12 countries met in three locations last week to determine the final three spots in the 2018 Olympic Hockey tournament. Latvia, Norway, and Belarus hosted the final qualification events, but at the end of the day Norway was the only host to survive. The Norwegians scored a late goal over France to finish its qualification round 3-0 with wins over the French, Kazakhstan, and Italy. Elsewhere, Germany’s Tom Kuhnhackl scored a late goal against Latvia to get Germany back to the Olympics. Finally, Slovenia is making its second straight Olympic tournament appearance after beating host Belarus in a shootout in the final game.
With that, the final groups are set:
The top four teams will get an automatic berth into the quarterfinals, whereas the remaining eight teams will have to play to get into the quarters.
With 121 medals won, the United States won nearly a third of all medals in the 2016 games. They also led with 46 golds. But way at the other end of the table are the countries that only won one medal. Here’s a brief look at the newest national heroes in those countries.
Countries Whose Only Medal Was Gold
Fiji – Men’s Rugby
Rugby is far and away the top sport in Fiji, a tiny island nation with a population of just over 800,000 (or in other terms, just slightly more than the population of South Dakota). But Fiji is a rugby powerhouse. They’ve won two Rugby Sevens World Cups and now the gold medal in the 2016 Olympics. Not only was this Fiji’s first ever medal in rugby, it was its first medal of any kind in the history of the Olympics. Read more…
With the summer olympics over, the next olympics on tap take place in February 2018 in Peyongchang, South Korea. At the 2014 games in Sochi, the US won 28 medals, 9 of them gold, to finish 2nd and 4th in the medal table respectively. Ice dancers Charlie White and Meryl Davis and bobsledders Steve Holcomb and Steve Langton were the only Americans to medal more than once.
It was a bit of a changing of the guard Olympics, with roughly 20% of the American contingent being aged 30 or older. However, there are plenty of people to watch for 2018.
1. Mikaela Shiffrin, Alpine Skiing
Shiffrin, who will be just 22 in 2018, grabbed gold in the slalom and just missed the podium in the giant slalom. Shiffrin is the youngest slalom gold medalist and has won three consecutive world cup titles in the discipline.
2. Gracie Gold, Figure Skating
Gold was fourth in 2014, and was fourth in the 2015 and 2016 world championships. Her short program score in 2016 was the highest ever by an American. She’s yet to consistently put two routines together back to back at a major event, but if she can do so she could nab a medal in 2018.
3. Tucker West, Luge
West was the youngest slider to ever make the United States luge team in 2014, and in December 2014 he became the first American to win a world cup race since 1997. HE finished 7th in the 2015-16 overall world cup standings and won gold at the U-23 World Championships.
4. Jessica Diggins, Cross Country Skiing
Diggins won a silver at the 2015 World Championships and finished 8th in the overall rankings in the 2015-16 season. With the dominance of the nordic countries over the last few Olympics, Diggins is probably a longshot for a medal, but she has a chance to be just the second medalist ever from the United States.
5. Maddie Bowman, Freestyle Skiing
The 2014 gold medalist, Bowman has backed up her dominance with X Games gold in 2015 and 2016. Although anything can happen when you get judged sports and the Olympics together, Bowman seems like the best bet out of all the Americans to win gold in 2018.
6. Susan Dunklee, Biathlon
Dunklee had two top 15 finishes in Sochi, and ranked 14th in the 2015-16 World Cup standings. She also finished 2nd in a sprint event earlier this season. The United States has never won a biathlon medal, but if Dunklee can put together a good race, she could be the first.
7. John Shuster, Curling
Putting a curler on here is risky because the US trials format makes it tough to predict which team will actually make it to the Olympics, but if it’s John Shuster for the third consecutive Olympics, the US should have a shot to medal for the first time since a bronze in 2006. Shuster struggled in his previous two Olympic trips, but was 5th in the 2015 World Championships and 3rd in the 2016 Worlds.
8. Heather Richardson-Bergsma, Speedskating
The current world record holder at 1500 meters, Richardson-Bergsma also won 3 silver medals at the world championships this year, as well as a gold in 2015. With the terrible showing at the 2014 Olympics in which the United States won zero medals, Richardson-Bergsma looks like the best bet to win at least one medal in South Korea.
9. Lindsey Jacobellis, Snowboardcross
Jacobellis is unfortunately known for her fall at the end of the 2006 Olympics, but is unquestionably the best Snowboardcross racer of all time. She has 10 X Games gold medals, including the last three, and four world championship golds, including the most recent. She’ll be 33 at Peyongchang, and it will likely be her swan song. Here’s betting she caps off her stellar career with the one prize that is missing.
10. Kiley McKinnon, Freestyle Skiing
McKinnon is one of the best aerial skiiers in the world, having won silver at the 2015 World Championships and the 2015 World Cup championship. McKinnon, a Connecticut native, could become just the second female medalist in aerials from the United States.
With the 2016 games all wrapped up, it is time to look ahead to the 2020 games in Tokyo, which will host the summer games for the second time (first: 1964). While it is always tough to predict who will put on a show four years from now (after all, I thought Missy Franklin was on a crash course to become the best female swimmer ever) it was no problem coming up with 10 Americans who will be worth watching in four years. The only issue was limiting it to 10.
1. Katie Ledecky, Swimming
Ledecky took the torch from Missy Franklin as the face of US women’s swimming, and with Michael Phelps likely retiring, she will be the face of US swimming in Tokyo. She already has tied the record for most freestyle gold medals by a female swimmer (and would have two more if the Olympics contested the 1500 free). Ledecky looks like a lock for the 800 in Tokyo, and will have a great shot at the 400 and 200 as well. The only thing stopping her is boredom from routinely blowing the best swimmers in the world out of the water. Read more…
When competition in London was over the United States had won the overall medal count for the fifth straight time and with 46 golds took back the overall golds total from China, who had won it as the hosts in 2008. It was the most medals ever for the United States in a foreign games. Golds wise, the key for the United States from Beijing to London was consistency: already a strong team across the board, the U.S. was able to maintain that level over the course of the four years and their two biggest medal winners, swimming and track, saw improvements. In fact, the swimming team led the United States with a +4 margin:
Gold Medal Increase
Track & Field (+2)
Boxing, Diving, Gymnastics, Judo, Shooting, Water Polo, Wrestling (+1) Read more…
Assuming Michael Phelps doesn’t race in Rio, he will end his Olympic career with 22 medals. His 18 golds will surely not be caught until I and everyone reading this are long gone, if ever. But it is possible that 22 medals could be caught by an athlete who starts young enough, wins young enough, and has as many opportunities to win a medal as swimmers have.
Enter Missy Franklin. The 17 year old won 5 medals in London (4 golds) and narrowly missed out on two others, placing 4th and 5th in her other two events. Franklin has one major disadvantage in the chase to 22: her program is limited to two strokes, the backstroke and the freestyle, thus limiting the total medals available. Of course, seeing how Ryan Lochte broke down under the challenge of swimming such a daunting program, perhaps it is best for Franklin to pick and choose her spots. Besides, if she keeps her same program that gives her a shot at 7 medals per Olympics.
Considering she finished 6th in the 100 freestyle by a long margin she may want to ditch that (then again, at the 2011 Worlds she swam the second fastest split in the 4×100 relay). She also swam the fastest freestyle leg of the medley relay at the 2011 Worlds. And though she finished 5th in London in the 200 free her relay split at the 2011 Worlds would have won the 200m gold medal there. There’s obviously a lot of difference between a relay split and individual race, but the talent for medals are there.
In 4 years, Franklin will be 21. I am confident in saying she will medal in both backstrokes, the medley relay and the 4×200 relay for sure. As for the other events, let’s investigate further: Read more…
the first ever youth winter olympics start today in Innsbruck, Austria today. I’ll have fairly comprehensive coverage of the proceedings, starting today with a look at the US boys U-16 Hockey Team.
Logan Halladay (Cary, North Carolina) – Halladay plays for the Junior Hurricanes, and took part in the prestigious Strelow Camp last year, where he was reportedly very impressive. He has been described as a very good butterfly goalie who also is great on his skates.
Edwin Minney (Wind Gap, Pennsylvania) – Minney also took part in the Strelow Camp, and had a .928 save percentage at a USA Hockey invite camp in New York. Read more…