Fourth-Place Medal, a Yahoo! Sports blog covering the Olympics

  • Team USA has unveiled its Opening Ceremony uniforms for its 400 athletes and 200 officials. Created by Ralph Lauren, the uniforms are sourced from domestic vendors following widespread protests in 2012 that the American uniforms were made overseas.

    "We've learned a lot," David Lauren, Ralph's son and the company's executive vice president of global advertising, marketing and communications, said in USA Today. "This is an important issue for many Americans and one we have fully embraced, and we want to continue to lead the way and find all kinds of vendors who can produce amazing products made in America."

    The difficulty, Lauren said, was in finding American vendors that could handle the requirements. Most domestic vendors have either shut down or moved overseas.

    Here's three-time Olympic hockey player Julie Chu modeling the uniform in closeup:

    Team USA will put the uniforms in play at the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 7.

    Jay Busbee is a contributor for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter.

  • U.S. women’s hockey goalie Jessie Vetter had an awesome concept for her 2014 Sochi Olympics mask: Using actual 23 karat gold in the paint – hey, she’s going for gold, right? – and adorning it was inspiring American iconography.

    One of the images was of the Constitution’s famous opening line, “We The People” and some text from that historic document. But when Vetter takes the ice for Team USA next month, it won’t be found on her mask – the International Olympic Committee ruled it had to be deleted.

    From IN GOAL Magazine and mask artist Ron Slater:

    “[It] had to be removed because no writings of any kind to promote the country is allowed,” Slater explained in an email to InGoal. “A sort of ‘our country is better than your country” kind of thing that the IOC frowns upon. Her name had to come off because they see it as self promotion. They wanted everything to be team based. … Our original idea was ‘land of the free, home of the brave,’ and that would have had to have been removed as well.”

    The IOC’s Rule 51 bans any sort of advertising, demonstration, and/or propaganda on an athlete's equipment at the Olympics. American men’s hockey goalies were hit with the regulation in the 2010 Vancouver Games, as Jonathan Quick’s “support our troops” slogan and Ryan Miller’s “Matt Man,” a tribute to his late cousin who died of leukemia, were stripped from the mask designs.

    Vetter and Slater were able to keep a USA logo, the Statue of Liberty and a bald eagle on the mask, as apparently none of that is propaganda. Here's the new back to the mask.

    And the side, which was maintained:

    Look, the Olympics have any number of silly restrictions on freedom of expression, and the idea that the U.S. Constitution is seen as “propaganda” rather than a procedural document establishing societal and governmental rules is asinine.

    It’s not like the preamble reads, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union and be soooo much better than you unwashed heathens across the oceans …”

    But our real question here: If Jessie Vetter can’t have a few words of the Constitution on her mask, why can Team Slovakia have their ENTIRE NATIONAL ANTHEM sewn into their hockey sweaters?

  • With the news that Lindsey Vonn, the most famous American skier and arguably the U.S.'s best-known winter Olympic athlete, will miss this year's Olympic Games, there's a star-power vacuum at the top. Sure, there's snowboarder Shaun White, and Vonn's fellow skier Ted Ligety, but most of the U.S. team isn't as well known.

    Mikaela Shiffrin, one of Vonn's fellow skiers, is about to get her turn in the spotlight. She's only 18, but she's the current slalom World Cup champion. Shiffrin's skill is in the technical aspects of skiing, having won two of four World Cup slaloms this season already. Shiffrin is already targeted as a potential medalist in both slalom and giant slalom.

    She can fight through adversity; as recently as last Saturday, she won a slalom event in Bormio, Italy, while skiing through rain and poor course conditions. The race had to be moved from Zagreb, Croatia because weather conditions were so poor. The fact that Shiffrin was able to flourish given such drastic shifts bodes well for her future, given that Olympic skiers must deal with an entirely new level of attention and, in some cases, adversity.

    "I never wanted to be a racer who could only win on hard snow or just soft snow, or just a steep pitch or just a flat," Shiffrin said after the win. "I want to be really good in all-around conditions and getting a win [Saturday] has given me a lot of confidence that I can ski out of ruts in the second run."

    Of note: Shiffrin's key rival, Marlies Schild of Austria, will pose a significant challenge in Sochi. Schild won the other two slaloms that Shiffrin did not, and at age 32 and recovering from two knee surgeries, completes the other half of the youth-versus-experience battle. That showdown should make for one of Sochi's more compelling stories.

    Just don't call Shiffrin the "next Lindsey Vonn." "When they say I’m the next Lindsey Vonn, they are shooing her out the door, and I don’t think that’s fair,” Shiffrin told in December. "Imagine being her, reading that someone is the next Lindsey Vonn — it’s like saying, 'Get out of the way, there’s no room for two Lindsey Vonns.'"

    Maybe not. But in Sochi, Shiffrin will have the whole stage to herself.

    Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

  • All right, this is good stuff. Behold the helmet of Canadian skeletoner Sarah Reid. It's one of the high-concept helmets for four members of the Canadian skeleton contingent, and you'll see plenty of them next month in Sochi.

    "I had been wanting to get my helmet painted for quite a while, and originally wanted an image that I found off the Internet of a girl’s face that was half normal, half skull," Reid told Canada's official Olympic website, thereby assuring that she will be metalheads' favorite Olympian. When an artist informed her that a symmetrical look would be better, she went with a "Day of the Dead" approach.

    Here's fellow skeletoner Eric Neilson:

    His explanation for his helmet is equally straightforward: "The story behind mine was pretty much that I wanted a very bad ass helmet. I know you can’t put that in a write up, but that’s what I wanted. It’s pretty much a 'Demon Head' helmet that is on fire and is breathing fire out of the mouth that are skulls." Again, awesome.

    Next up, John Fairbairn, with the neon brain:

    Finally, there's Mellissa Hollingsworth, who won Canada's first-ever medal in skeleton, a bronze at Turin in 2006:

    We love all of these and are now declaring Canada our favorite skeleton team of the Games.

    Jay Busbee is a writer for Fourth Place Medal on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

  • Lindsey Vonn failed to finish a downhill race at Val d'Isere, France, on Saturday after her surgically repaired right knee "completely gave out," but insists she's no more injured than she was before the race. Vonn believes she is still on track for success at Sochi, though she indicated she will take a brief break from racing.

    This was Vonn's fourth race since returning from an injury suffered last February in Austria that required surgery and extensive rehabilitation. She had hoped to reach a podium prior to the Olympics, but that may not be possible now.

    Vonn cut her race short when she missed a gate, and appeared to be in pain following the race, according to the AP.

    "I didn’t hurt myself more than I’m already hurt," she said. "It was a small compression, and it was fully loaded on the right ski and my knee just completely gave out. I tried to pressure the ski again and it gave out again. I had no chance of making that gate, unfortunately."

    Vonn said she would "play it safe" and run only one or two more races before Sochi in early February.

    Jay Busbee is a contributor for Fourth Place Medal on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter.

  • The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi were already shaping up to be an event at which sexual orientation played a significant role, in large part because of Russia's stringent anti-gay propaganda law. The United States upped the ante this week by naming two gay athletes to its delegation attending the Games. And now, another member of that delegation, Olympic figured skating legend Brian Boitano, has come out in a move that is clearly designed to endorse a more open form of communication and tolerance than exists in Russia.

    Boitano, who won gold in men's figure skating in 1988, has been in the public eye for decades, yet has consistently declined to address the issue of his sexuality despite longtime speculation. The fact that he is coming out at this point, then, is certainly an inextricable part of the overall narrative.

    Boitano's statement, in full:

    I am currently skating in Europe but want to provide a statement regarding my appointment to the Olympic delegation. I have been fortunate to represent the United States of America in three different Olympics, and now I am honored to be part of the presidential delegation to the Olympics in Sochi. It has been my experience from competing around the world and in Russia that Olympic athletes can come together in friendship, peace and mutual respect regardless of their individual country's practices.

    It is my desire to be defined by my achievements and my contributions. While I am proud to play a public role in representing the American Olympic Delegation as a former Olympic athlete, I have always reserved my private life for my family and friends and will continue to do so. I am many things: a son, a brother, and uncle, a friend, an athlete, a cook, an author, and being gay is just one part of who I am. First and foremost I am an American athlete and I am proud to live in a country that encourages diversity, openness and tolerance. As an athlete, I hope we can remain focused on the Olympic spirit which celebrates achievement in sport by peoples of all nations.

    Clearly, the tolerance issue as regards to sexual orientation will continue to play a significant role at the 2014 Games. Boitano is the third openly gay member of the United States delegation to the Games, along with tennis legend Billie Jean King and ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow.

    There will be a day when an Olympian's sexual orientation is as irrelevant to his or her story as hair color. That day isn't today, but days like this will make that time draw nearer.

    Jay Busbee is a contributor for Fourth Place Medal on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter.

  • Lindsey Vonn's recovery from a catastrophic knee injury suffered in February has been nothing short of amazing. How amazing, you ask? Last year, Adrian Peterson suffered a similar injury and made a highly-celebrated return to the NFL just 226 days afterward. Vonn beat him by 50 days.

    Here, Red Bull charts not only Vonn's return as compared to a "normal" human being (she'd beat us back to full strength by six months) but also her impressive training regimen and work ethic. Check it out, and be impressed:

    A video or other embedded content has been hidden. Click here to view it.LAZYLOADCONTENT-->

  • Evan Lysacek, defending men's Olympic figure skating champion, will miss the 2014 Olympics in Sochi because of an injury. It's a blow to both the United States' medal hopes and the storyline aspect of the Games; Lysacek was expected to be one of the lead stories of the Olympics.

    "This has been my entire life, training and representing my country," Lysacek said, according to the Associated Press. "So it's just kind of difficult. As much as I knew it could go either way, I never accepted it wouldn't. I always thought it would work out. I was crushed. I am crushed."

    Lysacek last competed in 2010. He was attempting to recover from a torn labrum in his left hip, but it became clear he would not be ready for Sochi. Even had he been healthy, he was by no means a certainty to match Dick Button's two golds in 1948 and 1952. But now, he will not even get the opportunity.

    Lysacek now joins Johnny Weir as highly recognizable men's skating competitors who will not make the trip to Sochi. Weir retired earlier this fall.

    Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

  • Lindsey Vonn is back in action ... and even if she's a bit deeper in the standings than she'd like, it's better than being on the sidelines.

    Vonn raced in a World Cup downhill at Lake Louise, Alberta on Friday afternoon, her first competition since a catastrophic wreck back in February and marks a surprisingly quick return to action after tearing her ACL less than three weeks ago. Her unofficial time of 1 minute, 59.22 seconds had her outside the top 25, but nonetheless marked an important milestone in her quest to defend her downhill Olympic gold medal.

    The race was briefly delayed due to extreme cold. Temperatures at Lake Louise were minus-18, with wind chill from skiing plunging far lower.

    This marks a significant step in Vonn's return from injury. In a February crash in Schladming, Austria, Vonn tore the ACL and MCL in her right knee and broke her leg. That required months of rehab, and Vonn suffered another setback last month.

    “You kinda know if your body is ready or not, and I feel ready,” Vonn told USA Today Thursday. “It’s been a long time coming, but when I come here it doesn’t feel as if I’ve been gone that long. It feels like the start of a new season.”

    The World Cup competition, which continues this weekend, could not come at a better locale for Vonn. She's won the last seven World Cup races held at Lake Louise, and has not placed lower than second at the site since 2008. Overall, NBC Sports noted, she's won 14 times at Lake Louise, the most of any skier at any single venue in World Cup history.

    The Sochi Games are less than two months away. However, there are no actual trials to qualify for the Olympic alpine ski team; a combination of objective criteria and coaches' discretion is used to create the United States roster.

    Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter.

  • Tom Daley, a British diver who won bronze at the London Olympic Games in 2012, has become the latest athlete to publicly declare his sexual orientation. In a YouTube video designed to end "rumors and speculation," Daley announced that he is indeed gay.

    "Come spring this year my life changed massively when I met someone and they made me feel so happy, so safe and everything just feels great -- and that someone is a guy," said Daley. "Of course I still fancy girls but right now I'm dating a guy and I couldn't be happier."

    Daley, age 19, tried to head off the inevitable backlash : "In an ideal world I wouldn't be doing this video because it shouldn't matter, but recently I was misquoted in an interview and it made me feel really angry and frustrated, and emotions that I've never felt before when reading something about myself, and for me honesty is something that I really do believe in."

    Daley won bronze in the 10-meter dive at the London Olympics, and hopes to compete in Rio in 2016. He remains a popular figure in England.

    Jay Busbee is a contributor for Fourth Place Medal on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter.

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