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 10 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 super-G portion of the super combined event could not keep US Alpine team members from placing in the top 10. 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 super-G 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 six of the seven US medals. Jallen entered the run fresh from winning bronze in the super-G 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. Sit-skier 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 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 cross-country 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, which seemed to come down to 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 7-6 win over Finland. The team, now 2-4, needed to win or else lose a spot in the semi-finals on Saturday. The win means they are in a three-way 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 tie-breaker 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. 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.
The Wheelchair Sports Federation is a nonprofit organization that provides opportunities for wheelchair-using adults and youth to play sports recreationally and competitively.