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.

TIME olympics

“Loser Keeps Bieber” Billboard Raises Stakes in Canada-USA Olympic Hockey Game

USA! USA! USA!

If you did not have an opinion about the outcome of the United States vs Canada Olympic men’s hockey game, this sign may get you to start rooting for Team USA.

A Chicago billboard has raised the stakes for Friday’s semi-final match considerably. Not only is a spot in the gold-medal game on the line, but now it appears that national ownership of the seemingly self-destructing pop star Justin Bieber is also on the line.

The billboard, owned by Command Transportation, a freight broker, features Bieber, the 19-year-old Canadian pop star who resides in the U.S., squeezed between Canadian hockey star Jonathan Toews and U.S. player Patrick Kane, teammates on the NHL’s Blackhawks, but rivals on the Olympic ice. Under the stars sits the caption ‘Loser Keeps Bieber’.

In addition to the billboard-based bet, the hashtag #LoserKeepsBieber was trending on Twitter on Thursday, with hockey-heads on both sides of the border seemingly willing to ante up Bieber before the highly-anticipated matchup.

Perhaps now is an appropriate time to add: Go Team USA.

MORE: Why We Can’t Just Deport Bieber

MORE: Oh Baby, Baby, Baby: The Dramatic Downward Spiral of Justin Bieber

TIME olympics

These Are The Most Unusual Pictures From Sochi

Sometimes the Winter Olympics can look a little odd.

TIME olympics

Must-See Photos From Sochi Olympics: Day 16

Men's semifinal hockey match, women's slalom and more.

TIME olympics

Under Armour and U.S. Speedskating Extend Partnership

Even though the team still hasn't won a medal in Sochi, they're not blaming the suits

Seriously, the suits aren’t the problem.

U.S. Speedskating has extended its partnership with Under Armour for another eight years, the two announced Friday, despite initial questions as to whether Under Armour’s uniforms were the reason the U.S. speedskating team still has not managed to medal during the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

“U.S. Speedskating remains extremely grateful to have such a supportive partner and to have access to Under Armour’s game-changing innovations, which have helped propel countless athletes around the world to championship results,” U.S. Speedskating Mike Plant said in a statement. “The length and scope of this agreement send a strong signal about Under Armour’s commitment to our athletes and will best position them to skate with confidence and a competitive edge well into the future.”

While the U.S. team won four medals in the 2010 Winter Olympics, the team has flopped at Sochi this year. After the first six events (in which no American had even placed in the top five), the Americans switched their suits from the newer model to the older model they wore at the World Cup in Japan. Both versions were manufactured by Under Armour.

Under Armour and U.S. Speedskating had touted the new suits as the fastest in the sport prior to the Olympics. The new suits had venting in the back that was meant to help skaters cut through the air. The U.S. speedskaters purposely didn’t wear the new suits at the World Cup so as not to give away their secret weapon, according to ESPN. But some sports reporters have suggested that the new vents were actually creating drag, keeping the U.S. skaters from the podium.

The switch back hasn’t seemed to help. Even after the change, no U.S. athlete has managed to win a medal in speedskating.

TIME animals

Olympic Luger’s Video of ‘Wolf’ Outside of Her Room Is Reportedly a Jimmy Kimmel Hoax

And the video has gone viral

Updated at 4:15 p.m.: Various news outlets are reporting that the United States Luge Association has confirmed to Inside Edition that the video is a stunt organized by Jimmy Kimmel and that the athlete, Kate Hansen, will Skype with the late-night host.

Athletes and journalists at the Winter Olympics in Sochi have been complaining about everything from two toilets in a bathroom stall to discolored water. Now, Kate Hansen of the U.S. Olympic Luge team has uploaded a YouTube video of “an intruder” outside of her dorm room. “I’m pretty sure this is a wolf wandering my hall in Sochi,” she writes on her YouTube page. The video has gone viral, racking up more than 700,000 views and more than 2,000 retweets.

But because Sochi is known for stray dogs roaming the streets, it is more likely Hansen saw one of those.

PHOTOS: The Stray Dogs of Sochi

TIME olympics

Russia Has Its First Ladies Figure Skating Gold Medalist, But It’s Not Lipnitskaya

Russia's gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova celebrates during the Women's Figure Skating Flower Ceremony at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 20, 2014.
Russia's gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova celebrates during the Women's Figure Skating Flower Ceremony at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 20, 2014. Yuri Kadobnov—AFP/Getty Images

Two entire countries held their breath as the ladies figure skating event unfolded at the Iceberg Palace

Four years ago, it was Yuna Kim who carried the weight of a nation’s hopes on her slim shoulders as she glided onto Olympic ice for the first time, hoping to bring back Korea’s first ever gold in the event. She had set a record in the short program, and her country expected nothing less with her free skate.

At the Iceberg Skating Palace on Thursday, it was Yulia Lipnitskaya who felt that enormous burden. Except Lipnitskaya was skating in her homeland, and it must have felt as if she were dragging an entire entourage with her onto the ice. With the highly touted Russian men’s hockey team out of the medal rounds for the third straight Olympic Games, all Russian hopes had shifted to the 15-year old who captured her nation’s heart with two inspired skates in the inaugural team event. Four minutes, and the overnight sensation ended up in fifth place after a fall and a stumble on a jump.

MORE: Russian Figure Skater Takes a Fall, and More Surprises from the Ladies Short Program

Rising to the top, however, was her teammate Adelina Sotnikova, 17, the Russian national champion who has in recent weeks been overshadowed by her younger counterpart. Sotnikova proved that experience does pay when she outscored the 15-year old in the short program to finish second, and skated a nearly flawless free routine to capture gold. Sotniknova becomes the first Olympic ladies’ champion from Russia.

Kim’s bid to become only the second ladies’ skater to repeat as back-to-back Olympic champion—Katarina Witt of Germany was the first after winning in 1984 and 1988—fell short under the new scoring system. Not the same technical skater she was four years ago, Kim’s program wasn’t packed with the difficulty needed to outscore Sotnikova; Kim performed six triple jumps to Sotnikova’s seven, and did not receive the highest level of difficulty for other elements as the Russian did. Aware that the competition was tougher this time around, Kim downplayed her chances coming into Sochi, calling this Games a “vacation” compared to the preparations she made before Vancouver. In the past four years, Kim left her coach, Brian Orser in Canada and returned to Korea to train with her childhood mentor, and has balanced the demands of being a national star—in Seoul, she appears in ads for everything from coffee to electronics and cosmetics—with training.

Italy’s Carolina Kostner, a veteran of the sport who was competing in her third Games, skated a mesmerizing routine to Bolero to redeem her disappointing history at the Olympics. In 2006, a favorite for a medal in her home country, she placed ninth, and in 2010 finished 16th after disastrous performances. At 27, Kostner finally has an Olympic medal, a bronze.

Even more unforgettable, however, was the performance from Japan’s Mao Asada, the Olympic silver medalist from 2010, who skated from 16th place after the short program. Asada is the only woman attempting the triple axel—she made history four years ago by landing two in her free program—but fell on that jump during the short program. The mistake cost her valuable points—just a day later, she landed a defiant triple axel and skated a flawless free program but couldn’t make up the points to reach the podium.

American Gracie Gold fell on her triple flip and failed to live up her name—this time—finishing fourth, but established herself as a contender in another four years.

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