Day 11 of the Sochi Winter Games concluded with the United States and the Netherlands tied for the top spot in their overall medal counts – the US winning awards at the halfpipe and the snowboard cross course and the Dutch team buoyed by its continued dominance of speedskating events.
The Olympic debut of the men’s halfpipe skiing brought Team USA its sixth gold medal of the Games, with a win by David Wise in a final made more challenging by fog, sleet, and slushy snow. The silver went to Canada’s Mike Riddle and the bronze to France’s Kevin Rolland.
And in the men's snowboarding cross final, Olympic newcomer Alex Deibold secured the third spot, placing behind Pierre Vaultier of France and Nikolay Olyunin of Russia.
The 10,000-meter men’s speedskating race ended with yet another Dutch sweep of the podium – an outcome that has long ceased to surprise the audience, writes the Monitor’s Olympic correspondent Mark Sappenfield. The Netherlands has established itself as the virtually uncontested leader at the speedskating rink, winning a staggering 19 Olympic medals (of the 20 total they’ve notched at these Games so far).
The Dutch dominance of the speedskating field is bordering on incredible, Sappenfield writes:
For the record, as of the conclusion of the 10,000 meters Tuesday, no nation had more medals than the Dutch speedskaters (who were tied with the entire countries of Russia and the US). The Dutch have swept the podium four times in nine races. Only the women's 5,000 meters and the men's and women's team pursuit remains.
The good news is that the Dutch seem a lock for three more medals – Irene Wust in the 5,000 and, of course, the two team events. The bad news is that they can't enter more than one team, which will drive down their medal rate terribly. Right now, they're averaging 2.1 medals per event.
Quite unlike speedkating, where the Dutch tend to outperform competition by a huge margin, another race on Tuesday — the men's 15K biathlon — was decided by a difference of hundredths of a second between Norway (Emil Hegle Svendsen) and France (Martin Fourcade). After a neck-and-neck dash to the finish, Graabak was awarded the victory in a photo finish and Fourcade settled for silver.
The women's giant slalom competition produced an all-star group of medalists, with the gold going to Slovenia’s Tina Maze, the World Cup champion who also placed first in women’s downhill race last week (which concluded in a historic first-place tie). Austria’s Anna Fenninger, who won gold at the super-G two days ago, placed second. The bronze went to Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, who won this event at the previous Winter Games.
Team USA's breakout star, Mikaela Shiffrin, finished fifth – a result she took in stride, Sappenfield reports:
“[My result] is something I accept,” she said.... “Four girls skied better than I did, and I’m really excited to analyze their skiing and analyze mine.” …
“I wanted a gold, but I think this was meant to happen,” she said. “It’s something I’m going to learn from, and next Olympics I go to I’m sure as heck not getting fifth.”
And in women's 3,000-meter short-track relay, the South Korean team surged past China to claim the first place. China was later disqualified when judges decided that one of its team members was impeding other racers on the track, allowing Canada to claim the silver and Italy the bronze. This result is a dramatic and ironic reversal of South Korea's and China's fortunes from the previous Winter Games in Vancouver, where the South Koreans were disqualified for the same reason as China today after finishing first, and China was awarded the gold.