Huskova takes gold in breezy aerials final
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Hanna Huskova survived the tricky wind at Phoenix Snow Park to give Belarus a second straight Olympic gold medal in women’s aerials.
The 25-year-old Huskova narrowly edged Zhang Xin in tricky conditions that wreaked havoc with much of the 12-woman field. Huskova nailed her final jump, a double-twisting back layout, and posted a score of 96.14, just ahead of Zhang’s 95.52.
Kong Fanyu took bronze on a sloppy night, giving China two medals in Friday’s event. Huskova and Zhang were the only two women in the finals to land all three of their jumps cleanly.
Alla Tsuper, who won gold for Belarus at the 2014 Sochi Games, was fourth in her sixth Olympic appearance. The 38-year-old mother-of-two attempted the most difficult jump of the night, a triple-twisting back flip, but she tumbled forward on the landing and slid face-first down the hill with just one ski attached.
Laura Peel of Australia was fifth and American rival Madison Olsen was sixth. Olsen’s attempt at giving the U.S. women their first Olympic medal in the event in 20 years ended when her back slid into the hill while landing her final jump.
Gold medal favorite Xu Mengtao of China washed out in the second round and failed to advance to the finals. China now has seven medals in the event since it made its Olympic debut in 1994, but no golds.
Winds swirled throughout the competition, starting off from left to right before moving directly into the face of the skiers as they went down the hill at speeds upward of 30 mph. Coaches would hold them for several moments at the top of the hill waiting for the wind to calm down enough to attempt anything close to a “safe” jump.
It’s the second competition at the Snow Park to have wind issues. The women’s snowboard slopestyle final was a mess on Sunday, when only nine of the 50 runs were completed without any significant errors.
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Somehow, Yun Sungbin felt no pressure.
He’s a 23-year-old who was expected to win gold and nothing else at these Pyeongchang Olympics, in his home country, with thousands of his countrymen showing up early on a Friday morning to chant his name and await a coronation.
A daunting task? Not for skeleton’s new king.
Yun won for fun at these Olympics, dominant by every single measure. His four-run time of 3 minutes, 20.55 seconds was a staggering 1.63 seconds ahead of silver medalist Nikita Tregubov of Russia — the largest victory margin in Olympic skeleton history, and the largest margin in any Olympic sliding event since 1972.
“There was no reason to feel any pressure,” Yun said. “I mean, it’s my home track. So I can really feel at home here. And I think that I always believed it would come out greatly if I do the same things I’ve always done.”
Someone, someday, might win a skeleton race at the Olympics by a bigger margin. But the totality of what Yun did here can’t be topped, only matched. He had the fastest start in all four runs. There are four spots on the course where split times were taken; he had the fastest one in all four of those, every time. So of course, he had the fastest finish in every heat as well.
Yun’s lead kept growing and growing: 0.31 seconds after one heat, 0.74 seconds after two, 1.02 seconds after three. He set the start record Thursday and lowered his own track record in the final heat on Friday, going all-out even on his final slide and becoming the first South Korean to win a gold medal in any sliding event.
Put simply, none of the other 29 men ever had a chance.
“He smashed it,” said Britain’s Dom Parsons, who won the bronze.
Did he ever.
Most skeleton races are decided by tenths or hundredths of a second. The average winning margin in a men’s World Cup skeleton race this season was 0.37 seconds. Matt Antoine of the U.S. is a World Cup race winner; he finished these Olympics in 11th place, 3.84 seconds behind Yun.
“I’m looking at this right now as the whole of my career, the last 15-plus years,” Antoine said. “This is just one race. The result is what it is. To be here, with my family here, everyone supporting me, that’s all I could have asked for.”
John Daly, the other American in the field, was 16th in his third Olympics.
Yun stepped onto the award podium shortly after finishing, arms skyward as his fans roared. They showed up early on a bright morning in the Taebaek Mountains, fully expecting to see the sort of dominance he himself envisioned when taking thousands of training runs on the track that was built for these Olympics, the track he knows better than anyone else in sliding.
“Yun! Sung! Bin!” they chanted, over and over. “Yun! Sung! Bin!”
“Getting the gold medal in any Olympics is a very great result,” Yun said. “But getting the gold here in my home country is a very great honor, much bigger than that.”
Happy New Year, indeed. On a national holiday in South Korea — the start of a lunar new year — Yun became a national hero.
“Yun Sungbin is a very strong athlete,” Tregubov said. “I believe he has no minuses. Excellent start. He stays calm. Excellent technique. He is better than me.”
There was no shame in saying that. Yun was better than everyone.
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