Friday, February 16, 2018

XXIII Olympic Winter Games, Pyeongchang 2018 (Day 8)

1. Germany 9 gold, 2 silver, 4 bronze
2. Norway 6, 8, 5
3. Netherlands 6, 5, 2
4. United States 5, 1, 2
5. Canada 4, 5, 4
6. Sweden 4, 2, 0
7. France 3, 2, 2
8. Austria 3, 1, 4
9. Italy 2, 1, 3
10. South Korea 2, 0, 1
11. Switzerland 1, 3, 1
12. Belarus 1, 0, 0
13. Japan 0, 4, 3
14. China 0, 3, 1
15. Czech Republic 0, 2, 2
16. Australia 0, 2, 1
17. Slovakia 0, 2, 0
18. Slovenia 0, 1, 0
19. Finland 0, 0, 3
T20. Great Britain 0, 0, 1
T20. Kazakhstan 0, 0, 1
T20. Spain 0, 0, 1

-- XXIII Olympic Winter Games, Pyeongchang 2018 (Day 5)


  1. I'm not going to look until late this afternoon, when we've got our Saturday tape delays done here and Pyeongchang Sunday competition hasn't yet started, but I will be surprised if Sweden isn't at the top of the men's curling standings. I'm seen Sweden in parts of probably four of their games, and it seems like every time I've seen their skip, Niklas Edin, do some obviously amazing shot. Sweden is on NBC Sports Network against Canada right now (tape-delayed). In the sixth end, Edin zipped his yellow rock through a narrow opening between two red Canadian guards and hard enough into another red in the center that it zipped off the back end of the big target house (but at an angle to the left so that it didn't hit Sweden's yellow rock in the outer ring. That led to a steal of two in the end for Sweden and 4-2 lead.

  2. On the next sheet of ice, we've got Norway and Switzherland, 4-4, in the eighth end. That match is on tape delay on USA Network. In wide shots, you can see that Great Britain is playing South Korea on the next sheet over (but you can't swee the score).

  3. And I swear, in the background on both channels, you can hear the yelling of John Shuster, Team USA against someone.

    I've watched two of the Shuster rink's games almost in full, one where they were just obliterated by Sweden and one where they kept falling behind and coming back and falling behind and coming back against someone I don't quite remember (Denmark, I think). They lost that one, too.

  4. Canada won men's curling gold in Sochi 2014; Great Britain and Sweden, silver and bronze.

  5. We're getting set for live men's hockey starting in about 15 minutes: Team USA vs. a team made up of players from Russia, which it turns out was doing a whole bunch of cheating at Sochi 2014 and has been disallowed from having an official team here in Pyeongchang. Some of their athletes get to compete if they double swear they weren't doing any of the cheating last time and aren't cheating now, etc., etc., and some of them have done pretty well in their competitions. But they don't play the Russian anthem in the medal ceremonies, and I'm pre-emptively vacating their medals so I don't have to go back and append the HP's Pyeongchang 2018 posts like I did the Sochi 2014s. It infuriates me that Russia cheated; it really does. Cheating is awful, and it ruins things for everyone, and you're stupid for doing it. And you can think I'm naive for saying that, but here's what I think: You're naive! BOOM! I feel sorry for Tom Brady; I actually do. That guy is an amazing football player, and he seems like an exemplary teammate and son and all of that. And I know he is rich and famous and going down as the greatest of all time and on and on and on. But I also know that poor kid has to have an iota of doubt that he could've done any of it without the cheating, because he really doesn't know. He doesn't. None of us do. The Patriots cheated, and maybe or even probably they would've been good enough without the cheating to win, but the truth is we don't know and they don't know. And think about going through all of that work and dedication and hoopla--all of that rigamarole--and still not really knowing because you cheated. That's stupid. That's why cheating is stupid. And I really do feel sorry for Tom Brady and the Russians and all of the other cheaters. I don't even really blame them for it, because I can't even imagine being good enough at anything to be enticed toward cheating by a bunch of money or fame or gold medals or whatever. But I know this--even the little times I've cheated in my life (not calling a foul on myself when I knew I should've in park basketball, sort of accepting credit in a work deal when I really knew I didn't deserve it, etc.) were big mistakes that I regretted. I can't even imagine how haunting it would be for me to feel that around something like the Super Bowl or the Olympics.

  6. Again, the current NHL guys aren't in these Olympics, but the team of players from Russia includes a couple of guys whom I remember hearing about from when they played in the NHL. Team USA's captain is a 39-year-old, Brian Gionta, and I think I might've had him in a week for a Yahoo! Fantasy hockey league several years ago. The NBC Sports Network pregame panel confirms my suspicion that the Americans are big underdogs in this game.

  7. Before the game, the NBC Sports Network hockey panel was saying that Team USA's hope is to take away "time and space"--to play fast and physical and not allow their more-veteran opponents the time or space to concoct and execute crafty plays. That's pretty much what everyone says you have to do against the Patriots, and--you know what--the Dolphins did beat the Patriots one time this season, and the somebody actually beat them in the Super Bowl. I'll remember who here in a minute.

  8. Hockey games have three 20-minute periods. We're just past five minutes into the first period of this game, and the U.S. goalie, 31-year-ol d Ryan Zapolski from Erie, Pennsyslvania, momentarily stops play by stabbing a hard-shot puck from the center of the ice in front of him with his left glove hand.

  9. But a couple of minutes later, one guy from Russia fires from Zapolski's left to a teammate right in front of the goal, and the puck skips off that second guy's stick to Zapolski's right and in to the net. It's 1-0, "Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR)," as they are known on NBC graphics and at Wikipedia.

  10. The OARs get a penalty, and that means they have to go for two minutes with one fewer player on the ice: their goalie and four (instead of the standard five) skaters. This obviously puts the penalized team at a defensive disadvantage, but the OARs successfully defend Team USA's two or three possessions of the puck during these two minutes. With 5:43 to go in the first period, the score remains 1-0.

    Growing up in Paducah, hockey was hardly ever on TV (and never in person), so I had no clue what the rules were (and still are pretty shaky on them). I remember getting some of the Topps cards in 1977 or '78 or so and being utterly amazed when I figured out what they were talking about around "penalty minutes" and "short-handed goals," etc. I just couldn't believe that they actually made a team play with one fewer guy when he got a penalty. Maybe this is what football should do for the bad head hits--or baseball, with beanballs, or basketball, with flagrant fouls. Your pitcher beans a guy? OK, the pitcher is off the field for two innings, and you have one of the outfielders come in and pitch.

  11. With more than a minute to go in the first period, Team USA is called for a penalty. But what happens is that, as long as the penalized team is on defense, they let play keep going. If you commit a penalty, you have to steal the puck or knock it into the stands or get your goalie to catch it before they'll stop play and make your penalized guy get off the ice for a couple of minutes. So, what the OARs did was replace their goalie with a sixth skater while they had the puck and knew Team USA couldn't steal the puck and take it all the way down to the other end and shoot into the empty net. Then, one of the Team USA guys even dropped his stick! Now it was six OAR skaters vs. four Team USA skaters with sticks and one without. Finally, with about 30 seconds to go in the first period, there was a stoppage in play, and things were settled into a more typical penalty scenario--two goalies, five skaters on one side, four on the other, everybody with sticks. Team USA successfully defended that last 30 seconds, and so we go to intermission with the score still at 1-0 in favor of the OARs.

  12. We'll start the second period with about a minute and a half of penalty time to go for the Americans. We're now on a 15-minute intermission. That seems to be a lot of time for the veteran OARs to concoct a crafty play through the extra space created with one fewer American on defense.

  13. In the men's singles figure skating Madisonville Friday night/Pyeongchang Saturday morning, Japan won gold and silver, and Spain took bronze. I went to bed after I saw the guy from Japan who was eventually going to win gold. He was, indeed, incredible, and it was clear that an American who came from way behind, Brian Chen, was not going to end up on the podium.

    NBC's Johnny Weir, by the way, voiced my annual grievance that attempting (even if failing) harder jumps is given more credit in the judges' scoring than actually executing a less-complex one. He said something along the lines of, "It's not like Tom Brady gets credit for trying to throw it to Gronk; Gronk actually has to catch the ball." I couldn't agree more with Johnny Weir.

    Here again is how I would judge figure skating ...

    Gold: Skater who does hard stuff well
    Silver: Skater who does easy stuff well
    Bronze: Skater who does hard stuff not so well
    No medal: Skater who does easy not so well

    1. Nathan Chen. This guy's name was Nathan, not Brian, Chen.

      Otherwise, Johnny Weir and I were totally right here.

  14. We're now about six minutes into the second period in Gangneung, and the OARs now lead, 2-0. Team USA actually did finish killing off the penalty, but then OAR scored shortly after that. And then Team USA had another penalty and killed that off. And now both teams have been given penalties, so we're going to have two minutes of four-on-four skating.

  15. Wikipedia's article on the men's hockey tournament is unsurprisingly super. I recommend your taking a look at that if you want to read about how all of the levels of qualification and preliminaries work. I will cut to just this chase:

    -- there are three "groups' of four teams each;

    -- everybody plays everybody else in their groups;

    -- Team USA and the OARs are playing their last game of group play, and everything is still up in the air in terms of who advances from their group to the tournaments;

    -- Canada, Sweden and Finland won the medals in Sochi 2014, and

    -- No one is quite sure of who the favorites are in South Korea because of the absence of the NHL guys

    1. Check that. It's not it's up in the air as to who advances to the tournament; it's up in the air about seeding and byes through the first round of the tournament. Sorry. I had made some misassumptions.

  16. 8:28 to go in the second period ... still 2-0 in favor of the team of players from Russia, which it turns out was cheating all the way through the Sochi 2014 games it hosted ... NBC color commentator Mike Milbury's analysis (roughly) during a break in play as the camera pans the OAR bench: "We all know ... about the Russians' use of drug-enhancing materials. And that's too bad, but at least they're here. And, man, are they putting on a show tonight!"

    I am going to mute.

  17. The other thing I should've said about the men's hockey competition at the Olympics is that it does have players from the Kontinental Hockey League, which has 27 clubs in Europe and Asia and Wikipedia says is considered the second-best professional league behind the NHL. One of those guys from the KHL is 34-year-old former NHL All-Star Ilya Kovalchuk, and, with 0.2 seconds remaining in the second period of this game, he just rifled a shot from way out and past the Team USA goalie for a 3-0 lead for the OARs.

  18. OK, with less than two minutes to play, the OARs are on the power play and still up on Team USA, 4-0. Slovakia and Slovenia, the other two teams in Group B, are headed to overtime on USA Network, and, how the Olympics work, the OARs have clinched a first-round tournament bye to the quarterfinals. Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States will all be playing first-round games Feb. 20.

  19. NBC Sports Network summarizes its top stories from Day 8, and I've got a feeling that Team USA failed to medal again on Saturday in Pyeongchang 2018. The Team USA-oriented headline was the three top-10 (but non-medaling) finishes in men's singles figure skating.

  20. OK, tape-delayed freestyle skiing …

    It’s the men's aerials this time. The Sochi 2014 medalists were Anton Kushnir from Belarus (gold), David Morris from Australia (silver) and Jia Zongyang from China (bronze).

    First place in the first qualifier today was Jonathan Lillis of Team USA, who did not compete at Sochi 2014. Again, top six of 25 from first qualifier advances to the Sunday three-round finals at Bogwang Phoenix Park, along with the top six scores from the other 19 participants in either the first or second qualifier, which is taking place (tape-delayed) now ...

    1. Pardon ... it's Jonathon Lillis (not JonathAn), age 23, of Rochester, New York.

  21. Lillis's score ends up being the highest over both qualifiers. The Sochi 2014 silver and bronze medalists will also be in tomorrow's final. The gold medalist, however, ended up coming in seventh--first skiier out--after the two qualifiers. Anton Kushnir from Belarus looked like he felt like he got ripped off on his way out.

  22. In the women's 4x5km relay cross-country skiing event, 37-year-old Marit Bjørgen of Trondheim, Norway, won her 13th career medal and seventh gold, maintaining a very narrow lead on 24-year-old Stina Nilsson of Malung, Dalarna, Sweden, up the last hill and then improbably (to the fantastic NBC Sports Network color commentator, anyway) expanding the gap against the younger competitor in the final sprint.

    Team USA finished fifth. After Sophie Caldwell's first leg, the Americans were in 10th of 14 teams and a minute and change behind the team that would ultimately finish third. By the end of Jessica Diggins's anchor leg, Team USA was up to fifth and within about 37 seconds of third. The NBC Sports Network commentator said something very interesting after the race about Sophie Caldwell's selection to the team being a surprising one because of the poor fitness of some other U.S. athletes. That sounds like an interesting story.

  23. A U.S. medal that I've failed to give sufficient love to is John-Henry Krueger's Friday silver in the men's 1,000-meter race in short-track speed skating. He did an amazing job.

    The 22-year-old from Pittsburgh was cruising along in one of his early qualifying heat, and then he was shoved out of the way by a competitor near the end of the race. He ended up drifting back and finishing out of the pack. Initially, the commentators figured that was that, but, upon further review, they noticed the shove--fortunately, so did the officials, who disqualified the dude who finished in front of him and did the shoving.

    From this point forward, Krueger's strategy seemed to change. He was going to do what he could to not have to depend on some judge's coming to the right decision. In subsequent races, Krueger appeared to just try to get way out in front and stay in front, away from traffic. This worked very well, until he ran into Canada's Sam Girard in the final.

    Girard had the same idea and passed Krueger a few laps into the medal race. The good news is that Girard and Krueger seemed content to simply race each other and not try to do a bunch of pushing and shoving. In the last lap, a Hungarian took out the two South Koreans also in the five-person race. This was the most sullen the Gangneung Ice Arena got all Friday evening. They had just seen a local hero obliterate the women's 1,500-meter field for gold--in front of the South Korean president, no less! Furthermore, a house band had kept things lively even in the Zamboni appearances between the men's and women's heats. (Among the selections that I recognized were "Arabesque" and the Chariots of Fire theme.)

    Well, eventually, the judges diqualified the Hungarian, and one of the spilled South Koreans was awarded the bronze, and the home crowd roared--even though Girard and Krueger took off with the gold and silver.

    Congratulations, John-Henry Krueger!