What you missed at the Olympics: Team USA comes up big in slopestyle, men's hockey not so much

Sometimes you're spinning four and a half times while flying through the air to a gold medal, sometimes you fail to score five straight times against a country with a population roughly the size of South Carolina.

Team USA had the full spectrum of experiences on Wednesday at the Olympics. Here's everything worth knowing.

Alex Hall, Nick Goepper go 1-2 in men's slopestyle

The Americans picked up a gold and a silver, and had some fun doing it.

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Four-time X Games winner Alex Hall added "Olympic champion" to his resume with a big-time first run at the men's slopestyle, landing a 90.01 score that no other competitor would touch over the next two runs.

The gold is the 23-year-old Hall's first Olympic medal.

The athlete who came closest was Hall's compatriot Nick Goepper, whose 86.48 on his second run earned him his third medal in the event in three straight Olympics.


Had Colby Stevenson, the silver medalist in the big air event, not made a minor mistake early in what would turn out to be a high-flying third run, there could very well have been an American sweep of the podium, like in 2014. Instead, Sweden's Jesper Tjeder took bronze and Stevenson finished seventh.

From undefeated to eliminated in men's hockey

The USA men's hockey team was shaping up to be quite a story.

A team composed of NHL castoffs and college kids may not have deserved the full Miracle on Ice comparison, not when no other country has NHL players, but Team USA looked promising after going 3-0 in group play and landing the top seed of bracket play.


Facing Slovakia in the quarterfinals, the U.S. opened up a 2-1 lead going into the third period, where they had a prime chance to put the opponent away on a 5-3 power play. No goals came, however, which turned out to be important when the Slovakians emptied their net and tied the game with 43.7 seconds left.

A 10-minute, 3-on-3 overtime saw no goals, sending the game to a five-man shootout. There, Team USA scored not one, not two, not three, but zero goals to end their Olympic campaign.

In an Olympic tournament where just reaching the semifinals gives you a strong chance at a medal, that's going to sting, even when Auston Matthews, Johnny Gaudreau and others are back stateside.


Joining Slovakia in the semifinals will be the Russian Olympic Committee, Finland and the winner of Sweden-Canada.

France's Clement Noel surges to slalom gold

0.04 seconds.

That is all that separated Clement Noel from a medal in the men's slalom at the PyeongChang Games in 2018. The Frenchman finished a painful fourth, a fraction of a second behind Michael Matt of Austria.

Noel was seemingly on track for a similar finish when he came in sixth after the first run of the slalom in Beijing, until he blew every skier in front of him out of the water on the second run. Noel's finish of 49.79 seconds on that run was better by nearly a full second of the five skiers behind them, landing him gold with a total time of 1:44.09.


Austria's Johannes Strolz, the leader after the first run, ended up coming in second, adding a silver medal to the gold he won in the men's combined, which is pretty good for a a 29-year-old who entered these Games with only one World Cup slalom win to his name. Norway's Sebastian Foss-Solevagg landed bronze, giving the medal table-leading Norwegians yet another medal.

Feb 16, 2022; Zhangjiakou, China; Silver medalist Nicholas Goepper (USA), left, and gold medalist Alexander Hall (USA) celebrate after the men's freestyle skiing slopestyle final during the Beijing 2022 Olympics Winter Games at Genting Snow Park. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports
Alex Hall (right) only needed one run to win his first medal at the Olympics. (Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports)

USA falls short of a women's team sprint repeat

Jessie Diggins' rally to grab the United States' first ever gold medal in cross-country skiing was one of the most thrilling moments of the PyeongChang Games, but there was no repeat in Beijing.


After entering the final run of the team sprint in third with a clear shot at gold, Diggins faded from the lead group and eventually came in a distant fifth alongside teammate Rosie Brennan. Going back-to-back would have been incredible, but the shocking nature of Diggins' win in 2018 always meant that would be a difficult prospect.

Germany's pair of Katharina Hennig and Victoria Carl ended up taking gold in thrilling fashion, with Sweden winning silver and the Russian Olympic Committee grabbing bronze.

Mikaela Shiffrin fastest in combined downhill training

In a world where everything goes according to plan, Mikaela Shiffrin would be the solid favorite going into Thursday's women's combined event. In such a magical world, she'd already have a gold medal or two entering this week, and would have definitely finished every race she's run.


But we're not in that world, and we know that because Shiffrin's time in Beijing has been rough enough to receive public sympathy from Simone Biles. Shiffrin has persevered, though, going from DNFs in the slalom and giant slalom to solid but not medal-winning runs in the Super G and downhill.

Above all, Shiffrin has shown character and maintained perspective, but that's not what she flew to Beijing to do. She wants medals, just like every athlete on that snow, which takes us to the women's combined.

If Shiffrin can perform on the downhill like she did on Wednesday, logging the single-best time in training among all skiers, and if she can perform in the slalom like she has throughout her career, with four world championships and six World Cup season titles, a gold medal is easily within her grasp.

Shiffrin's time of 1:33.56 was 0.93 seconds ahead of the second-fastest skier, 2018 combined bronze medalist Wendy Holdener of Switzerland.


Shiffrin took silver in the combined in PyeongChang, and an upgrade to gold would be one of the best stories in the Olympics after everything she's gone through. But if there's anything we've learned watching Shiffrin the last couple weeks, it's that we just don't know what's going to happen.

The latest on Kamila Valieva

On the other hand, maybe the problem with Kamila Valieva is that we really do know what's going to happen.

The Russian 15-year-old at the center of the biggest scandal at these Games will enter Thursday's women's free skate as the overwhelming favorite to take gold, which she will almost certainly win barring a massive on-ice mistake. What would happen to that medal from there, though, that's still being figured out.


Valieva may have had the day off between competitions, but she was still the topic of plentiful conversation via the following highlights:

It's all going great.

Americans miss medal stand in men's aerials

The American men made a grand effort to break the 24-year gold medal drought in men's aerials, but they just fell short in the big final. Three Americans, Chris Lillis, Justin Schoenefeld, and Eric Loughran, all made it to the first final in men's aerials. Two of them — Lillis and Schoenefeld, have already won a gold at these Olympics as part of the mixed team aerials last week. Lillis' jump in the first final was electric.

Unfortunately, none of the three were able to make it to the medal stand this time. While Loughran didn't score high enough in the first final to make it to the big final (which was between the top six from the first final), Lillis and Schoenefeld did. They both broke out big tricks to try and make it to the top, but with a one-jump final, they had to absolutely nail it. Both Lillis and Schoenefeld looked great in the air, but couldn't stick their landings.

Schoenefeld ended up finishing in fifth with a 106.5, and Lillis, who was third after the first final, finished in sixth with 103.00. China's Qi Guangpu got the gold with 129.00, Ukraine's Oleksandr Abramenko scored silver with 116.5, and ROC's Ilya Burov snagged bronze with 114.93.