Winter Olympics live updates: Mikaela Shiffrin’s final medal chance, US looks for sweep in freeski halfpipe – USA TODAY

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The Americans missed the podium Friday at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, but there are plenty of chances for redemption Saturday.

(Miss something? Get caught up on all of Friday’s action right here.)

If there’s anyone in need of redemption it’s Mikaela Shiffrin, who has struggled mightily but has one final chance for a medal in the mixed team parallel alpine event.

The men’s freeski halfpipe gives the U.S. their best chance for a medal Saturday, with four American qualifiers led by two-time gold medalist David Wise and Aaron Blunck, who finished first in the qualifying round.

Kaillie Humphries, who earlier won gold in the monobob, will attempt to win her fourth gold medal of her career. She won two while competing for Canada. But she’ll have to make up ground in runs three and four of the two-woman event. American teammate Elana Meyers Taylor, who won silver in the monobob, is third after runs one and two.

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Elana Meyers Taylor selected as closing ceremony flagbearer

BEIJING – A frustrating but rewarding Olympics will have a cherry on top for U.S. bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor.

The four-time medalist will carry the Red, White and Blue at the Beijing Olympics closing ceremony on Sunday. She was selected to be a flagbearer with curler John Schuster during the opening ceremony, but tested positive for COVID-19 upon her arrival in China and missed the event.

“I was so honored to be named the opening ceremony flagbearer, but after not being able to carry the flag, it’s even more humbling to lead the United States at the Closing Ceremony,” Meyers Taylor said in the announcement. “Congratulations to my fellow Team USA athletes on all their success in Beijing – I’m looking forward to carrying the flag with my teammates by my side and closing out these Games.”

Meyers Taylor is now the second athlete to be selected as the opening and closing flagbearer for an Olympics. Bobsled and skeleton athlete Jack Heaton carried the flag in both ceremonies at the 1948 Games in St. Moritz.

Team USA posted a video of her husband, bobsled alternate Nic Taylor, informing her of the news in their hotel lobby Friday before she competed in the two-woman bobsled heats.

“This is your moment!” U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirschland wrote on Twitter. “We are so proud of you!”

Meyers Taylor and her family were isolated for nearly a week. She was open about the mental and physical challenges that presented, but refused to let the deter her training. Meyers Taylor posted videos of her working out in a hotel room. Then she won a silver medal behind teammate Kaillie Humphries in the women’s debut of the monobob and is currently competing in the two-woman bobsled.

— Chris Bumbaca

What we know about Kamila Valieva’s coach

BEIJING — If all eyes weren’t on Eteri Tutberidze in the aftermath of the Kamila Valieva’s disastrous free skate program, they are now.

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach called out Valieva’s “entourage” at a news conference Friday, saying “I was very, very disturbed yesterday when I watched the competition on TV.”

Bach did not name a specific individual, but said it was “chilling” to see how she was received by her camp.

On Thursday, Tutberidze was seen on the broadcast admonishing Valieva as she sat in the kiss-and-cry after her long program. 

“Why did you let it go? Explain it to me, why? Why did you stop fighting completely?” Tutberidze said. “Somewhere after the axel you let it go.”

Read all about Tutberidze’s path to becoming a coach.

— Chris Bumbaca

Joey Mantia seeks to skate to speedskating medal

American speedskater Joey Mantia has already checked one item off his Beijing bucket list: capture a medal in the 2022 Olympics. Mantia did that in men’s team pursuit when he teamed with Casey Dawson and Emery Lehman for the bronze earlier this week.

But in his third Olympics, Mantia is seeking one other prize — his first individual speedskating medal.

Mantia will compete Saturday in the men’s mass start, where he is the reigning world champion in the event. He was also the mass start world champ in 2019 and 2017.

A former inline skating world champion, Mantia turned his attention to speedskating in 2010 and in less than three years was competing at a World Cup level on the ice. Now 36, he hopes his third time at the Olympic Games will be the charm.

More medals on tap for Team USA?

The U.S. has captured 21 total medals heading into the penultimate day of competition in Beijing to rank fifth in the overall medals table. But Team USA has a good chance to add to their tally with strong medal opportunities in men’s freeski halfpipe and two-man women’s bobsled. Another possible medal could be gained in the mass start in men’s speedskating, where Joey Mantia can become the first American man to win an individual speed skating medal since 2010.

Norway continues to dominate in both overall medals with 34 and golds with 15. The ROC ranks second in total medals with 27, while Canada sits in third with 24. Germany, in fourth with 22 medals, ranks second in the gold tally with 10. The U.S. is fifth in overall medals and tied for third in golds with eight.

American pairs figure skater makes Winter Olympics history

BEIJING — Medals will be awarded in pairs figure skating following Saturday’s free skate, and while the U.S. is unlikely to earn its first medal in the event since the 1988 Calgary Games, it did make history in another way.

American Timothy LeDuc, skating with partner Ashley Cain-Gribble, became the first openly nonbinary athlete to compete at the Winter Olympics – a historic step for LGBTQ representation and visibility at the Games. 

LeDuc, whose pronouns are they/them, said they wanted it to be the beginning of a shift, a way of showing queer people that they have the opportunity “to be open and be authentic to themselves and everything that makes them unique, and still achieve success in sport.”

LeDuc found a perfect match in 2016 with Cain-Gribble, a former singles skater who has been open about facing body shaming earlier in a career that almost forced her into retirement. LeDuc and Cain-Gribble, who have won two national championships, sit in seventh place heading into the free skate.

— Tom Schad