Winter Olympics: 'Been through worse' says Shani Davis after US flag row

Chris Bailey 14/02/2018
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Shani Davis insisted he wasn’t distracted by a row over the US flag-bearer for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics after he finished 19th in the 1,500m speed skating on Tuesday.

“I’ve been through a lot worse,” shrugged Davis, who had prompted a backlash when he suggested a racial motive after losing the right to carry the flag on the toss of a coin.

Davis, the most decorated US Winter Olympian with two Olympic golds and two silvers, lost out to Erin Hamlin when America’s winter sports federations couldn’t decide on the flag bearer, and tossed a coin to settle the matter.

The African-American Davis labelled the coin flip “dishonourable” in a Twitter post with the hashtag #BlackHistoryMonth2018, triggering an angry response on social media.

“I’ve been through a lot worse than what’s been going on for the past few weeks so it didn’t disturb me whatsoever,” said Davis, 35, in his first comments on the furore.

“I’m OK, nothing distracted me. No excuses for not performing.

“I just wasn’t strong enough to compete with the top-level guys. I’m thinking and hoping that this is out of the way now and I can just concentrate on the 1,000m.”

Davis, who put his Twitter feed in “protected” mode at the weekend, blocking new followers and access to his posts, added: “After the Olympics have gone I will sit back and go through everything in my mind, but I’m just happy to be here.

“The Olympics is a beautiful thing.”

The Netherlands celebrated a one-two in the 1,500m with Kjeld Nuis storming to gold ahead of compatriot Patrick Roest.

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Winter Olympics: Chloe Kim, Marcel Hirscher win and a doping scandal erupts on day four

Chris Bailey 14/02/2018
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American teenager Chloe Kim and Austrian ski ace Marcel Hirscher lit up the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Tuesday on a day of drama that included the first doping scandal of the Games.

Snowboarder Kim, 17, snatched the first of the day’s eight gold medals in the women’s halfpipe, while World Cup maestro Hirscher ended his long wait for a debut Olympic title.

But Japan’s short-track speed skater Kei Saito, 21, was at the centre of the first doping scandal in Pyeongchang after testing positive for a banned diuretic.

Saito, who has left the athletes’ village, was provisionally suspended pending an investigation. He protested his innocence and vowed to clear his name.

“I want to fight to prove my innocence because I don’t remember (taking the drug) and it’s incomprehensible,” he said in a statement.

While Kim’s brilliant run in the halfpipe stole the show, gold medals also went to Sweden and Norway in cross country skiing, and Italy in short-track speedskating.

Canada beat Switzerland to win the mixed doubles curling, while the Dutch maintained their perfect record in speedskating with a double in the men’s 1,500m.

On the slopes, Austrian star Hirscher cemented his legacy as the best skier of his generation with victory in the combined event.

Hirscher, 28, has been the outstanding skier in his slalom speciality for years, with 55 career World Cup wins.

But one prize had always eluded him — an Olympic gold medal. His previous best was a slalom silver from Sochi four years ago.

After playing down his chances ahead of the race at blustery freezing Pyeongchang, this time he nailed it.

“All the people expected me to win a gold medal, especially in Austria, my home country, where skiing is big,” he said.

“Everyone is saying, ‘Nice career, but an Olympic gold medal is still missing’. This is perfect, unbelievable.”

For Kim, her debut Olympics turned golden as she romped to snowboarding halfpipe victory. Born in the United States to Korean parents, Kim burst into tears as the enormity of her achievement sunk in.

The teenager, who has melted the hearts of home fans in Pyeongchang, justified her status as the hot favourite with an eye-popping top score of 98.25.

Pumping her fists after finishing with back-to-back 1080 spins, Kim revealed that her number one fan — her Seoul-based grandmother — had been in the crowd cheering her on.

“I actually only found out my grandma was at the bottom before my second run,” she said. “So I thought ‘this one’s for Grams!'”

Also celebrating gold was Stina Nilsson, who won the women’s cross country sprint classic for Sweden. In the men’s event, Johannes Klaebo of Norway won gold on his Olympic debut.

Italy got their first gold of the Games through Arianna Fontana in the 500m women’s short-track speed skating. South Korean multi-medal hope Choi Min-jeong finished second but was disqualified.

In speed skating, the Dutch claimed their fourth gold medal with a one-two in the men’s 1,500m through Kjeld Nuis and Patrick Roest.

Germany celebrated a one-two in the women’s luge, with Natalie Geisenberger pipping Dajana Eitberger to retain her Olympic title.

In curling, Canada’s Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris danced with delight after hammering Switzerland 10-3 to take the inaugural Olympic mixed doubles title.

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Mission accomplished as Marcel Hirscher clinches alpine combined Olympic gold

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Marcel Hirscher underlined his status as the best skier of his generation with a first, long-overdue Olympic gold in the alpine combined on Tuesday.

“Everyone’s been saying, ‘Nice career, but an Olympic gold medal is still missing’. This is perfect, unbelievable,” said Hirscher, who has won an unprecedented six consecutive World Cup overall titles on the back of 55 victories on the circuit.

But his Olympic history is more patchy: twice fourth in the giant slalom and a fifth in the 2010 slalom before grabbing silver in Sochi, leading to questions about his real legacy.

“This stupid question has now gone away, if I’m thinking that my career is perfect without a gold medal, now this question is zzz, deleted,” he said.

“I’m not travelling home tomorrow, but if I wished to I could because I have my big goal and I reached it.

“In Austria everyone’s expecting that I’m going to win a gold medal at least once. I’m super, super happy, I didn’t expect to win this in the combined.”

Hirscher, 28, made the most of a shortened opening downhill course on which the jumps were largely eliminated.

It was the perfect slope for the Austrian, and his 12th fastest time set him up perfectly for the slalom.

“It was an amazing downhill, maybe my best downhill ever. I killed it,” Hirscher said. “The shorter the downhill the better for the technical guys!”

He then made no mistake in the slalom, a discipline he has dominated in the World Cup this season with six victories.

Hirscher charged down with the fastest time to give him an unassailable lead over France’s Alexis Pinturault.

“The slalom course was very aggressive, really hard to gain speed and find the right line,” Hirscher said.

“Even for us slalom skiers, it was not easy to find the right line.”

Silver medallist Pinturault was followed home by teammate Victor Muffat-Jeandet in the country’s first podium showing in the combined since Henri Oreiller (gold) and James Couttet (bronze) in 1948.

“We are not competing for this kind of result or thinking of history,” Pinturault said of the 70-year gap in combined medals.

“It’s something good that this really old Olympic record has come down, but it was not the goal when we were at the start.”

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