Alexander Bolshunov (ROC) wins skiathlon gold
Bolshunov is so far clear, he’s got time to high-five team mates, collect a flag emblazoned with the Russian Olympic Committee logo and wave it around as he swishes over the finish line.
His compatriot, Denis Spitsov, takes silver at 1m 11sec behind; Finland’s Iivo Niskanen is the bronze medallist, and there are no Norwegians on the podium after a clean sweep in 2018.
Hello everyone, Niall McVeigh here, picking up the baton and skiing up the hill. ROC’s Alexander Bolshunov is cruising to gold, a minute clear of Denis Spitsov (also ROC) with 25km gone. Finland’s Iivo Niskanen is in third.
As I prepare to pass the baton, and as the Russian Bolshunov makes mincemeat of the men’s cross country field, a reminder of the highlight of this session – Zoi Sadowski-Synnott becoming New Zealand’s first ever Winter Olympics gold medalist.
One minute, they were on the first plane home. Fast forward an hour or two, and they’ve recorded Australia’s first ever Olympic Curling victory.
Men’s Cross-Country Skiathlon
Well, I talked up the Norwegians and naturally, they’ve barely been sighted. As the field transitions to the freestyle component of the race, Finland’s Iivo Niskanen and Russia’s Alex Bolshunov are careering ahead. The Russian took a tumble in the opening kilometre, but barely bat an eyelid. I’ve shed about half a stone just watching these guys.
Curling Mixed Doubles – Australia v Switzerland
Scores are tied! 6 apiece. It’s a ringa-ding-dinga, following a roller coaster of an afternoon for the Australians.
Curling – Mixed Doubles
After five ends, the Swiss have extended their lead by three points. The Aussies now trail 3-6.
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle
As expected, no-one came close to 17-year-old Su Yiming, who leads from Canada’s Mark McMorris and American Sean Fitzsimons, with defending champion Redmond Gerard qualifying in fifth. As we mentioned, Australia’s Matt Cox was tracking nicely, but failed to nail his landing.
As we wait the starting gun in the men’s cross country, a reminder that this is the first Olympics to use almost 100% artificial snow, deploying more than 100 snow generators and 300 snow-cannons working flat out to cover the slopes. The hosts, not always convincingly, have vowed to deliver a sustainable and eco-friendly Games. “Snowmaking at some of the Beijing 2022 venues is anything but detrimental to the environment,” a spokesperson said.
Incidentally, it’s minus ten degrees Celsius. They’ll earn their medals, these fellas.
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle
Australia’s Matt Cox has come a cropper. He was travelling well in his second and final run in the Qualifiers, but came unstuck on the final landing. Rotten luck for the 23 year old.
On the topic of Curling, the British pair Bruce and Jen are zeroing in on a medal. They overcame a tardy start to finish all over the Chinese pair.
Men’s Downhill – Delayed
Just to recap, the men’s downhill will not take place today. The last thing you want as a downhill skier is to go hurtling down the mountain with winds up to 40 mph. As the Sopranos Paulie Walnuts told his mother: “Safety First”.
Curling – Mixed Doubles
The Aussies are back from the brink, and back on the rink. They’re up 2-0 on the Swiss pair after the first end.
Men’s 30km Skiathlon Preview
This event is similar to the biathlon, except the competitors are not bearing arms. It’s one for the lactic acid masochists. Just for a change, it’s an event dominated by Norway, which can prove challenging for live bloggers endeavouring to transcribe Nordic, heavily hyphenated names. Their 2018 champion Simen Hegstad-Kruger recently tested positive for COVID, so he’s out. In his absence, compatriot Johannes Hoesflot-Klabeo is the hottest of favourites, virtually unbeatable on the world cup circuit, and a chance to bring home multiple medals. Australia has two competitors, both from Melbourne – Phillip Bellingham and Olympic debutant Seve de Campo.
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle Qualifying
The tearaway leader is just 17-years-old. China’s Su Yiming unleashed a blistering run, “an absolute shredder – a shred shed beast”, according to the commentators. To the untrained eye, the majority of competitors and broadcasters are remarkably relaxed about proceedings. We’re still waiting on Australia’s Matt Cox. “He’ll be frothin’” we’re assured.
I’m not going to tiptoe around this. I don’t know a lot about figure skating. I know a lot about Australian rules football and rescue greyhounds, and a reasonable amount about Russian history and centre-left Australian politics. But there’s a gaping hole in my figure skating knowledge. I’ve never been figure skating. I don’t hang in figure skating circles. I don’t dress like a figure skater. So I’m going to defer to the experts here, as they wrap up Day 2 of the Teams Event. It’s a tight tussle for the medals, with the ROC narrowly on top of the United States and Japan.
Late Minute Reprieve for Aussie Curlers
Hours after being booted out of the Olympics, Australia’s curling team in the mixed doubles has been given a late reprieve and will compete this afternoon. It follows an urgent meeting of the Medical Expert Panel in Beijing. They take on the Swiss team shortly.
Happy Waitangi Day!
It’s New Zealand’s national day, and they now have their first Winter Olympics gold medal. In this correspondent’s opinion, the New Zealand national anthem is the best of the bunch, so it’s always worth rooting for the Kiwis. I know I’m deviating from the winter script here, but this, as the locals would say, is a choice rendition.
Men’s Downhill – Delayed!
The skies are blue, but the winds are wreaking havoc, and what many see as the blue ribband event of the Games has been delayed until tomorrow.
Men’s Snowboard Slopestyle Qualifying
This course has been described as “arguably the most technically advanced, thoughtfully designed and awe-inspiring slopestyle course ever constructed.” That’s good enough for me. And it’s good enough for Aussie Matt Cox, who’s just watched his compatriot win the bronze medal on the said course. “It’s dreamy snow, he said in the lead up. But the winds are getting nastier.This is his first Olympics, and he’s up shortly. Each athlete gets two qualifying runs, with a dozen spots in the final on offer.
The day so far …
With the downhill on hold, the only action at the moment is in the men’s snowboard slopestyle qualifying.
Let’s look at what’s happened so far:
Snowboarding, women’s slopestyle: New Zealand, USA and Australia break through
In the 2011 Women’s World Cup (soccer/football), New Zealand’s women got their first point with two late goals against Mexico. Zoi Sadowski-Synnott is just as clutch. Her gargantuan last two jumps put her over the top and lifted her past the USA’s Julia Marino for gold. Australia’s Tess Coady held off Canada’s Laurie Blouin for bronze. Two-time defending champion Jamie Anderson just never put it together.
ROC puts stamp on figure skating team event
For the USA to have any shot at gold in the team event, they had to outscore the ROC in the men’s free skate. It didn’t happen. You might as well hand the gold to Not Russia at this point. But the USA has virtually clinched a medal and will duel Japan for silver tomorrow.
Team GB up, Australia out in curling
The hard-luck story of the Games so far is Australia’s mixed doubles curling team, which really should’ve come up with at least one win by this point but instead has gone winless. They’ll stay that way, departing the Olympics after a positive Covid test.
Team GB got its expected win over China, though it went down to the last two shots. The USA did not get its expected win over the Czech Republic and will need some help to make the playoffs.
Men’s slopestyle qualifying will go on for a while, though defending gold medalist Red Gerard can surely start sketching out his plans for the final, comfortably outscoring the field so far.
We’re still hoping to see the men’s downhill today. We’ll definitely see the men’s cross-county skiathlon and more curling over the next few hours.
With that, I’ll pass the baton to Jonathan Horn, reporting from the country with mixed fortunes today, Australia. See you in a couple of days.
Team event figure skating standings
After two of three days, or five of eight programs …
1. Not Russia 45
2. USA 42
3. Japan 39
4. Canada 30
5. China 29
You can probably hand the ROC 10 points in the women’s skate. The most drama on the final day will be the battle for silver between the USA and Japan. Canada and China are all but mathematically eliminated from the podium places — it would take some calamitous Japanese performances to get them into the mix.
Underrotations cost Vincent Zhou (USA)
It’s hard to top Zhou’s ambition. He put five quads in this free skate. The first landed stiffly. The second turned into a single. He recovered nicely from that point, but the judges kept reviewing all his quads to see if he really got around all four times. In snowboarding terms, he was going for 1440s and landing something closer to a 1420.
The reviews knock his technical score down to 85.24, behind Kondratyuk. And there was no way he was catching the ROC skater on the program components that measure the artistry and transitions.
Total score: 171.44. He was never going to catch Kagiyama, but turning a quad into a single is leaving a lot of points out there.
Yuma Kagiyama (JPN) sticks the landings
So nearly flawless. So deceptively effortless.
Artistically, it’s meh. Technically, he had one minor bobble, but the rest of the landings looked so routine.
Score: 208.94. The bar keeps getting raised.
I’m going to quibble, though. His score for “interpretation of the music” was higher than Kondratyuk’s. No way.
Still, it’s a textbook performance. Your move, Vincent Zhou.
Delayed again, naturally
But really, the wind isn’t that bad, they say.
Mark Kondratyuk (Not Russia), superstar
The ROC’s men aren’t quite at the level of their women, not that anyone is. But I for one enjoyed Kondratyuk’s program, set to music from Jesus Christ Superstar. His technical score is higher than Jin’s by a good margin: 94.85 to 78.26.
And artistically? That was at another level. He brought the music to life. If he seemed slightly out of control at times, well, that just added an extra bit of drama.
Finally, pounding the ice with your fist after finishing a programme either means you nailed it or you really want to break your hand.
Total score is 181.65, blowing away Jin’s 155.04.
And the men are the weak link in the ROC’s team. Good luck beating that.
Next up: Japan’s Yuma Kagiyama.
Jin Boyang (CHN) skates
The two-time world bronze medalist, known for barrier-breaking sequences of quads, has a strong start on a quad lutz but fades toward the end, stumbling on some landings and putting his hand on the ice to avoid falling.
“Artistry has never come easily or naturally to him,” says NBC’s Tara Lipinski, who goes on to say it’s improved over time. His spins and steps are indeed pretty nice, but if you’re looking for silky-smooth skating, this isn’t your guy. Those who argue that the focus on jumping has overshadowed the beauty of figure skating would have some evidence here. Some of his combinations were impressive feats of athleticism but brought his skating to a screeching halt.
But the music, a classical guitar solo seguing into the Bolero, is a winner.
His 155.04 is, of course, far ahead of the unfortunate Sadovsky.