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Olympic day of politics and power on the slopes PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, February 18, 2014 9:00 PM

Associated Press

SOCHI, Russia — The politics got a little hotter. The slopes got a lot slushier.

On a day when the mountain courses seemed better suited for the crawl or butterfly but posed no obstacle to Tina Maze, the Sochi Olympics took a more overt political turn.

Two members of the punk group Pussy Riot — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina — were among nine people detained Tuesday while walking in downtown Sochi. All were later released and no charges were filed.

The two group members burst from the police station wearing trademark ski masks — one pink, one blue. Police said they were questioned about a theft at the hotel where they were staying.

Pussy Riot has become an international flashpoint for those who contend Vladimir Putin’s government has exceeded its authority in dealing with an array of issues, notably human and gay rights.

“We are constantly surrounded by people … who are shadowing us, following our every move and looking for any excuse to detain us,” Tolokonnikova said after her release.

At the Olympic Park, the Russian hockey team looked plenty vulnerable in its opening hockey game in the elimination round, defeating Norway 4-0 in a game that — despite the scoreline — was anything but a rout.

No questions, however, about the Dutch speedskaters. Jorrit Bergsma won the men’s 10,000 meters to lead another sweep of the medals for the Netherlands.

Seven gold medals were on offer on Day 12 and among the winners were Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway in biathlon, Pierre Vaultier of France in snowboardcross, South Korea in short track relay and Joergen Graabak of Norway in Nordic combined.


SKIING: Neither rain nor snow could keep Maze from her appointed rounds. The Slovenian skier captured her second gold medal of these games by winning the giant slalom. Maze was in full command, leading all the way and finishing 0.07 seconds ahead of Anna Fenninger of Austria. Defending champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany was the bronze medalist and teen sensation Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. was fifth in her Olympic debut. Last week, Maze tied for the gold medal in the downhill in glorious sunshine. On Tuesday, the sun seemed lost in the hills. Maze marked the moment in the spirit of Michael Phelps, simulating a breaststroke in the icy slop.

“We are all wet, so I said, ‘Why not’?” Maze recalled. “It’s been a great day for me.”


HOCKEY: Russia is playing under immense pressure in Sochi. It did not look strong in the preliminary round and that was the case against Norway, which hasn’t won an Olympic hockey game since its home Lillehammer Games in 1994. The game was scoreless after one period and 2-0 after two. Russia got two goals from Alexander Radulov and advanced to the quarterfinals against Finland today. Latvia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia also advanced to the quarterfinals.


SPEEDSKATING: The podium has become a second home for the Dutch, with the walls painted orange. Bergsma set an Olympic record with his time of 12 minutes, 44.45 seconds. He was followed by Sven Kramer and Bob de Jong, sending the Dutch to their fourth podium sweep at this venue and giving them a total of 19 speedskating medals. Kramer had to settle for silver after botching certain victory in this race in Vancouver four years ago with a baffling mistake in a lane change.


BIATHLON: Svendsen edged Martin Fourcade of France to win gold in the men’s 15-kilometer mass start biathlon. They both finished in 42 minutes, 29.1 seconds, with Svendsen’s ski crossing the line a fraction ahead. This was Svendsen’s fourth career Olympic medal but first in Sochi. Ondrej Moravec of Czech Republic won bronze for his second medal of the games.


SNOWBOARD: Vaultier held off Nikolay Olyunin of Russia to win the gold medal in men’s snowboardcross on a chopped-up course slowed by drizzle. Alex Deibold of the U.S., a wax technician for the Americans in Vancouver four years ago, took the bronze. Italy’s Omar Visintin was removed by a stretcher after crashing in the semifinals. The event was pushed back a day because of heavy fog.


SHORT TRACK: South Korea won the 3,000-meter relay, passing China on the last lap to take the lead. Four years ago in Vancouver, the South Koreans finished first but were disqualified and China got the gold. Italy took the bronze, giving Arianna Fontana her third medal in Sochi.


NORDIC COMBINED: Norway delivered a 1-2 finish in the Nordic combined large hill. Graabak broke away from a 5-man group with about 100 meters left in the cross-country race, finishing six-tenths of a second ahead of Magnus Moan. Fabian Riessle of Germany won the bronze.


FREESTYLE SKIING: Skiing through sleet and snow, David Wise ended up with gold in men’s ski halfpipe. The American scored a 92 on his first run, which held up as the weather worsened. Mike Riddle won silver for Canada and Kevin Rolland took bronze for France.


BOBSLED: Lauryn Williams and Elana Meyers in USA-1 lead at the halfway point of the bobsled. Williams, a 2-time medalist in track at the Summer Games, and Meyers made two trips down the Sanki Sliding Center track in 1 minute, 54.89 seconds to open a 0.23-second lead over Canada’s Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse. USA-2’s Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans are in third. American track star Lolo Jones is in 11th with teammate Jazmine Fenlator in USA-3.


CURLING: Britain reached the semifinals in men’s curling by beating Norway 6-5 in a tiebreaker. The game came down to the final shot and British skip David Murdoch delivered. The British will face Sweden in the semifinals today while Canada plays China.


One more ride for Jasey Jay Anderson: Jasey Jay Anderson has not yet taught his daughters how to ride a snowboard.

“Terrible, terrible father,” he says sheepishly.

Nobody was calling him that four years ago when he held those daughters, Jora and Jy, in his arms as he stood atop the rain-soaked podium, tears streaming down his face and sang “Oh Canada” with the gold medal hanging around his neck.

That was his moment — one of the most poignant snapshots from the Vancouver Games and one that convinced him he had done everything he could do in snowboarding, that he would never pass through the Olympics again.

Turns out, he was mistaken.

During a long, painful rehabilitation from a herniated disc in his neck in 2011, Anderson rediscovered his passion — not only for snowboarding, but for snowboards themselves.

He bought the equipment, opened a shop. He produces about 200 custom boards a year — hardly enough to make Burton or K2 take notice but enough to keep things interesting for himself.

When he takes to the mountain today to defend his title in parallel giant slalom, he’ll be riding a board that he made.

“The boards are riding fantastic but I haven’t had a result in four years,” said Anderson, who has been ranked in the 20s and 30s for most of that time. “It’s hard to say. I could come out and do really well. Or I could get last.”

He has pretty much already run that gamut at the Olympics — finishing as low as 29th (Salt Lake City) and as high as first (Vancouver).

At 38, Anderson will be the oldest competitor in the field and also the only snowboarder to line up at every Olympics since the event was introduced in 1998.

In his previous trips, there were big expectations. He’s a man with 233 World Cup starts and 27 victories. The only missing piece of his resume was the Olympic gold.

He figured he had checked the final box when he won the 2010 title. He figured it was a good time to call it quits. This is, after all, a man who had a black-diamond run named after him at his home mountain, Mont Tremblant, in Quebec.

“I did what I had to do in 2010,” he said. “This has all been a bonus. I started a snowboard business. This is something I’ve dreamed of my whole career. Being able to make a run, then say, ‘I need to change this and that’ and the next morning, do it, and get on that board. At home, I’d go for three runs and I’d just be laughing the whole time, thinking, I can’t believe I can do this.”

Very soon, he’ll ride with Jora and Jy, who are 7 and 8.

They’ve already learned how to ski.

Like so many parents who compete in their sports at the highest level, Anderson trod lightly with his daughters when it came to putting them on snowboards.

“I wanted them to tell me they wanted to do it,” he added. “Now, they’re begging me.”

Yes, it will happen.

Before that, though, Anderson gets one more chance to see how his boards really ride.


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