The smiles and hugs were abundant on Day 11 of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
A number of Americans had a shot at taking home gold, and though none were able to attain top billing, several U.S. competitors collected their share of the hardware, while others set themselves up with substantial shots in the qualifying rounds.
In the women’s aerial, Megan Nick earned a slot on the podium, taking home the bronze medal with a 93.76 score on her final jump.
The U.S. men’s speed skating squad joined the parade with a bronze of their own in the team pursuit, after a topsy-turvy journey prior to the games. They finished their final heat with a time of 3:38:80.
As of Tuesday afternoon E.T., Norway leads all countries with 26 medals, followed by the Russian Olympic Committee with 20.
The U.S. is currently tied for fourth in total medals with 17 — seven gold, six silver and four bronze.
These are the memorable highlights from Day 11:
Megan Nick, freestyle skiing
After qualifying for the final round of women’s aerial competition as of one six jumpers with a chance to win gold, Nick added to her country’s medal count with an impressive 93.76 in her final run.
Nick and fellow American Ashley Caldwell both entered the last round with tangible chances to win it all, but Caldwell stumbled on the landing during her jump.
The unfortunate pitfall from one of the event-favorites cleared the way for the 25-year-old Nick to slide into the winner’s circle, and she did so smoothy despite a rush of nerves heading into the jump.
“I thought I was going to throw up, but I was able to calm my nerves enough to land some jumps, thank goodness,” Nick exclaimed afterwards. “I knew it was going to be challenging because the field is so good. Everyone’s jumping at such a high level that I knew I had to put down a good jump. I’m just relieved that I was able to do that.”
Team USA, speed skating
The men’s team pursuit foursome of Joey Mantia, Ethan Cepuran, Casey Dawson and Emery Lehman was incredibly close to not coming together at all. In fact, it took over 45 COVID tests for one member to even receive clearance for the opportunity of his life.
Dawson, a 21-year-old phenom from Park City, Utah, battled a nagging case of the virus in the weeks heading up to the games, and was forced to miss the 1,500-meter race with his squad. He finally received four consecutive negative tests mid-February, which cleared the way for a flight to Atlanta, GA, then to Paris, and finally Beijing. And despite an onset of even more misfortune – Dawson was forced to borrow blades from Latvian skater Haralds Silovs due to a luggage mishap – he arrived just in the nick of time for the team pursuit.
And he exited with some additional jewelry to accompany him on his flight home.
“I feel like the weight’s been lifted in a sense,” the 36-year-old Mantia, who captained the team, told the New York Times. “I’m an Olympic medalist.”
These are likely the last games of Mantia’s prolific career, one that’s spanned over a decade long.
Team USA, freestyle skiing
Three Americans: Chris Lillis, Justin Schoenefeld and Eric Loughran qualified for the men’s aerials finals after successful jumps – and majestic tricks during them – netted them slots in the next round.
Lillis and Schoenefeld already captured gold in the team aerials, and both showed they were hungry for more in the individual event. The former unleashed a back double full-full-full, while the latter performed a back full-double full-full, good for sixth and 11th place, respectively.
Loughran was the best of the bunch, captivating the judges with a forceful back full-double full-full. The flashy spectacle received a 121.24, and established him as the fourth-seed heading into the finals.
Team USA, curling
Team Shuster had a wondrous showing on Day 10, but their fortunes ran out Tuesday, as they fell in a blowout loss to Italy, 10-4.
Italy had just one win under its belt heading into the matchup, but wiped away all remnants of its losing stretch with a pair of furious closing ends. Team USA led 6-4 heading into the eighth, but an erratic throw from Shuster gave the Italians a four-point advantage, which was more than enough to close out with a win.
Team Shuster is now 4-4 in round-robin competition, good for fourth place. The top four teams will advance to the elimination stages. The U.S. team has one final match against Denmark (1-6) to try to move up in the standings.
Alysa Liu, Mariah Bell and Karen Chen, figure skating
All three of the aforementioned women are currently in position to advance to the women’s free skate, set to kick off Thursday.
Bell, who was one of the first skaters to take the ice for her recital, sat in third place after three groups, with a score of 65.38 heading into the final two groups.
Liu led the American skaters, finishing just under 70 with a 69.50. She’s currently eighth in the overall standings, while Chen is 13th with a 64.11.
Kamila Valieva of Russia sits in first at 82.16. The top 24 skaters will compete in the free skate Thursday.
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