Australian takes halfpipe gold, Americans silver and bronze
WEST VANCOUVER — Under pressure after falling on her first run Thursday night, Torah Bright strung five technically superior jumps together on her second and landed them all to win the gold in women's halfpipe.
"I was like, 'Oh well, can't change that,' " Bright said of her first run. "I got up to the top, and I tell myself the same things going into any run, any event. It's just to have fun."
The Australian scored 45 points to defeat defending champion Hannah Teter of the United States by 2.6. The 2002 champion, American Kelly Clark, fell on her first run and hit the deck on an awkward landing on her second but still took bronze. Bright won without trying the "double cork," the double-flipping jump she had been practicing for a year, one that has become increasingly popular on the men's side but hasn't been tried by a woman in competition. But she wasn't looking to make history, and she was more than good enough to win gold — Australia's first of the Games — on a night all the top contenders fell.
That included 2006 silver medalist Gretchen Bleiler, who fell once while trying her inverted 720 on the first run, then again on the second when the nose of her board caught the lip and she landed hard on the deck then crashed back into the halfpipe. Clark fell on her first run, as did Bright, while she was trying a switch-backside 720, a two-spin jump during which she spends most of her air time with no view of the wall. It's a difficult trick that even most men won't try.
The fall left her with a score of 5.2, in last place, which forced her to rush back up the hill and go first in the second round. She dusted herself off, did the same progression of tricks, landed them all, then waited for nearly 30 minutes to see if someone could beat her.
Americans cruise into semifinal round
VANCOUVER — Not even a fine performance by Finland was enough to alter the United States' course toward Canada.
Jessie Vetter made 23 saves, Natalie Darwitz had a goal and two assists, and the Americans completed their undefeated run through the preliminary round with a 6-0 victory Thursday over Finland.
After overwhelming preliminary runs by the United States and Canada, the North American powers are one victory away from ensuring their long-anticipated meeting for a gold medal next week. The Americans outscored their first three opponents 31-1.
"We've got one task in sight, and we think we are in pretty good position going forward," U.S. defenseman Caitlin Cahow said.
Crashes pile up during two-man training
WHISTLER, British Columbia — At least 11 two-man sleds spilled sideways in the first two days of training, with two athletes, including a gold medal favorite, possibly knocked out of the competition before it begins this weekend. The spills come less than a week after the death of a Georgian luger in a training wreck on the same track, putting speed and safety once again in the forefront. Bobsled's governing body said it would offer women's and four-man bobsledders extra training runs "out of an abundance of caution."
Canada escapes in shootout vs. Swiss
VANCOUVER — The Penguins' Sidney Crosby scored the only goal of a shootout in which a nation hung on every shot, giving Canada a 3-2 win over Switzerland and avoiding a second loss to the Swiss in as many Olympics.
Canada, whose 2-0 upset loss to Switzerland in 2006 ranks among the greatest in Olympic history, took a 2-0 lead early in the second and looked to be cruising. But the Swiss tied it on second-period goals.
After a scoreless third period and a five-minute overtime, the first three shootout shooters for each team failed. Crosby, denied as Canada's first shooter, put a wrist shot past the Ducks' Jonas Hiller with his second attempt. The game ended when Canada's Martin Brodeur of the Devils stopped Martin Pluss' shot.
"It's probably not a bad thing for us to go through that kind of desperation and tight hockey … because it's not going to get any easier as we move on here," Crosby said.
U.S. 6, Norway 1: Two goals from Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski in the final three minutes helped the United States dispatch outmatched Norway. It faces Canada on Sunday with a bye into the quarterfinals on the line. The Lightning's Ryan Malone had a goal and an assist for three points in two wins. "Come the Canada game, we've got to play playoff-type hockey — dump the puck in," Malone said. "It's not rocket science."