Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

Follow All The Winter Olympics Action Feb. 6-24 on NBC

Sochi Day 7: Dry Spell for U.S. Ski Racers and Skaters

Despite disappointing finishes in Alpine skiing and speedskating, the U.S. remains tied for first overall in the medal race.

By Jon Schuppe
|  Friday, Feb 14, 2014  |  Updated 4:48 PM EDT
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Team USA: Medal Moments

AP

U.S. skier Bode Miller failed to win a medal in both the downhill and the super combined.

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There are two ways to look at the performances of U.S. athletes in Sochi so far.

On one hand, the Winter Olympics have been disappointing for some of the Americans' most touted teams, and many of its most decorated athletes.

On the other hand, America is still doing really well overall — thanks to solid outings by athletes who have much less name recognition.

That dichotomy became apparent on day 7 of the Games.

Here are some of the key developments.

Bode and Ted falter …

It may be sunny and warm in Sochi, but a cloud hung over the U.S. Alpine ski team Friday.

Two of its stars, Bode Miller and Ted Ligety, failed to reach the podium in the two-part super combined on Friday, continuing a painful drought on the men’s side.

The 55-degree temperature turned the snow into mush, which may have affected their performances. But then again, everyone else was skiing more or less under the same conditions.

Miller, the defending Olympic champion in the super combined, which pairs downhill with slalom, botched his first run and ended up in sixth place.

Ligety, who won gold in Torino in 2006, did even worse. He slogged through the slalom and finished 12th.

“To put it simply, I choked, for sure,” Ligety said.

He will ski in his signature event, the giant slalom, next week.

Through Friday, America had just one Alpine medal in Sochi, from Julia Mancuso, who won bronze in the women’s super combined.

The Alpine team won eight medals in Vancouver four years ago.

…and so do the U.S. speedskaters

A similar drop-off has occurred in speedskating, where the U.S. team won four medals in Vancouver, seven in Torino and eight in Salt Lake City.

In Sochi so far, it has none.

That’s zero medals with half of the speedskating competition completed. Not even from Shani Davis, the four-time medalist who placed 24th in the men’s 500m and 8th in the 1000m, his signature event in which he was defending Olympic champion.

Some critics have speculated that the blame rests at least a little with the Americans’ newly designed suits.

But Dutch skater Michel Mulder quipped: “It could also be that they were just outclassed here.”

There are still five speedskating events remaining.

Americans still manage a medals tie

The U.S. won one medal in Sochi on Friday, a silver in the women's skeleton for Noelle Pikus-Pace. It was the Americans' first medal in that event since 2002.

And so the team's total haul inched up to 13, with four golds, three silvers and six bronzes.

That ties Norway, the traditional Winter Games power, which was shut out on Friday.

The Netherlands (12 medals; four golds, three silvers) is now in third.

Switzerland was the day’s big mover, taking gold in the men’s super combined and men’s 15km classic cross-country ski competition and silver in the women’s 15km individual biathlon.

Japan's skating first

Japan is no Winter Olympics power, but it was celebrating on Friday.

Yuzuru Hanyu, 19, became the first Asian man to win Olympic gold when he edged out Patrick Chan of Canada, a three-time world champion.

Chan's loss, meanwhile, lends more weight to what many see as the "Canadian curse" that has kept a storied figure skating program from ever winning men's gold.

And while no Americans reached the podium, one was smiling broadly.

Jason Brown, the dark horse 19-year-old who made a surprising run at bronze, slipped up and ended up in 9th. Brown, ever enthusiastic, said he was just happy to have come in the top 10.

America's other male skater, Jeremy Abbott, came in 12th.

Olympic Valentine's

Stick a bunch of fit, attractive and single athletes in an Olympic Village for a week and hormones will rage.

Add Valentine's Day, and you get an added dose of social media romance-seeking.

Many have picked up on the #OlympicPickupLines hashtag created by "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon, offering some of their own. Figure skater Ashley Wagner posted her own Valentine's Day card that followers could sent to their sweethearts.

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