PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – The practice round came four years ago in Sochi for Perrine Laffont, when she was old enough to make the Olympics, but too young to know any better.
As a 15-year-old, she finished 14th. No medal for that, though the lessons learned there certainly helped her take a mighty step this time – to the top of the podium, in fact.
Laffont gave France its first gold medal of the Pyeongchang Games, skiing through the bumps and the steadily falling snow to take the women’s moguls title Sunday night.
It was the country’s first women’s gold medal in the 26-year history of the event.
“In Sochi, it was for getting the experience of the Olympics, and today was pretty different,” Laffont said. “I was here to get a medal.”
Justine Dufour-Lapointe of Canada was, too. The defending champion took second this time, but in some ways, this was sweeter. It came in the midst of a rough year, during which her skiing suffered after she learned her mother, Johane, had cancer (she is now in remission).
“I feel so different than I was in Sochi,” Dufour-Lapointe said. “I was completely a kid then, not knowing what was going on around me.”
Yulia Galysheva, competing with a broken hand suffered last month at a contest in Utah, won bronze to give Kazakhstan its eighth Winter Games medal since it started competing separately after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Goaltender Noora Raty saw Hilary Knight with the puck on her stick and moved to defend against the dangerous American.
Knight passed the puck, Kendall Coyne scored the go-ahead goal at 11:29 of the second period on a one-timer and the United States rallied to beat Finland 3-1 to remain perfect when opening an Olympic tournament.
“Knighter got there out of the corner, I need to commit to her because she’s the best shot in the world,” Raty said. “So for once she actually passed, and hats off to Coyner. She went top shelf. Really nice goal.”
Two ways to count
The United States picked up two medals on Sunday, one gold and one silver. On Monday, there was a gold and a bronze. So, in the world of Olympic medal standings, is that one medal or two? That depends.
Most organizations and record-keepers use the gold standard when deciding how to rank the countries. But in the United States, a lot of organizations such as the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and The Associated Press (which also offers the gold standings) list the rankings based on total medals.
The reason is simple. In a sporting event brimming with jingoism, the United States always looks better in total medals, and that goes directly to the size of its delegation. In fact, when the U.S. Olympic Committee sets its secret goal for medals, it’s usually total medals. It may have a gold goal too, but it’s the total it talks about.
In the last Winter Olympics in Sochi, the U.S. was fourth in gold but second in total medals. In 2010 in Vancouver, it was second in gold and first in total. Turin, Italy, hosted the 2006 Games, where the U.S. was second and second and if you go back to Salt Lake City in 2002, the U.S. was third in gold and second in total.
There is a national obsession over the medals table, which is as much a staple of the Games as the raising of the flag. It’s OK; everyone wants to think their country is the best.
NBC had to issue an apology for remarks by Joshua Cooper Ramo, who said during the Opening Ceremony that Japan was important to the transformation of South Korea. Whoops. Japan actually occupied Korea from 1910 to 1945, and educating the masses wasn’t its mission. Olympic officials were said to have accepted the apology.
Biathlon world rocked
What would have happened if neither Gary Oldman playing Churchill nor Daniel Day-Lewis playing some fictional fashion guy, hadn’t been nominated for an Oscar? Consider that possibility when neither Martin Fourcade of France nor Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway hit the medal stand in the biathlon men’s 10-kilometer sprint. They were No. 1 and 2 for most of the season, dominating competition. Arnd Peiffer of Germany was the beneficiary and gold medalist. Lowell Bailey at 33rd was the highest U.S. competitor in the 87-man field. In Saturday’s women’s 7.5-kilometer sprint, the high U.S. finisher was Emily Dreissigacker, 51st in a field of 87 women.
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