Hockey superpowers clash, US teen targets Olympic ski gold


Defending champions Canada face a US team desperate for revenge in a blockbuster Olympic ice hockey semi-final on Friday while American teen Mikaela Shiffrin targets gold in the women’s slalom.

Canada broke American hearts in the Vancouver 2010 Games final, beating their fierce rivals 3-2 with a goal from Sidney Crosby in overtime that sparked wild celebrations on the streets of the city.

The US team come into the last-four clash in Sochi with a tournament-high 20 goals in four games against a Canadian team yet to fully fire.

US coach Dan Bylsma said the Americans are hungry to avenge their painful Vancouver loss.

“Now we have a rematch,” Bylsma said. “Canada is the match-up we certainly all wanted.”

“I don’t even know if they’ve had a match-up besides the Russian game at all,” Canada coach Mike Babcock said. “They have beat everyone big time.”

Canada’s women set the agenda on Thursday night, coming back from 2-0 down to beat the US 3-2 to capture a fourth successive women’s hockey gold.

Finland will play Sweden in the other semi-final after sending host nation Russia crashing out at the quarter-final stage for the second Olympic Games in a row.

After one teenager, Adelina Sotnikova won a stunning figure skating gold on Thursday night, it will be the turn of Shiffrin to shine up on the mountains of Rosa Khotur.

The American teen is one of the big favourites in the penultimate alpine skiing event at the Sochi Games — the women’s Olympic slalom.

The self-assured 18-year-old won world slalom gold in Schladming last season, becoming the youngest American, then at 17, to be crowned a ski champion on the global stage.

– Shiffrin was fuming in fifth –

Her rivals include Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter, Austrian Marlies Schild, Canadian Marie-Michele Gagnon and overall World Cup leader Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, bidding for her third medal of the Games.

Shiffrin was left fuming after finishing fifth in the giant slalom.
“I wanted a gold, but I think this was meant to happen. It’s something that I’ll learn from. Next Olympics I go to, I’m sure as heck not getting fifth,” she said.

“I was really thinking that my first giant slalom win would be at the Olympics, and that would be such a cool thing to accomplish.”
Hoefl-Riesch missed Tuesday’s giant slalom won by Slovenia’s Tina Maze because of a sore throat.

But Shiffrin was full of praise for the 29-year-old German, who has already won a super-combined gold and super-G silver in Rosa Khutor.

“Maria’s one of those athletes I think is a true champion because she’s been able to perform across the board, in the World Cup, the world championships and Olympics. It’s really cool to see,” she said.

There are also gold medals to be decided on Friday in the women’s biathlon relay, women’s ski cross and three short-track skating events — the men’s 500m, women’s 1,000m and men’s 5,000m relay.

Canada’s men are bidding for their third straight curling title against Britain after their women’s team beat Sweden to win their first gold since Nagano in 1998.

With three days of competition to go, Norway top the medals table with 10 golds, two clear of Germany and the United States.