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American stars struggling in Olympics' early days

Sochi Olympics Speedskating Men
SOCHI, Russia (AP) - What a stunning sight: Shani Davis gliding around the speedskating oval, head down in defeat, staring glumly at the ice.

For the U.S. Olympic team, it's becoming more and more common.

One after another, some of the biggest American stars have wiped out in sunny Sochi.

From Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso to Shaun White and Sarah Hendrickson, this is hardly shaping up as an Olympics to remember for the U.S. team.

Davis was just the latest to falter, finishing eighth Wednesday in the 1,000 meters, a race he won at the last two Winter Games.

He was hoping to become the first male speedskater to pull off a three-peat. He didn't come close, fading badly after a quicker-than-expected start.

"I have to live with this for the rest of my life," Davis said. "I can't let it get me down, because I have other races to skate, but I'm pretty sad about it."

He's got plenty of company.

Miller faltered in the men's downhill. Mancuso, after getting a surprise bronze in the super combined, failed to medal in the women's downhill, her best discipline. White dropped out of one event and joined Davis in failing to even win a medal in another, the halfpipe, he owned at the last two games. Hendrickson never had a chance after undergoing major knee surgery six months ago.

"It's a bummer," White said of his defeat.

He could've been speaking for much of the American team after five full days of competition.

The U.S., which led the overall medals table at the 2010 Vancouver Games with 37, was fourth in the standings with nine as of Wednesday, trailing Norway, Canada and the Netherlands. Four of the American medals have come in snowboarding, including gold for Kaitlyn Farrington and bronze for Kelly Clark in the halfpipe on Wednesday night.

But they are hardly household names back home.

Not like White, Davis and Miller.

Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said it's far too early to push the panic button.

"Whenever we start predicting medals, we get way off track," he told The Associated Press. "Our job is to make sure the athletes are prepared. What we can control is: Are they ready to compete? I can unequivocally say we're ready to compete. And don't forget there's almost two full weeks left."

Clearly, though, things haven't gone according to the best-laid plans.

On Wednesday, the U.S. women's hockey team lost to bitter rival Canads 3-2 in a tense preview of the expected gold-medal match. The defeat didn't matter all that much in the grand scheme - the countries will likely meet again in the final - but it seemed to fit the theme of yet another American squad coming up short, for whatever reason.

In the women's downhill, Mancuso settled for a disappointing eighth-place finish, and no one else was even close for the Americans. Just last season, every member of the women's speed team had a podium result.

In cross-country skiing, usually an afterthought for the Americans, Kikkan Randall was thought to be a serious medal contender in the women's freestyle sprint. She didn't even get out of her quarterfinal heat Tuesday, passed by no less than three skiers on the final straight.

"Just to come in the games as a gold-medal contender was incredible," Randall said. "I wish I would have been able to fight for that in a few more rounds."

The curlers were struggling, too. The women lost their first four matches and likely needed to win their remaining five round-robin games to have any shot at qualifying for the semifinals. The men were 1-2 after beating Denmark 9-5 on Wednesday, keeping alive their hopes of advancing.

"We are going to stay upbeat whatever happens," U.S. women's skip Erika Brown said. "We worked really hard to be here. We are doing our best out there and we'll keep fighting."

In the new sport of women's ski jumping, the Americans would've been heavy favorites for gold if Hendrickson had been healthy. But the 19-year-old world champion had surgery on her right knee in August, and it was apparent after her first training jump that she had not fully recovered. She wound up 21st out of 30 starters, her only consolation having the honor of jumping first in the historic final.

"My performance was not the best," she said, "but I kind of expected it."

At least Hendrickson made it to Sochi.

Two of the most notable U.S. Olympians were left at home.

Skier Lindsay Vonn - THE face of the pre-Olympic marketing push in the States - and defending men's figure skating champion Evan Lysacek were unable to compete in Sochi because of injuries.

Blackmun is pleased with those who did make it.

Davis, for instance, has another shot in the 1,500.

"I think our athletes are doing great," he said. "At every single games, we don't win some medals that we thought we might, and we lose some medals that we never thought we would have. These games are no different."

Join the discussion

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gumbiee49 February 13 2014 at 6:25 AM

Hey, it's competition, someone wins and someone loses. As long as you tried your hardest you move on, win or lose.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
rcohn95038 February 13 2014 at 11:08 AM

Shani Davis is a great representative for the USA; he went over to congratulate the winner of the gold medal from, where else, the Netherlands, who reign supreme at speed skating.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
wrbcom rcohn95038 February 13 2014 at 11:18 AM

Agree and the guy that beat Shawn White said in his interview that Shawn had come over and congratulated him and that meant almost as much as the medal because if not for Shawn there wouldn't even be that event. Our kids over there may not be winning all the medals but hopefully winning hearts because of their sportsmanship.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
sjcsells February 13 2014 at 10:44 AM

You don't get into the Olympics by being lazy or complacent. The fact that some athletes didn't win 3 in a row which few do, is no indication of being lazy or complacent either. It DOES speak to the fact you loose your place by one thousands of a second-pretty close odds in my book. I think when you are the favorite to win it's harder than when you are the underdog. Besides on any given day one team can beat another and one athlete can beat another. That's sports and that is what keeps us watching-you never know what will happen.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
winrider99 February 13 2014 at 12:25 PM

Hey,These Kids, fine young atheletes, are simply Human. The pressure to Medal is absurd. Give them all the credit in the world for the sacrifices, hard work, and effort they have given for years.
Celebrate their talent and skill. Be thankful that we have produced such wonderful young people who have represented our country so well. Thank You our classy young Olympians

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Roberta February 13 2014 at 12:26 PM

Do your best, no one can expect or do more. Good Luck to you all.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
bbh907 February 13 2014 at 9:24 AM

I would just like to comment on how well Shaun White handled his disappointment on not winning.He was mature and didn't whine or complain about the conditions. He was a winner in my book just by his good sportsmanship!

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HTIIJJS February 13 2014 at 5:42 PM


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esofine February 13 2014 at 9:16 AM

Not to be cold and cruel, but this is a reflection of the state of our nation. We have slowly devolved from the "land of the free, and the home of the brave" into the "land of the not so free, and the home of the lazy". We have become a nation fixated on the latest video games and reality shows, rather then a nation trying to improve itself. Everyone these days wants something for nothing. These "games" reflect more than athleticism...

Flag Reply +8 rate up
2 replies
danieltx6129 esofine February 13 2014 at 9:33 AM

You took the words right out of my mouth!!!!!!

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Vinny esofine February 13 2014 at 11:13 AM

We are devolved into a nation of 'softies', I agree. If we had to tame the 'Western Frontier' in this generation the Native Americans would easily whup the asses of our present generation because nowadays we are a nation of 'WIMPS' where everyone is a 'hero' . Our limp wristed 'media' are overawed by mediocre 'athletes' because the most they can manage is a jog in the park. Our REAL 'heros' are in Afghanastan trudging along with 80 lbs on their backs and risking their lives for us. Sure it would be nice if we piled up the gold, but our standard for athletes is too low, and it shows when they meet the worlds best in competition. A new crop will arise, but unless we up our standards then simply calling them 'heros' and feeding us 'sexy' pictures won't do the trick.

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kdcarolcohen February 13 2014 at 9:12 AM

I think it is sad when you see the bronze medal winner burst into tears of shame. All these athletes are winners if they even made it to the Olympics. We should celebrate their abilities and not call them losers if they did not medal. Shaun White is a pioneer in his sport and should not hang his head in shame for coming in 4th. The Olympics should be a sporting event and not a medal race.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
bill_jones86 kdcarolcohen February 13 2014 at 9:52 AM

thats exactley why they are loosing. wake up

Flag Reply +1 rate up
blythhardy February 13 2014 at 11:15 AM

We should go back to the cowboy hats. That seemed to work, and represented the founding spirit of America quite perfectly.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
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