PYEONGCHANG, South Korea: America’s women broke an ice hockey gold medal drought stretching back 20 years on Thursday as a Russian curler admitted doping and was stripped of bronze at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
American skier Mikaela Shiffrin was denied gold in the women’s combined, while veteran teammate Lindsey Vonn disappointingly bombed out of the same event — her final Olympic race.
In the ice hockey, USA edged fierce rivals Canada 3-2 on penalties, celebrating ecstatically when goaltender Maddie Rooney saved the decisive attempt from Canada’s Meghan Agosta.
America’s hockey win snapped a 24-game Olympic winning streak for Canada, the four-time defending champions. It also edged USA 12-11 ahead over their major rivals in Olympic and world titles.
But away from competition, Russia’s Alexander Krushelnitsky was stripped of his mixed doubles curling bronze medal after testing positive for meldonium, an endurance booster.
The 25-year-old was one of 168 Russian athletes who passed rigorous testing to compete as neutrals in Pyeongchang, after Russia were banned over a major doping scandal.
“The athlete has admitted the anti-doping rule violation; he is disqualified from the mixed doubles curling event,” the Court of Arbitration for Sport said in a statement.
Krushelnitsky’s case comes as the International Olympic Committee ponder whether to lift Russia’s suspension in time to fly their flag at Sunday’s closing ceremony.
In skiing, Shiffrin was restricted to second place in the women’s combined, meaning she ends the Games with one gold and one silver — a far cry from the potential five titles she had targeted.
“I came into these Olympics knowing I could be a medal threat in multiple disciplines. I didn’t even know how many I would ski,” the 22-year-old said.
After the gold in the giant slalom, I was really hopeful and positive. Then I had a tougher day in the slalom (when as defending champion, she lost her title) but it still feels good.”
Vonn, 33 and competing at her last Olympics, led the combined after the downhill race, but she only lasted a couple of gates in the slalom before skiing out.
‘It means everything’
There was a shock in the men’s slalom as the favourites Marcel Hirscher and Henrik Kristoffersen both imploded, allowing Sweden’s Andre Myhrer to become the event’s oldest champion at 35 years and 42 days.
Austria’s Hirscher, seeking his third gold medal in Pyeongchang, crashed out in the morning run and Kristoffersen of Norway followed suit in the afternoon, leaving the stunned Myhrer to top the podium.
“It means everything. I’ve been training my whole life for a moment like this,” said the Swede.
In the men’s ski halfpipe, American defending champion David Wise kept his nerve despite crashing out of his first two runs to seal a gripping victory on the final attempt.
Wise, 27, twice lost a ski on his first two runs but he recovered to notch up a scintillating 97.2 on his final run and lead a USA one-two ahead of Alex Ferreira.
“I’m honestly just in disbelief right now,” Wise said.
“Winning, losing, whatever. Just the fact that I landed that run in the moment when it needed to happen, on that third run, just felt so good.”
Later on Thursday, South Korean teenager Choi Min-jeong will go for her third gold of the Games in the women’s 1,000m as the short track speed skating competition concludes, with three titles up for grabs.