Friday Olympic Daily Digest: A Great Night for Russia, a Bad Day for Canada

It was a great night for Russia and a bad one for Canada in PyeongChang. But what will today's action bring?
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It was a duel for the ages on the ice between two Russian superstars that ended in the narrowest of victories. The women's figure skating long program—the second half of the women's individual event and the last figure skating performance at this year's Winter Olympics—came down to two countrywomen: world champion and gold medal favorite Evgenia Medvedeva, and 15-year-old Alina Zagitova. The latter led the former by just 1.31 points after the short program; it all fell on Friday night's free skate to decide who would go home with Olympic gold.

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In the end, it was Zagitova barely edging out the two-time world champion, as the two put up identical 156.65 scores in the free skate, giving the younger Russian gold in her Olympic debut. Whether you see this as a deserved result or a robbery depends on how you feel about the programs each skated: Zagitova saves all her jumps for the second half of her performance, thus earning bonus points on them, while Medvedeva has a more traditional skate where the jumps are more evenly spread out. But your aesthetic preference aside, no one can take away what Zagitova did to earn her medal.

Let's take a quick look at the rest of the big news from the last 24 hours in PyeongChang, as the Olympics draw to a close.

• While it was a brilliant night for the Russian skaters, with Zagitova earning the country (well, the confederation of Russian athletes participating at the Games not under Russia's flag because of that whole state-sanctioned doping thing) its first gold, it was yet another disappointing Games at the rink for Team USA. Not one of the trio of Bradie Tennell, Mirai Nagasu or Karen Chen finished anywhere near the podium; Tennell led the group with 192.35 points, good for ninth place. None of them skated particularly well in either half of the program, either (and Nagasu didn't help matters with her bizarre post-skate interview). With that, the U.S.’s streak of Olympics without a podium finish in women's figure skating is now at three; no American has claimed a medal in that event since Sasha Cohen won silver in 2006 (though, helped by Nagasu, Team USA did win bronze in the team event this year).

• It wasn't a fun day for Canada, either, as two Canuck teams were upset in stunning fashion on the ice. In men's hockey, Canada was rolled by the surprising Germans, who scored three times in the second period and held on in a wild third to win, 4–3, and advance to the gold medal game. Like the U.S., Canada's roster was severely impacted by the NHL's decision not to allow its players to take part in the Olympics, but it's still unexpected to see a mostly no-name Germany squad continue its Cinderella run by dispatching our neighbors to the north. Instead, these Games will be the first since 2006 in which Canada will not play in the final, and the loss snaps the country's streak of gold medals in men's hockey at two. Things didn't go any better in curling, where Canada's men's team—already coming off a loss to the United States in the semifinal—fell in the bronze medal match against Switzerland, 7–5. Canadian men have medaled in curling at every Olympics since the sport was reintroduced in 1998, and the team had won the last three golds. But neither they nor the women—who lost to Great Britain two days prior—will finish on the podium in PyeongChang. And if you were wondering how they were taking this horrible turn of events in the Great White North, well, it ain't going well.

• It wasn't all bad for Canada, though. Kaetlyn Osmond took the bronze behind Zagitova and Medvedeva in women's figure skating, and two Canadian women—Kelsey Serwa and Brittany Phelan—finished first and second, respectively, in the freestyle skiing ski cross big final. Those three medals helped keep Canada just ahead of Germany in the overall medal count, though neither has a prayer of catching Norway for first. The Norwegians, who have thoroughly dominated these games, tossed two more medals onto their pile, earning silvers in the men's 4x7.5 kilometer biathlon relay and the men's 1,000 meter speedskate.

Must-watch events

Men's curling gold medal game: United States vs. Sweden (Airs live at 1:00 a.m. ET on Saturday on NBCSN)

That's right: curling. Brooms-on-ice fever has swept the U.S. (sorry) after the crazy run to the final by Team USA, skipped by John Shuster. Fresh off a massive upset of Canada in the semifinals, the Americans will now face Sweden, which defeated Switzerland, 9–3, in its semifinal. A win for the U.S. would give the country its first Olympic gold medal in curling ever; its best ever finish at a Games was third in 2006—a team Shuster was a part of. Sweden, too, is looking for its first curling gold, as the country has a silver (way back in 1924, when there were only three teams in the entire competition) and bronze (2014) to its credit. Just be sure to set your DVRs for this one, though, unless you feel like staying up until 4 a.m. to watch it live. Don't understand the first thing about curling? TIME's Sean Gregory has you covered with what you need to know before the gold medal game.

Men's snowboard big air final (Live coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC)

The last men's snowboard event of the Games will see three Americans vying for gold: Chris Corning, Kyle Mack, and chill teen Red Gerard, who already owns the PyeongChang gold in slopestyle. That trio will face heavy competition from Canada, namely Mark McMorris and Max Parrot, as well as New Zealand's Carlos Garcia Knight (who topped everyone with a score of 97.50 in the qualifying round) and Sweden's Niklas Mattson (who finished second to Parrot in their heat).

Women's snowboard parallel giant slalom (Airs live at 11:35 p.m. ET on NBC)

The big draw here will be the Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecka, who shocked everyone—NBC included—with her gold medal run in the alpine skiing super-G. If she can take home gold in the parallel giant slalom on her board, she'll become the first ever athlete to medal in skiing and snowboarding in the same Games. And the odds are in her favor: Ledecka is the defending world champion and the Olympic favorite in this event.

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It's not often that the Germans get to be underdogs, particularly in sports, but the men's hockey team checks all the right boxes. This is a squad that didn't even take part in the last Olympics, and now they're one win away from gold (albeit against the stacked Olympic Athletes from Russia team, which has demolished its competition all tournament long). If Germany can somehow finish this run, the country owes one giant thank-you card to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, whose refusal to play along with the IOC helped make Deutschland's dreams possible.

Daily Reading and Videos

• Michael Rosenberg reflects on the last race of American speedskating legend Shani Davis, and how he turned down the sendoff he deserved.

• From Tim Layden: Despite Mikaela Shiffrin's strong performance in PyeongChang, the future of U.S. skiing at the Olympics looks bleak.

• Cross-country skier Jessie Diggins, who won the United States its first ever Olympic gold in the sport, will be the team's flag bearer at the closing ceremony.

• Another Russian athlete has tested positive for a banned substance at PyeongChang; this time, it’s women's bobsled pilot Nadezhda Sergeeva (making this shirt a little awkward). She's the fourth athlete and second Russian to fail a drug test at these Games.

• Canada's Jocelyne Larocque leaned into the national stereotype by apologizing for removing her silver medal after her country’s loss to the U.S. in the women's hockey final.

• And here's U.S. luge silver medalist Chris Mazdzer explaining how and why he had to bribe a bus driver in South Korea.

Athlete to Root For

It has to be Shuster. The captain of America's curling team and a bronze medal winner, he and his crew struggled mightily in the last two Olympic Games, finishing last in Vancouver and second-to-last in Sochi. The man has been so snakebitten and bad at the Olympics that his struggles even have their own word: “Shustering” (sort of like Clemsoning, but on ice). But now he and his team—he's joined by vice-skip Tyler George, Matt Hamilton and John Landsteiner—are one win away from making U.S. curling history. So much for Shustering.