Daily Briefing, Feb. 19

Friday February 19th, 2010

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Terrible day for the United States Olympic team yesterday: It won only four medals.

Such is life after the wildest 48 hours in U.S. Winter Olympics history, a tsunami in which American athletes won 10 medals, including four golds, three silver and three bronze. Now comes a day to relax and breathe. It's unlikely any American will strike gold today, though SI's Tim Layden does give Bode Miller a healthy chance of landing on the podium in the men's Super G. Medals will also be handed out in men's and women's skeleton, ski jumping and women's cross country.

(All times Eastern)

• The men's long hill ski jumping competition (noon) pits Switzerland's Simon Ammann -- a three-time gold medalist -- against a quartet of Austrians: Gregor Schliernzauer, Thomas Morgenstern, Andreas Kofler and Wolfgang Loitzel. Adam Malysz of Poland is also a serious contender, and Finland's Janne Ahonen could surprise. Ammann, called the Harry Potter of ski jumping because he looks like the fictional wizard, won the normal hill event last Saturday and is going for his fourth individual gold medal.

• Austria's Michael Walchofer is SI's pick for gold in the men's Super G (2:30 p.m.) followed by Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal. Switzerland's Didier Cuche and Didier Defago are also threats to take gold. Other contenders include Canada's Manuel Osborne-Paradis, the U.S.'s Ted Ligety and Canada's Erik Guay. Then there's Bode Miller, who won a bronze in Monday's downhill and was the 2005 Super-G world champion.

• It's another hockey tripleheader at Canada's Hockey Place:

- Belarus vs. Sweden (3 p.m.): Defending Olympic champion Sweden (1-0) beat Germany in its opener behind Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who stopped all 21 shots. Belarus (0-1) lost to Finland and should do more of the same tonight.

- Czech Republic vs. Latvia (6:30 p.m.): The Czech Republic (1-0) gutted out a 3-1 win over Slovakia behind a goal from Jaromir Jagr and steady netminding from Tomas Vokoun. Latvia (0-1) was drilled by Russia in its opener.

- Finland vs. Germany (midnight): Get there early, because this won't be close for long. The Finns (1-0) are loaded with NHL talent. Something to watch: Teemu Selanne's assist against Belarus tied a record (with Russian Valeri Kharlamov, Czech Vlastimil Bubnik and Canadian Harry Watson) for the most points (36) all-time in Olympic competition. He could own the record by night's end.

• American Noelle Pikus-Pace is in striking distance in the women's skeleton competition. She sits in fifth place with a combined time of 1:48.51, 0.55 seconds behind the pace set by Amy Williams of Great Britain, who leading time is 1:47.96. Germany's Kerstin Szymkowiak is in second place, followed by Canada's Mellisa Hollingsworth. The third heat begins at 6:45 p.m., followed by the final heat at 7:55 p.m.

• Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk, Norway's Marit Bjoergen, Finland's Aino-Kaisa Saarin, Estonia's Kristina Smigun-Vaehi, and Charlotte Kalla of Sweden are the contenders for the Ladies 15k pursuit cross-country race (4 p.m.) at Whistler Olympic Park. The event consists of a 7.5K classic and 7.5 free. Kowalcyk won gold in this event at the world championships and a silver medal Wednesday in the individual sprint; Bjoergen has won gold and bronze at these Games. Morgan Arritola, Holly Brooks and Caitlin Compton will compete for the U.S, though none were seeded for the event.

• The compulsories are the first of three nights of ice dancing (competition starts at 7:45 p.m.) at the Pacific Coliseum, and world champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia will attempt to hold off two American teams (Meryl Davis and Charlie White, and Tanith Belben and Ben Agosto), and Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. The 25-year-old Belbin -- who was born and raised in Canada -- and Agosto, 27, won a silver medal in Turin. Davis and White, both 22, are the current U.S. champions. Moir, 22, and Virtue, 20, won bronze at the worlds in 2009. French couple of Isabelle Delobel and Oliver Schoenfelder are the event's X-Factor. They won the 2008 world championship but have not competed since December of that year due to injury and then Delobel's pregnancy -- she had a son last October.

• Latvia's Martin Durkus -- SI's pick to win gold -- leads the men's skeleton event at the midway point with a total time of 1:44.91. The third (9:20 p.m.) and the final (10:50 p.m.) heats will determine gold today. Canada's Jon Montgomery is in second place, 0.26 of a second back, followed by Alexander Tretyakov of Russia (0.84 behind) and Germany's Matthias Guggenberger (0.86 behind). Zach Lund, the highest ranking American, is in eighth place, 0.98 behind Durkus. Lund remains within reach of the podium; he's only 0.13 behind Tretyakov.

• Women's round-robin curling begins at noon with Germany vs. Great Britain, China against Denmark and the U.S against Russia. The U.S. men meet France at 5 p.m. Curling has been a massive disappointment in an otherwise stellar Games for the U.S., with neither the women nor the men yet to win a game.

• "It doesn't matter which side I turn on when I'm sleeping. The biggest bruise is on my butt, on my right butt. And my left calf I have internal bleeding. I don't think I look that beautiful." -- Swedish Alpine skier Anja Paerson, who came back from a spectacular crash in Wednesday's downhill to win bronze in the super combined on Thursday.

• "We have 80,000 girls playing hockey in Canada, we have around 60,000 in the United States and we have 267 girls playing in Slovakia. If 80,000 girls are playing 267, that's the 18-0." International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel, on the state of the women's game.

• 11 -- Points for U.S. forward Natalie Darwitz in the women's hockey tournament in Vancouver, a new American record for most points scored in a single Olympic Games. She topped the mark set by Cammi Granato in 2002.

• 3 -- Career Olympic medals (a gold in Turin and two silvers in Vancouver) for Julia Mancuso, the most for any U.S. skier of either gender.

• 2 -- Women who have won a gold medal in speed skating at a home games, including Canada's Christine Nesbitt, who took the 1,000 on Thursday. Chris Witty of the United States won the 1,000 at Salt Lake City in 2002.

U.S., EH! American Day 2010 (The Vancouver Sun)

A Golden Day for the U.S.A. (The Globe and Mail)

The Unemployment Divide (USA Today)

• 1. These Are Not The Worst Games Ever (by Bruce Arthur, National Post): Some welcome perspective from a Canadian journalist.

• 2. The Winter Olympics: An Insider's Guide to the Legends, Lore and Events of the Games Vancouver Edition (by Ron Judd, Seattle Times): The Seattle Times' man for all things Olympics, Judd has written a fun and comprehensive guide to the Winter Games.

• 3. Luge winner Möller breaks tooth on silver medal (by The Local, Germany): Germany's David Moeller is in serious need of a dentist.

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