USA Gets Good Results In Bad Weather
Written by Brian Rank
SOCHI, Russia – In a day fraught with harsh weather on the slopes and penalties on the sled hockey ice, team USA still managed to keep its future at the games alive. Wheelchair curling came back with a win to keep their medal hopes alive, Alpine and nordic skiing athletes stayed in the top ten and sled hockey put up a tough fight, despite a losing the game, and still will vie for a medal in the playoffs.
Below are recaps from the day’s events.
The gloomy weather that postponed the SuperG portion of the super combined event could not keep US alpine team members from placing in the top ten. Stephanie Jallen and Danelle Umstead earned third place in the standing slalom event and Allison Jones posted the fifth place time. Laurie Stephens came in fourth in the women’s sitting slalom The SuperG runs will take place on Friday for those who completed the slalom half of the event.
This is another link in a chain of strong runs from the alpine team which earned 6 of the 7 US medals. Jallen entered the run fresh from winning bronze in the SuperG on Monday. “Yesterday really helped my confidence if anything, because I was completely unsure how this week was going to turn out for me, being my first Games and all,” she said. I’m trying not to put everything that happened yesterday in my head. I just want to make it a clean slate and try to do it again. I’m sitting in a good position right now, and I’m just glad I get the opportunity to race again and complete the combined race.”
US biathletes battled fog and freezing temperatures as they aimed for top positions. Sitskier Andy Soule placed fifth in the 12.5 kilometer race, the best of the day from team USA. Soule has placed in the top of of all his nordic events this week. “Overall, I think I have had three of the best days of racing ever in these Games,” Soule said. Dan Conossen and Sean Halsted finished 11th and 12th respectively.
Oksana Masters finished eighth in the women’s 12 km, another high finish after winning the silver in the women’s 12 km crosscountry race.
In possibly the biggest upset of the Games so far, Russia beat the defending Paralympic champions, team USA, 2-1 in their final preliminary game. The loss, that seemed to come downto penalty calls, still leaves team USA with a winning 2-1 record and a guaranteed medal as the playoffs begin Thursday. "I can't criticize my team at all," head coach Jeff Sauer said. "I thought we played as well as we can play. We put a lot of pressure on. I thought we dominated play for the majority of the game and just a couple of bad breaks went against us and that was the difference in the game."
USA curling kept themselves in medal territory with a 76 win over Finland. The team, now 24 needed to win or else lose a spot in the semifinals on Saturday. The win means they are in a threeway tie for seventh place "It's a big boost for us. We knew we had to win and have to win the rest of them," David Palmer said. " ... We all knew we had the ability to do it. We just had to go out there and prove it. I think we all pretty much executed good today – much better than in our previous games." The nine game round robin ends on Thursday, but if there is a tie, the tiebreaker games will take place on Friday.
About the Author: Brian Rank is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team reporting on events at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Seven Americans Compete in Biathlon Events, Soule Finished Fifth
Written by Eric Gissendanner
SOCHI, Russia – Seven Americans took part in across three biathlon competitions at the Laura Cross Country Ski and Biathlon Center on Tuesday. The men’s 12.5K sitting event saw five competitors, with one skier in the men’s 12.5K standing and one racer in the women’s 10K sitting.
The event consisted of five 2.5K loops, with four shooting sessions. At the shooting station, athletes fire five shots per round. Competitors in the standing and sitting categories use standard air rifles, while those in the visually impaired events use an electronic blind shooting system that allows the athlete to aim at the target according to a sound heard through a headset. During each shooting round, athletes have five shots to hit five targets placed 10 meters (33 feet) away. In the men’s 12.5K sitting event, Andrew Soule placed fifth among four other United States competitors, clocking in at 37:04. Daniel Cnossen (National Sports Center for the Disabled) came in 11th at 39:01, while Sean Halstead (Rathdrum Ski Club) finished one spot behind in 39:32. Jeremy Wagner (National Center for the Disabled) skied to 16th place in 40:51, while AugustoJose Perez (Central CrossCountry Ski Team) rounded out the competition with a 19th place posting in 48:40. Soule was perfect in his shots, the only American to do so. He gained ground throughout the race, recording a sixth best time after 7.5K before passing Maksym Yarovyi from the Ukraine. Soule was also the highest placing nonRussian athlete. The host nation saw four of competitors take the top four spots.
For the men’s 12.5K standing, Omar Bermejo (Maine Winter Sports Center/Paralympic Sport Club) was the lone American to compete as he finished 17th in 37:22. Bermejo was third off the starting line and finished sandwiched between Poland’s Witold Skupien and Finland’s Juha Harkonen. In the women’s 10K sitting portion, Oksana Masters (National Sports Center for the Disabled) posted an eighth place finish in 40:22. Masters was the only American woman to compete in all of Tuesday’s events. The 10K event consisted of five 2K loops with four shooting sessions.
All biathlon events enjoy Wednesday and Thursday off before rounding out six final competitions on Friday.
Hometown David Overcomes Trading Goliath
Written by Mike Doyle
SOCHI, Russia – Team USA had been marching right along with decisive wins against Italy (USA 5 ITA 1) and Korea (USA 3 KOR 0) while the host country Russia had started out slower with a tough overtime loss to South Korea and gained some momentum with a solid win against the Italian boys. Attendance for this grudge match between countries was the largest so far with 5,765 ticketed onlookers. US vs. Russia rivalries in the able bodied sport go back to USA Olympic “underdog” victories in 1960 (Squaw Valley CA) and 1980 (Lake Placid NY or “MiricleOnIce”); the latter pitted United Soviet Socialist Republic Red Army players against American college hockey players. Sled rivalries are less historical as the United States has had a national team since the early 1990s and the Russian program had only been seriously established since the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games were awarded to Russia. 2014 Team USA Sled Hockey players have the edge in speed, endurance and puck handling while the Russian squad has 4,000 of the 5,765 attendees squarely in their corner.
There was a nervous tension in the air, but little feeling out process as the US squad dominated play during the first half of the first period; literally skating circles around their Russian counterparts. The Americans had difficulty setting up the power play after #11 Alexey Amosov clutched on to one of the Americans in front of his net at the 6:45 mark. Shot total at that point was USA 9 and Russia 1. Two thirds through the first period Team USA got themselves into penalty trouble when gentleman and team captain #9 Andy Yohe (Bettendorf IA) was somehow accused of “teeing”. To make matters worse 44seconds later #28 Paul Schaus was called for charging when he put a big shoulder into a white sweater defenseman in the attacking corner. The Americans playing two men down, all but killed of the first infraction. With just 4seconds left in the first minor, the Russian captain Dmitrii Lisov fed a pass to Ivan Kuznetsov at the halfboards. Ivan in turn feathered a pass across the high slot for a picture perfect one-timer which threaded its way into the top left corner; one of the few shots that stellar netminder #34 Steve Cash (Overland MO) couldn’t stop. Shot totals for period one were USA 11 to RUS 4.
The beginning of the second period brought more troubles for the hard working American squad. The Russians scored a second tally after a tough bounce off a USA back checker’s stick or bucket and into his gaping net. Both team incurred a single minor penalty without consequence during the second stanza. The boisterous crowd and the two goal deficit never held down the Americans as they continued to power through the Russian defense without results. The well decorated American head coach Jeff Sauer never showed any sign of concern as hisplayers were businesslike and hardworking despite the scoring shortfall. You could see concern however on some of the players faces during closeups before puck drops.
After the Russians burned off a minor for hooking, Adam Page #20 (Lancaster NY) halved the US deficit; scoring a nice goal off a rebound with some help from #15 Nikko Landeros (Johnstown CO) and #9 Andy Yohe. Two additional successful scoring chances were “called back” for hand pass and crease violation respectively. Team USA ends up second in their division behind Russia and will be playing Canada on Thursday. Winner of the USA vs. CAN semifinal match on Thursday will move on to play the winner of the Norway vs. Russia semifinal in the Gold Medal match on Saturday; losers of both semifinal contests vie for third place in the Bronze Medal contest also on Saturday.
US Curling Eyes Medal Contention versus Finland
Written by Matt Gephart
SOCHI, Russia – The US has found itself between a rock and a hard place, or should I say, a stone and a hard place, after defeating Finland by one point Tuesday during the Round Robin Session eight. Coming into the days session, the US Team had found themselves sitting near the bottom of the standings, and needing to win out to keep in the contention for a medal. After losing the hammer for one of the few times here in the Paralympics at Sochi, the US team needed to play it smart and aggressively if they wanted a chance to get to the finals.
Finland started out the session with the hammer but was unable to capitalize as the US Team took a 10 lead without the hammer. Going into the second end, Finland looked to be gathering themselves andplaying stronger than they were with the hammer, scoring one point and tying the session at one. Then the US began to turn on the heat, scoring consecutive ends, including a three point fourth end after the Finland skip left his final shot shy of the house allowing the US to score, putting the board at 5-1 in favor of the Americans.
With a considerable lead, things were looking good for the US Team going into the fifth end although nerves got the best of them, allowing Finland to score four points and tie the session on multiple miscues. All knotted up going into the sixth end, the US Team found themselves with the hammer yet again and within a tight spot all tied at five. This end went down to the wire where USA Skip Patrick McDonald needed a takeout on the final throw to score a point, which he made successfully taking the lead and putting the score at 6-5.
The nail biting went all the way to the final end after the US was able to steal one more point from the Fin's to make the score 7-5 going into the eighth and final end, where the Finland team was only able to score one stone and leave the session in favor of the US Team 76. This allowed the US to stay in medal contention, going up against Team China in the morning session, and Team Sweden in the evening session on Wednesday.
About the Author: Matt Gephart is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team reporting on events at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The all volunteer media team consists of professional writers and photographers who are donating their time and expertise to showcase the athleticism of disabled U.S. athletes and highlight their world class achievements in adaptive sports. Some members of the media team are former Paralympians and wheelchair users/amputees.