Meryl Davis mesmerizes with a memorable gold medal showing in Sochi

Over the last decade, the state of Michigan has seen some remarkable sporting achievements. From the Detroit Pistons winning an NBA title and the Detroit Red Wings capturing the Stanley Cup, to the Motor City hosting the Super Bowl, along with sporting dominance from Michigan State University and the Tigers baseball club, it has been a golden era for sport.

The gold medal accomplishment of Meryl Davis and Charlie White only adds to a proud sporting legacy. With the state having endured various economic hardships, Davis and White represent the state’s fighting spirit and its will to carry on. Hailing from West Bloomfield, Michigan, Davis also had the opportunity to be featured on a Topps trading card commemorating the various athletes competing in Sochi.

After a silver medal performance at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, Davis and White, the longest running American-based team in the ice dance, returned to training with a renewed sense of purpose. Having skated together since 1997, their chemistry was evident as their dominance at the US and World Championships since Vancouver 2010 spoke volumes about their determination and their talent.

Their hard work yielded remarkable results in Sochi as they became the first US couple to claim gold in ice dance in the 38-year history of the sport in the Winter Games. Graceful, yet determined, Davis captivated fans through her performances featuring flawless precision.

Not afraid to engage in a technically challenging program, there was definitely an element of sensuality in their performance. Skating to Scheherazade, they would interpret the story of a Persian king and the enchantress who seduces him during their performance, Davis was adorned in a lavender dress that dared with jewels around the midriff. Along with the ability to provide to perform tight traveling spins known as twizzles, Davis and White earned themselves a Winter Games record for highest score.

Having also helped the United States to a bronze medal in Sochi for the inaugural Winter Games event of Team Figure Skating, the medals Davis has won in the Games now covers all the colors of the Olympic spectrum (gold, silver and bronze). With the inaugural event being contested in the early days of Sochi, it provided fans with a sneak peek of what to expect when Davis and White would skate for gold in the ice dance a few days later.

Of note, there was a controversy before and during Sochi in Canadian media, because they share the same trainer, Russian-born Marina Zoueva, as Canadian rivals and friends, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (the gold medalists in Vancouver). French media even suggested that there was a scandal with regards to American and Russian judges. Not playing up to the controversy, Davis and White proved that they were truly deserving of the moniker of world champions.

While the competitions between Davis & White and Virtue & Moir on-ice entail one of the bigger rivalries in the Winter Games, the Canadian and American skaters have known each other since 2001. Beating their long-time friends by merely 2.56 points (116.63 points to 114.66) made the win much more intense.

As a side note, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates, along with Maia and Alex Shibutani earned eighth and ninth place finishes, it provides hope for another strong US showing in Pyeongchang 2018. Perhaps the most heart-warming aspect of the ride to the gold that Davis and White undertook was the three genuine and sincere words uttered to Davis after the performance. An emotionally exhausted White buried his head in Davis’ shoulder and said “I love you.”

Davis follows in the footsteps of other legendary American female figure skaters such as Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill, Jill Trenary, Nancy Kerrigan and Sarah Hughes. Considering that ice dance was an event that the United States was not dominant at for several years, Davis would emerge as a pioneer, possibly inspiring a new generation of young women to compete.

While she is planning to retire from amateur competition, there is no question that her grace and beauty makes her a natural to participate in the professional circuit. For now, her role in adding to the great sporting history that Michigan has recently experienced, not only raises the morale of a dejected state, but endears her to a state of fans that respect her determination to succeed.

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Bobsled sensations Moyse and Humphries soar towards legendary status in Sochi

In the afterglow of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, a pair of Canadian sporting heroes solidified their legacy by becoming Canadian legends. Heather Moyse and Kaillie Humphries earned their second consecutive gold medal in the bobsled event.

Heather Moyse, quite possibly the greatest athlete ever from Prince Edward Island is also a two-sport star. Having also represented Canada on the pitch in the sometimes unforgiving and all-too aggressive sport of rubgy, the athletic legacy of Moyse is one that will empower future generations of female athletes from PEI.

Literally the gold standard in bobsled, Kaillie Humphries may be the greatest Canadian, male or female, to have competed in the sport. With a legendary undefeated streak that only increased expectations in Sochi, Humphries delivered the goods while endearing herself to a nation of sports fans back home.

Among the rare group of Canadian athletes outside of hockey that have earned gold medals in consecutive Winter Games, their legend grew with an act of kindness that brought with it a touch of class. The day after claiming the gold medal, Moyse and Humphries wrote a letter of inspiration for the Canadian national women’s hockey team. Of note, the contents read,

“There are ups and down in every race/game, but we are proof that if you keep believing in the possibilities, results can be golden. Own it! The ice is yours! Fight till the bitter end!

Smiles…. Heather + Kaillie”

As Canada’s women were competing against their archrivals from the United States in the gold medal game, the letter would prove to be a tremendous source of inspiration. In addition to the letter being mentioned by Ron McLean on CBC Sports, prior to the broadcast of the game, many hockey players went on social media to express their gratitude for the letter.

Having emerged as one of the most influential and important sporting documents of the last decade, there is no question that the letter composed by Moyse and Humphries deserves to be displayed in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, for all hockey fans to see. Considering how the Canadian victory in women’s hockey set the tone for the Canadian men to beat the United States in their semifinal the day after, the letter has a legend to it as influential as the Lucky Loonie, buried in the ice by Trent Evans, at the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games.

Proving that one can never go wrong when paying it forward, a karmic reward was granted upon Moyse and Humphries when they earned the privilege of being the flag bearers for Canada at the closing ceremonies of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
World-class individuals with hearts of gold, Moyse and Humphries have displayed the true essence of the Olympic spirit and the meaning of grace and sportsmanship. Even if this dynamic duo retire from bobsled competition, their legacies as ambassadors for the sport are indisputable. There is no question that fans will see them together again as a place must surely await them one day in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.

Rare double gold in women’s Alpine competition serves as one of Sochi’s memorable highlights

One of the rare accomplishments in the history of the Winter Games, Rosa Khutor served as the backdrop for a double gold medal performance. Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin and Slovenia’s Tina Maze would share in the historic gold after their race in the women’s downhill.

Starting in eighth position, Gisin would shred her way down the course with a time of 1:41.57. Thirteen skiers afterward, Gisin’s time was still the time to beat. Maze, who is also a model and a recording artist in her native Slovenia, skied two miles down the face of the mountain. The outcome would consist of extreme surprise as her finish time was exactly the same as Gisin; 1:41:57.

For the first time in Alpine history at the Winter Games, a remarkable tie for first place, down to the exact hundredth of a second took place. While ties are common in other sports, they are of great rarity at the Winter Games level. As a side note, a tie nearly took place at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games. American Picabo Street earned the gold medal by merely one one-hundredth of a second.

Experiencing the elation of a gold medal, Gisin and Maze were all smiles as they held hands and jumped onto the podium together. For Maze, she was accustomed to ties. Her first-ever World Cup win was actually a three-way tie for first.

As speed skaters are timed by the thousandth of a second, it is distinctly possible that this historic moment would have no longer been a tie. Considering that the women’s downhill course is blanketed in snow and ice, along with a distance of 1.6 miles long, complemented by a breathtaking drop of 2,600 vertical feet, it is safe to assume that Gisin and Maze are more than glad to share the gold together.

While Gisin and Maze are two very distinct individuals that have employed different paths in their lives in their journey towards this once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment, there is no question that an unbreakable bond of fame and friendship shall link and define the two forevermore. As a side note, it is worth noting that Michaela Dorfmesiter was the silver medalist. Although many events at Sochi provided sports fans with many memorable experiences, a rare double gold is one that may prove to stand the test of time.

Marie-Philip Poulin does it again as she nets second straight gold-medal winning goal

Following in the proud steps of Nancy Drolet, Marie-Philip Poulin becomes the second woman in the history of the Canadian program to score a pair of gold-medal winning goals. While Drolet helped Canada gain gold at the 1997 and 2000 IIHF Women’s Worlds, Poulin has scored at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games, respectively. For both of these players, the chance to score such important goals places them in the same lore as Canadian male hockey hero Paul Henderson.

For Poulin, each one of her goals has provided Canada with tremendous riches on the world’s biggest stage. In 2010, Poulin would score twice in Canada’s 2-0 victory over the United States. Not only did it signify that a star was born for Canada, but it provided the squad with its first Winter Games gold on home ice.

Marie-Philip Poulin is all smiles after scoring the gold-medal winning goal for Canada (Photo credit: Ben Pelosse/Journal de Montreal/QMI Agency OLY2014)

Marie-Philip Poulin is all smiles after scoring the gold-medal winning goal for Canada (Photo credit: Ben Pelosse/Journal de Montreal/QMI Agency OLY2014)

Ironically, Poulin would score twice again versus the United States in 2014. With less than sixty seconds remaining, she would score on US backstop Jessie Vetter to tie the game. In overtime, a power play opportunity provided Poulin with the chance to become the first woman to log back-to-back gold-medal winning goals in the history of women’s hockey at the Winter Games.

While fellow Canadian Cassie Campbell became the first captain to lead her team to back-to-back gold medals in women’s hockey history (in 2002 and 2006 for Canada), Poulin follows her proud accomplishment.

This goal would have an even more profound meaning for the Canadian team. While it signified the fourth consecutive gold medal for Canada, a first among female hockey teams in the history of the Games, it also extended Canada’s unbeaten streak at the Games to an unprecedented 20 straight.

Taking an obligatory bite of the cherished gold medal (Photo credit: Ben Pelosse/Journal de Montreal/QMI Agency OLY2014)

Taking an obligatory bite of the cherished gold medal (Photo credit: Ben Pelosse/Journal de Montreal/QMI Agency OLY2014)

Perhaps the most satisfying aspect was the way her goal helped three of her teammates make their own unique bit of history. Dubbed as “The Pioneer Generation” by CBC Sports, Jayna Hefford, Caroline Ouellette and Hayley Wickenheiser helped write a new chapter in Canadian sporting history. Not only do the pioneers become the first three women to win four consecutive gold medals in women’s hockey, they are the first athletes to win medals for Canada in four consecutive Winter Games.

Representing a new generation of hockey heroes for Canada, the Sochi Games truly represented a passing of the torch. As the Pioneer Generation may have likely played in their final game, Poulin is ready to build on their proud legacy alongside the likes of Melodie Daoust, Natalie Spooner and Laura Fortino, to name a few.

Not even 25 years old, Poulin’s performances over the last two Games is nothing short of empowering. Already a member of the Triple Gold Club, having won IIHF gold, Winter Games gold and the Clarkson Cup, Poulin has one year of eligibility remaining at Boston University. The opportunity to help BU win an NCAA Frozen Four title or capture the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award would serve to enhance a growing career that has reached, and exceeded, its promise.

Meghan Agosta continues to provide memorable hockey moments on her birthday

Having carved a hockey legacy that is truly Hockey Hall of Fame worthy, one of the crowning achievements in Meghan Agosta’s career are the shining performances she has provided on her birthday. Quickly turning February 12 into a date that is synonymous with women’s hockey lore, Agosta’s legend only grows.

Celebrating a goal against the United States on her 27th birthday at Sochi. Photo credit: Jean Levac, Postmedia Olympic Team

Celebrating a goal against the United States on her 27th birthday at Sochi. Photo credit: Jean Levac, Postmedia Olympic Team

The last three Winter Games competitions (Torino 2006, Vancouver 2010, and Sochi 2014) have all been contested in the month of February, providing Agosta with multiple opportunities to showcase her skills. While each performance on the world’s biggest stage has its own mystique to it, the most memorable is obviously her first.

With the 2006 Torino Winter Games serving as her coming-out party, Agosta would log a hat trick on her 19th birthday. Playing with an expertise and maturity far beyond her years, Torino set the stage for a bright future to come. In a 12-0 victory against Russia, she would score a hat trick. Adding to the jubilation was the fact that the Winter Games were contested in the homeland of her father.

Scoring a first period goal against Nadezhda Aleksandrova of Russia at the 2006 Torino Winter Games. (Image obtained from: http://www.windsorstar.com/Gallery+Meghan+Agosta/1278824/story.html Agosta)

Scoring a first period goal against Nadezhda Aleksandrova of Russia at the 2006 Torino Winter Games. (Image obtained from: http://www.windsorstar.com/Gallery+Meghan+Agosta/1278824/story.html
Agosta)

Of note, the first game for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games came on February 13, one day after Agosta’s 23rd birthday. In an 18-0 victory over Slovakia, Agosta registered a hat trick and two assists.

Heading into the February 12th match (also her 27th birthday) versus the United States at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Agosta wrote what would prove to be the next glorious chapter in the eternal rivalry between Canada and the United States. Despite entering Sochi with a four-game losing streak in exhibition matches versus the US, Agosta scored twice on US backstop Jessie Vetter in the third period for a remarkable 3-2 come from behind victory at Shayba Arena.

Of note, Canada trailed by a 1-0 mark after two periods of play. Agosta’s first goal of the game came on the power play. She would assist on Hayley Wickenheiser’s goal providing Canada with the 2-1 advantage. Agosta would score again for a two goal lead as a US goal from Anne Schleper with less than sixty seconds was not enough.

While an entire generation of hockey fans is accustomed to Agosta proudly representing Canada at the Winter Games, she has also captured the imaginations of fans at the NCAA and CWHL levels.

Competing for the famed Mercyhurst Lakers in Erie, Pennsylvania, Agosta would transform the program into a national power. Playing alongside future national team members such as Vicki Bendus, Bailey Bram and Jesse Scanzano, it would prove to be a golden age for the Lakers.

Her junior campaign with the Lakers (2008-09) found her competing against the Robert Morris Colonials on February 13. One day after turning 22, she pummeled the Colonials with a hat trick. During her senior season with the Lakers (2010-11), she would deliver in a contest versus conference rival Syrcause. On the road, the Syracuse Orange faithful would see Agosta deliver a three-point performance on the strength of two assists while she celebrated her 24th birthday.

With the Montreal Stars of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the high-scoring Agosta is the modern-day equivalent of Guy Lafleur in the Montreal hockey conversation. So far, the only CWHL game contested on her birthday came during her rookie season, where she shattered league marks for most points in one season, along with most points by a rookie, respectively.

A road contest on February 12, 2012 against the Brampton Thunder signified Agosta’s landmark 25th birthday. She would contribute a pair of goals complemented by two assists (including one on the power play) for a four-point output in a convincing 5-1 thrashing of the Thunder.

Anytime that Agosta graces the ice, it becomes an opportunity to watch women’s hockey history unfold. For hardcore fans, the next time that Agosta competes on her birthday, there is no question that many fireworks are sure to follow for the greatest player of her generation.

Adrenaline rush of ski jumping represents new chapter in women’s competition at Sochi

As the Sochi Winter Games brings with it the emotion and athletic spirit that makes it one of the world’s most exciting sporting events, women had another opportunity to break barriers. After a lawsuit which attempted to see women’s ski jumping added to the schedule of events at Vancouver 2010, the sport made its long anticipated debut in Sochi.

In addition to the introduction of women’s slopestyle skiing, ski jumping represents the beginning of another bold chapter for female sporting competition. With an event featuring women from over a dozen different countries competing, hardcore fans truly believed that their homeland had a chance to earn a podium finish.

With the RusSki Gorki Jumping Centre as the backdrop for a significant victory in sporting equality, a group of athletic, daring and empowered women truly embarked on a leap of faith. With existing concerns about safety due to so many jumpers suffering from knee injuries prior to Sochi, this competition was going to define its future viability. Launching themselves off a 90 meter hill while soaring through the air at speeds of 50 miles per hour, these fearless women began the process of erasing the existing stigma that women cannot compete in the ski jump.

Germany’s Carina Vogt would make her mark on Winter Games history by becoming the first gold medalist in the women’s normal hill ski jumping competition. Her point total of 247.2 edged out the next closest competitor by just 1.2 points. Silver was claimed by Daniela Iraschko-Stolz of Austria (246.2 pts) while France’s Coline Mattel (245.2 points) was the recipient of the bronze medal.

Involved in a same-sex marriage, Iraschko-Stolz has been the target of media looking for athlete’s comments about Russia’s anti-gay legislation. Displaying remarkable dignity, she chose to comment on her sport rather than her orientation. As the 2011 World Champion, Iraschko-Stolz has set a positive example for younger competitors to follow.

Considering that the first World Championships were only held in 2009, the sport has truly come a long way, creating new sporting heroes and shattering the glass ceiling. America’s Lindsey Van won the inaugural World Championships in 2009, but failed to reach the Top 10 at Sochi. Had the event been held four years ago in Vancouver rather than Sochi, there is no question that Van would have been a gold medal favorite.

Adding insult to injury in Vancouver was the fact that female jumpers were offered the opportunity to jump there, but outside the official competition. Despite Van’s heartbreak, her role as a pioneer in the sport can never be disputed. Of note, fellow American Jessica Jerome would crack the top 10 barrier.

As the sport continues to grow, so too will the number of younger competitors. Of note, half of the field at Sochi featured competitors under the age of 20. One of its shining stars is 17-year-old Sara Takanashi from Japan, who finished in fourth at Sochi. At only 4’11”, she attributes her ballet training as a factor in helping her maintain her balance during competition.

America’s Sarah Hendrickson, the 2013 World Champion, is only 19 years old. The proud owner of 13 World Cup victories, she is another wonder kid defining the sport’s future. Despite a crash in August that caused significant knee damage, the possibility of a podium finish in four years from now is a strong one.

While there are still many more obstacles to overcome, the breakthrough at Sochi represents a significant victory. Having first petitioned to be included as a competitive sport at Nagano 1998, the next challenge is the opportunities to have women participate in the mixed event and on the large hill for the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.

Dara Howell grabs the gold in the inaugural running of women’s slopestyle at Sochi

As women’s slopestyle was a sport that late Canadian ski legend Sarah Burke worked so tirelessly to bring into the Winter Games fold, it was only fitting that a Canadian earned the first gold in the event. With the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park serving as the backdrop for the newest chapter in women’s competition at the Winter Games, Dara Howell won Canada’s fourth overall gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Hailing from Huntsville, Ontario, she would grab the gold in the inaugural slopestyle ski competition with a score of 94.20 during her first run. Fellow Canadian Kim Lamarre won the bronze, scoring 85.00 on the second run, while American Devin Logan obtained the silver. All three have made a memorable mark in Sochi as this titanic trio signifies the first medalists in the history for the event.

Silver medalist Devin Logan (L) of the USA, Gold medalist Dara Howell of Canada and Bronze medalist Kim Lamarre of Canada celebrate their achievements in the womenÕs ski slopestyle after receiving their medals at the Medals Plaza in the Olympic Park during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, February 11, 2014. Photo by Jean Levac/Postmedia News

Silver medalist Devin Logan (L) of the USA, Gold medalist Dara Howell of Canada and Bronze medalist Kim Lamarre of Canada celebrate their achievements in the womenÕs ski slopestyle after receiving their medals at the Medals Plaza in the Olympic Park during the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, February 11, 2014. Photo by Jean Levac/Postmedia News

Previously stating that she was hoping a Canadian would win the gold medal, it almost happened that Canada could have swept the podium. Considering other Canadian competitors finished in fourth and fifth place, Logan’s acrobatic run prevented the sweep.

At only 19 years old, Howell certainly represents the promising future of the sport. Although it may take time to absorb what has transpired, there is no question that Howell has earned herself a place in the hearts and minds of Canadian sports fans. Dedicating her victory to Sarah Burke, it signified a tremendous growth as a competitor and as a person.

Photo credit: MIKE EHRMANN/GETTY IMAGES

Photo credit: MIKE EHRMANN/GETTY IMAGES

Friends and family gathered at the Muskoka Ski Club to watch the event on television. Rounds of applause, cheers of celebration and tears of joy defined the gathering as a homegrown talent made worldwide headlines. Victory celebrations for Howell upon her return home include skiing with her 99-year-old grandfather.

Dara Howell, centre, celebrates after winning gold at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Fellow medalists include Devin Logan and Kim Lamarre. (AP / Andy Wong)

Dara Howell, centre, celebrates after winning gold at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Fellow medalists include Devin Logan and Kim Lamarre. (AP / Andy Wong)

Despite the jubiliation of Howell’s victory, there was also desolation among her fellow Canadian competitors. Yuki Tsubota of Whistler, BC had to be removed from the course on a stretcher with a severe jaw injury. With a very slushy course, she missed her third jump as she slid down the hill in pain.

Montreal’s Kaya Turski, whose innovative surgery provided her with the chance to make her Winter Games dream come true, fell twice in qualifying. In one crash, she separated her shoulder. While she valiantly popped it back into place, her status as a medal favorite quickly evaporated afterwards. Gracious in defeat, she congratulated her Canadian teammates on social media.