Americans experience mixed results in Torino

Sarah Barnett

This moment comes only once every four years. Two weeks filled with sheer joy and heart wrenching tears. Two weeks of pure competition and patriotic spirit. Two weeks of touching stories and glorious performances. The Winter Olympics are back.

Torino, nestled in the mountains in northwest Italy, is the site for the 20th Winter Olympics. The beautiful mountainsides are not only pleasing to the eye, but pleasing to the Americans.

Quite possibly the most well-known skier for the U.S. team is none other than Bode Miller. Miller, after some controversial comments made on “60 Minutes,” has tried to disprove his critics by posting a strong showing. So far, he has had no luck, coming in fifth in the downhill and being disqualified in the alpine combined.

Even though Miller could not bring a medal home, his teammate Ted Ligety had an impressive run in the combined, which consists of one downhill and two slalom runs. Ligety, the youngest member of the U.S. ski team, stole the spotlight and won the gold.

“It’s incredible,” Ligety told NBC. “I can’t believe it happened in combined because I’m not very good in downhill.”

In addition to Ligety’s victory on the slopes, the Americans dominated the halfpipe. Both the men’s and women’s snowboarding teams placed first, second and fourth. For the men, nineteen-year-old Shaun White, nicknamed “The Flying Tomato” for his blazing red hair, soared over the halfpipe and over the competition for his first Olympic gold medal. Teammate Danny Kass won the silver, while Mason Aguirre came in fourth. For the women, Hannah Teter claimed the gold, Gretchen Bleiler the silver and Kelly Clark a disappointing fourth after her gold in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Jeremy Bloom, the two-sport star, had hopes of winning a medal in the freestyle moguls skiing competition on Wednesday. Not having a superbly clean run, Bloom ended up in sixth place. This cleared the way for American Toby Dawson to win the bronze, his first Olympic medal ever. After chasing his skiing dreams, Bloom plans to resume his football career in the upcoming weeks by attending the NFL scouting combine.

The Americans got off to a fast start on the ice as well. Speed skater Chad Hedrick emerged victorious with a gold medal in the 5000 meters, the first of his five events. Also bringing home gold for the U.S. speed skating team was Joey Cheek, winning the 500 meters.

“It’s miraculous,” he said to NBC. “I’m kind of shocked that I skated that fast.”

With the dominant American presence on the ice, perhaps the biggest story of this Olympics so far is who won’t be present on the ice. After petitioning to gain a spot on the U.S. team, Michelle Kwan made the journey to Torino, only to end up withdrawing after a day of practice. Through a teary-eyed press conference, Kwan announced that she would be giving up her spot in the women’s figure skating competition due to injury. Emily Hughes, younger sister of 2002 gold medalist Sarah Hughes, will be taking her spot. The ladies’ competition will take place on this upcoming Tuesday and Thursday.

Tonight’s primetime coverage will feature the beginning of the ice dancing competition, women’s alpine combined, women’s snowboard cross and men’s skeleton.