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Team USA had a rough go of things last night. Can Lindsey Vonn change that in her PyeongChang debut on Friday?

By Jon Tayler
February 16, 2018

It was an uneven and disappointing day for Team USA in PyeongChang, particularly for Mikaela Shiffrin, whose quest for five Olympic golds has come to a surprising end at her best event. Less than a day removed from her first medal of these Olympic Games in the giant slalom, the American superstar skier took to the slopes again in the regular slalom, which she won in Sochi at the tender age of 18. But Shiffrin—who was perhaps impacted by some pre-race stomach troubles—couldn't deliver, finishing off the podium entirely after a second run in which she was ahead of the leader's pace up until the very end. Instead, it was Sweden's Frida Hansdotter who took home the unexpected gold.

Shiffrin wasn't the only American to have a bad day. In the snowboard cross finals, Lindsey Jacobellis—perpetually seeking redemption for blowing a gold medal at the 2006 Games in Turin—once again came up short, faltering late and finishing an agonizing half-second out of first and a meager .03 seconds off the podium. Italy's Michela Moioli swept ahead in the last third of the race for the win. And on the ice, Nathan Chen followed up a rough Olympic debut in the figure skating team event with a disastrous performance in the men's short program, falling on a quad lutz attempt and stumbling several times en route to a score of 82.27—17th out of the 24 skaters, and well out of medal contention.

There was one bright spot for the U.S. last night, though, and it came courtesy of—who else—Adam Rippon. Fresh off his Olympic debut, in which he delivered a terrific performance in the men's free skate of the team event, Rippon was sensational in the short program, putting together a clean skate and finishing seventh. One of the breakout stars of these Games, Rippon's chances at a medal are slim, but at this point, we shouldn't doubt him, mostly because he's apparently a witch. Shouts also to Team USA's Vincent Zhou, who at 17 is the youngest American Olympian and yet nailed the first quad lutz in Games history during his skate. The kids are alright.

Here are the other big storylines from the last 24 hours in PyeongChang:

• Where Chen fell flat, Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu soared. The world No. 1 and defending Olympic champion, whose performance at the 2018 Games was under question due to a training injury suffered last month, was masterful in his skate, scoring an astounding 111.68 points, the second most ever in a men's short program, to take first place and earn a shower of Winnie the Pooh bears. If Hanyu can wrap it up in the long program—and why would you bet against him, given his breathtaking routine?—he'll become the first man to win back-to-back Olympic golds in figure skating since American legend Dick Button did it in 1948 and '52.

• The host nation made history on the sliding track, as South Korea's Yun Sung-bin took gold in the skeleton—the first gold for the country in a sliding sport in Olympic history. Armed with a sweet-looking Iron Man helmet, Yun held off Russia's Nikita Tregubov (silver) and Britain's Dom Parsons (bronze) for the win, making him the first Asian in Games history to take first in the skeleton.

• In hockey, the U.S. men's team avenged an embarrassing overtime loss to Slovenia in the opening game of group play by topping Slovakia, 2–1, thanks to a tiebreaking third-period goal on the power play from Ryan Donato. Next up in Group B play: a matchup with the tournament favorite, the Olympic Athletes from Russia, who demolished Slovenia, 8–2, after falling to Slovakia in their opener.

• And over in cross-country skiing, Switzerland's Dario Cologna, who has the best real fake name I've ever seen, won gold in the men's 15-kilometer free race for the third straight Olympics, but the real good story here is two dudes who finished second to last and last. The former was Tonga's Pita Taufatofua, aka the Shirtless Opening Ceremony Guy, who was competing in his first ever Olympic cross-country ski race after switching to the sport from taekwondo just last year. His goal was simply to finish the race and not hit a tree in the process; mission accomplished. Two minutes behind him was Mexico's German Madrazo, who was nearly half an hour off Cologna's pace but crossed the line in style, waving the Mexican flag to the cheers of the crowd and his fellow competitors.

Must-Watch Events

Women's alpine skiing: Super-G (Live coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC; event begins at 9:00)

Lindsey Vonn makes her PyeongChang debut in the wonderfully named super-G, aka the super giant slalom. Why super giant? Because the speeds going downhill are generally much higher in this than in the giant slalom. Makes sense. Vonn didn't take part in the 2014 Games due to a knee injury but did capture bronze in the super-G back in Vancouver in 2010. She'll be the biggest American name on the slopes, too, as Shiffrin isn't planning on competing in the event.

Men's figure skating long program (Airs live at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Chen's awful night ended America's best chance at a podium finish in this event, but as noted above, this is Yuzuru Hanyu's gold medal to lose at this point anyway. A few other skaters could steal the gold if he falters, though—namely Spain's Javier Fernandez, who sits in second after the short program with 107.58 points; countryman and two-time national champion (as well as 2017 world silver medalist) Shoma Uno, who's third with 104.17; and four-time Chinese national champion Jin Boyang, who's in fourth with 103.32. And of course there's Rippon, whose hopes for a medal are long but who is a delight to watch nonetheless.

Men's hockey: United States vs. Olympic Athletes of Russia (Airs live at 7:10 a.m. ET on Saturday on NBCSN)

Neither the U.S. nor the OAR will be eliminated from Olympic gold with a loss here, but a win for either side would make their path in the playoffs that much easier. The top four teams in the field of 12 get automatic entry into the quarterfinals, with the remaining eight forced to face off for the other four spots. Taking two wins in Group B would go a long way toward possibly earning either the U.S. or the OAR a top-four seeding after the group stage is complete. With the NHL not allowing its players to participate in this year's Games, that's left the Russian contingent—led by former NHL stars and current KHL veterans Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk—as the favorites, though their stumble against Slovakia has left them behind the U.S. in the group standings. A win here by Team USA would be quite an upset.

Tweet of the Day

Everywhere Yuzuru Hanyu goes, Pooh Bears follow, and after last night's extraordinary skate, the ice was a veritable stuffed animal graveyard. I hope all those fans at least didn't have to pay too much for their disposable favors.

Daily Reading and Videos

• From TIME's Sean Gregory: Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Jacobellis are in different stages of their career, but they both shared some heartbreak on Thursday night.

• More on Shiffrin from Tim Layden, who breaks down what went wrong for her in what should have been a win.

• As for Jacobellis, here's Michael Rosenberg on how she's made peace with the sport that keeps ripping her heart out.

• TIME's Alice Park tries to make sense of Nathan Chen's catastrophic Olympics after he entered the Games as a medal favorite.

• Charlotte Carroll with a touching story on how Olympic luger Erin Hamlin helped inspire a young luger back in the States to continue his dream.

• If you want to know more about how the men's 2018 U.S. Olympic hockey team was put together, check out this behind-the-scenes documentary, exclusively on SI TV.

• And away from the sports, our Mitch Goldich, who's on the ground in South Korea, went on a food tour of the best that PyeongChang has to offer.

Athlete To Root For

Would you be shocked to learn that I've picked Adam Rippon? Friday night is your last chance to bask in his glory at these Games, which he's taken over as his own thanks to his magnetic personality. I mean, the dude went out last night and delivered a banging routine set to a Fedde Le Grand remix, for crying out loud. As TIME points out, he's the internet's new favorite skater, and with good reason. Man's out here getting love from Reese Witherspoon and Elmo, and when asked how he felt about that, he shouted out Meryl Streep. Adam Rippon is the damn best, and I will miss him terribly.

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