U.S. speedskaters switching to old suits
Seattle Times news services
SOCHI, Russia — U.S. speedskaters will resume competition Saturday in an older racing suit from Under Armour, abandoning the apparel maker’s much-hyped high-tech Mach 39 suit that debuted at these Games.
“For the remainder of the Winter Olympic Games, Team USA speedskaters will be wearing the previously approved Under Armour skin suits used during recent World Cup competition,” Mike Plant of US Speedskating announced Friday.
Pressure to make the change built this week in the wake of the team’s disastrous performance thus far. No U.S. speedskater has medaled, including the world’s top-ranked skaters, Shani Davis and Heather Richardson. The suit became the leading suspect for the poor showing.
“We don’t think (the suits) are having any impact, but at the same time we want to make sure when our athletes get on that start line they have confidence and are ready to go,” said US Speedskating chief Ted Morris. “That’s priority No. 1.”
Pikus-Pace of U.S. takes silver in women’s skeleton
Lizzy Yarnold of Britain won gold in women’s skeleton, beating rival Noelle Pikus-Pace of the United States by a full second. It was Britain’s first gold medal in Sochi.
Winning the silver allowed Pikus-Pace to reach her goal of closing out her career with an Olympic medal. Elena Nikitina of Russia won the bronze.
An Olympic medal had eluded Noelle Pikus-Pace in the cruelest of ways. In 2005, a runaway bobsled struck her on a Canadian track, shattering her leg and causing her to miss the Turin Games in 2006. Five years later, she missed a medal by one-tenth of a second in Vancouver.
So, her jubilation was understandable Friday after she finished second in the women’s skeleton event. When the journey has been as heartbreaking and mettle-testing as Pikus-Pace’s, silver can look as good as gold.
“This is better than gold for me,” she said, through a mixture of tears and laughter. “I’m trying to take it in and I just can’t.”
Japan teen a surprise with figure-skating gold
Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan held off the presumptive favorite, Patrick Chan of Canada, to earn the gold medal in men’s figure skating after both skaters stumbled during Friday’s long program.
Hanyu overcame a pair of falls to become the first Asian man to win an Olympic title in men’s figure skating. It capped a remarkable journey for Hanyu, whose training was disrupted in 2011 by the Japanese earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.
The 19-year-old Hanyu claimed the men’s title one day after Russian great Evgeni Plushenko withdrew from the Olympics because of injury.
World silver medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan took bronze.
Switzerland’s Viletta stuns super-combined field
Sandro Viletta of Switzerland stunned the favorites to win the gold medal in the super-combined competition. Viletta finished the downhill and slalom runs in a combined time of 2 minutes, 45.20 seconds. Ivica Kostelic of Croatia earned the silver and Christof Innerhofer of Italy got bronze.
In 100 career World Cup races, Viletta has accumulated all of one victory. But after having only the 14th-best time in the morning’s downhill leg, he was second-best in the afternoon’s slalom.
In other events
• In men’s hockey, defending gold medalist Canada topped Austria 6-0 in the preliminary rounds of men’s hockey. Also, Sweden beat Switzerland 1-0, the Czech Republic downed Latvia 4-2 and Finland defeated Norway 6-1.
The United States meets Russia in a much anticipated Group A match Saturday.
• Skier Alla Tsuper of Belarus pulled off a stunning upset to win gold in women’s aerials to beat a field that included defending Olympic champion Lydia Lassila of Australia and two-time Olympic medalist Li Nina of China, who finished fourth.
The 34-year-old Tsuper was the only one of the top four to execute a clean landing in the Super Final. Xu Mengtao of China won silver and Lassila, the gold medalist in Vancouver, took the bronze.