These weren’t miracles. Bode and Ryan Miller are too good for the feats they pulled off Sunday to be called total shockers.
Bode Miller won the first gold medal of his Olympics career, taking the super-combined with plenty of flair — roaring back from seventh after the downhill with a blazing slalom run. Hours later, goaltender Ryan Miller made 42 saves to help the U.S. hockey team upset Canada 5-3 for its biggest win since the famous Miracle on Ice. Technically, the hockey win only gives the Americans a perfect record in the preliminary round and assured them a berth in the quarterfinals.
Realistically, it means much more, from affirming the decision by U.S. hockey leaders to go with mostly kids and a few veterans to putting the entire nation of Canada into a tizzy over whether they have the right mix of players. Expect to hear a lot in the coming days about a goalie controversy between Martin Brodeur, Sunday’s loser, and his backup, Roberto Luongo.
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"We know we can beat anybody now," Rafalski said.
Bode Miller’s victory bumped the U.S. medal count to seven gold and 24 overall to lead all countries.
One more medal and the Americans will match the 25 they won in 2006, their most at a Winter Olympics not held at home. Miller’s performance at that Olympics was forgettable, when he partied away his status as the favorite going into the games.
Now, with a medal of each color after three races, Miller is one of the feel-good stories of the Vancouver Games.
"The level I skied at is at the very top," he said. "It feels amazing."
Across Vancouver, bars, restaurants and streets were packed Sunday, mainly because of the U.S.-Canada hockey game the host country was anticipating for years. With a trio of rivalry games at Canada Hockey Place, and six gold medals handed out elsewhere, the day was dubbed "Super Sunday."
However, it got off to a sad start with Joannie Rochette — Canada’s best hope for a medal in women’s figure skating — learning that her 55-year-old mother died of a massive heart attack.
Rochette wiped her eyes and took a deep breath before stepping onto the ice for afternoon practice, then blinked hard during her first few laps around the rink. She’ll remain in the event, which starts Tuesday, "to fulfill the goal they had together," said Rochette’s agent, David Baden.
Also Sunday, Germany’s Magdalena Neuner won her second gold medal of these games in biathlon and Switzerland’s Michael Schmid won the Olympics debut of men’s skicross, a cousin to the NASCAR-on-ice snowboarding race featuring four racers charging through a winding course filled with jumps.
The Olympics are pretty much done for both U.S. curling teams. Both teams are 2-5 with little chance of advancing to the semifinals.
A day shy of the 30th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice game, the U.S. came out wearing throwback jerseys to a different team of yesteryear — the 1960 gold-medal winning team that was the last group of Americans to beat Canada in the Olympics.
The U.S. certainly lived up to the threads. Brian Rafalski scored just 41 seconds into the game, then he scored again later in the period.
Goals from Chris Drury and Jamie Langenbrunner put the U.S. up 4-2, then Miller and the Americans held off a relentless late surge by Canada that included Sidney Crosby’s goal with 3:09 remaining. Ryan Kesler’s one-handed goal into an empty net sealed the victory in the final minute.
One play summed up the first game, a rematch of the 1998 gold-medal game between Russia and the Czech Republic: Russia’s Alex Ovechkin flattening Jaromir Jagr with a hit at center ice that also broke his visor. The Russians won 4-2 to claim first place in their group.
Evgeni Malkin scored twice for Russia and Ovechkin had two assists.
"I wish I had a concussion and just forget what happened," Jagr said. "But I remember it."
Once Miller took over the lead, he had to wait out six challengers. The last was Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who finished a spot ahead of Miller in the super-G and the downhill. When Svindal pulled up midway through the race, that was it. Miller tied the record for most Alpine medals won by a man at a single Winter Olympics.
"It’s going to be hard for me go keep doing this," said Miller, who could still have two events left. "This is incredibly emotionally exhausting."
Defending champion Ted Ligety jumped from 15th to fifth with the fastest time in the slalom. Unfortunately for him, there was only one slalom leg this time, after two in Turin. (Full story)
A few hours after learning of her mother’s sudden death, Rochette was back on the ice. Dressed in black tights and a black Canadian team hoodie, she appeared in the runway as the rest of the skaters in her practice session took the ice.
Rochette quickly settled into the comfort of her practice routine. She showed no lapses in concentration, jumped well and did a light run-through of her tango short program, even flashing a saucy smile at one point. In the stands, her father repeatedly rubbed his eyes.
"Joannie is doing as well as one can expect. It has been an emotional roller coaster for her," Skate Canada CEO William Thompson said. "She made the decision that she wants to compete and maintain her training schedule. It is providing her with stability in a very uncertain time of her life."
For an unpredictable sport, the first men’s winner wasn’t much of a surprise. Schmid was the top-ranked World Cup rider this season.
But the final did have one of its trademark wipeouts, with Canada’s Chris Del Bosco, winner of the Winter X Games last month, going down hard on the next-to-last jump.
Americans Casey Puckett and Daron Rahlves were eliminated in the first round of the four-man heats.
Germany’s Andre Lange rarely loses – and never in the Olympics. He picked up his fourth gold medal in as many games, the most by any driver since the event debuted in 1932 at Lake Placid.
Germany’s Thomas Florschuetz won the silver, and Russia’s Alexsandr Zubkov the bronze.
The U.S. team of Steven Holcomb and Curt Tomasevicz was sixth.
Christine Nesbitt had a chance to take some of the sting out of Sunday’s other news for Canadian sports fans by winning the 1,500 meters, to go with the 1,000-meter gold she’s already won.
But all she could muster was a sixth-place finish.
Canada did manage a silver, claimed by Kristina Groves. Irene Wust of The Netherlands won gold, with Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic getting bronze.
The U.S. women lost 9-2 to Canada, then 9-3 to defending champion Sweden.
The men lost 4-2 to the Brits.
Neuner won the women’s 12.5-kilometer mass start, giving her another gold to go with the one she won in the 10K pursuit and her silver in the 7.5K sprint.
In the men’s 15-kilometer mass start race, World Cup leader Evgeny Ustyugov of Russia took the gold. Tim Burke failed again to end the American biathlon drought, finishing 18th.
Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir will go into the final leg of the competition in first place.
They won the original dance Sunday with a powerful flamenco performance. In second place overall is their training partners, Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
Reigning world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin dropped to third, with Olympic silver medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto fourth.