple jumps to Kim’s six, and in the three-jump combination both skaters did, Sotnikova pulled off a triple-double-double, while Kim only did a double-double-double. On that element alone, Sotnikova outscored Kim by 0.51. Before they even hit the ice, the base value of Sotnikova’s program was already higher than Kim’s.

It wasn’t just the judges, but the caller, too who saw Sotnikova’s technical superiority. The caller evaluates each element and determines how many rotations a skater completes on jumps, and more importantly, what level of difficulty things such as spins and step sequences deserve. Sotnikova was awarded the highest level, a 4, for all of her spin and step patterns, while Kim earned a 3 on one of hers – slow spins or failure to complete enough revolutions can earn lower levels. Based on what they executed on the ice, Sotnikova’s base value for her program was nearly four points higher than Kim’s.

So Kim set herself up for an uphill battle; she would have had to perform a truly Herculean feat of skating to make up the difference and amass more points than the Russian in the components section; while still the precise and elegant skater she was in 2010, Kim seemed to lack the power and speed that set her apart and earned her record-setting scores back then. And the judges didn’t miss that – they awarded both skaters nearly equal component scores.

Under the new system, it’s a numbers game – and the person with the highest starting program often has the best chance, as long as they stand up and deliver. And Sotnikova did, performing the skate of her life with the hometown crowd behind her. If Kim had wanted to repeat as champion, she should have brought in bigger technical elements to set herself apart. Even the Queen herself admitted that perhaps the passion wasn’t there this time. “The motivation was a problem, I think,” she said to NBC.

While it’s always possible that collusion may have taken place — this is figure skating, after all — it looks like the judge might have gotten it right this time.

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