U.S. curlers get boost from skip change, 49er Bodacious Bode gets super-G silver
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vernon Davis was in the house. He gave the American men's curling team a quick pep talk and a much-needed morale boost.
The Pro Bowl tight end from the San Francisco 49ers and lifelong Olympics fan arrived yesterday at Vancouver Olympic Center, sporting a royal blue USA jacket with "DAVIS" on the back and a plaid flannel beneath to cheer the Americans to their first victory.
"Oh, this is awesome," Davis said when he climbed the stairs to his seat and took his first look at the ice. "Yeah, this is cool, just like on TV, outstanding."
Then, he pulled out his phone and shot a short video for his fans, saying: "I'm about to have a ball, so excited I can't believe it. Stay tuned."
While the cheers from Davis were nice, the difference-maker for the men's team may have been a change in skips (team captain). After an 0-4 start, 2006 bronze medalist John Shuster was replaced by alternate Chris Plys.
"It's like a once in a lifetime," Davis said later in the mixed zone, doing interviews alongside the U.S. team after a 4-3 win over France. "Everybody doesn't come to the Olympics and get a chance to meet guys on different teams. It's quite an honor, and I really appreciate it."
Davis threw his right arm into the air in the eighth, then cheered when No. 4 shooter Jason Smith's last rock of the ninth tied the game at 3. He celebrated by pumping both fists when the Americans secured their first Olympic win by scoring in the 10th.
This opportunity came about after Davis gave curling a try in November and loved it, capturing the attention of USA Curling officials in Wisconsin. They made the invite.
World champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia won the compulsory portion of ice dance, the first of three legs of the event. The original dance will be tomorrow and free dance Monday night. Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir are second and two-time American champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White are third, just ahead of fellow Americans Tanith Belbin and Benjamin Agosto, the 2006 silver medalists.
Scotty Lago volunteered to leave the Olympics after risque pictures of him wearing a Team USA T-shirt and his halfpipe bronze medal showed up on the Internet. The U.S. Olympics Committee puts athletes through a program to avoid such situations. Lago apologized to the USOC and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
The Czech Republic, Finland and Sweden joined the United States as the only 2-0 teams. Jaromir Jagr and Tomas Plekanec helped the Czechs take a 3-0 lead over Latvia before even allowing a shot, then rode the big start to a 5-2 victory. The Swedes also led 3-0, facing a Belarus team that upset them four years ago. Belarus got within a goal with 5:10 remaining, but Sweden held off, even getting another goal with 10.4 seconds left to make the final score 4-2. Finland routed Germany, 5-0.
Two Swiss competitors have withdrawn from events following scary crashes, including a strong medal contender. Swiss driver Daniel Schmid, who was not a medal favorite, pulled out of the two-man and four-man bob for "safety reasons" after two practice crashes. Yesterday, his sled overturned during training and his brakeman was taken from the track in an ambulance, then flown to Vancouver for observation. A team doctor said there were no serious injuries. Beat Hefti, a World Cup champion, withdrew from two-man because of a concussion in a crash Wednesday.
Normal hill winner Simon Ammann of Switzerland can keep using the modified bindings that anchor his boots to his skis. He can keep his gold medal, too. The International Ski Federation dismissed complaints by the Austrians that Ammann was breaking the rules, and gave him permission to stick with the equipment for Saturday's large hill event.
Having already won two halfpipe gold medals, Shaun White would love the chance to double his collection at the 2014 Olympics. White said he'd consider competing in halfpipe and slopestyle if that event was added to the mix for the Sochi Games. In slopestyle, riders do huge tricks while going down the mountain and through "features" — rails, big jumps and bumps. At ski resorts, slopestyle is widely thought of as an easier way for amateur snowboarders to do cool tricks than on a halfpipe.