Athletes with NH ties shine brightly in Sochi
Eight medals earned by Olympians with New Hampshire connections was cause for celebration when the Winter Games concluded Sunday in Sochi, Russia.
Mikaela Shiffrin, a former resident of Lyme, stole the spotlight when she captured the gold medal in the women's slalom and a silver medal went to Dartmouth College graduate Andrew Weibrecht in the men's super-G.
Silver medals were awarded to four members of the United States women's ice hockey team, which lost to rival Canada in overtime: former University of New Hampshire player Kacey Ballamy, former Hanover resident Hilary Knight, assistant coach Bobby Jay, a former Manchester Monarchs assistant coach and Team USA head coach Katey Stone, also a former UNH player.
In freestyle skiing, Hanover High grad Hannah Kearney won a bronze medal.
Perhaps one of the most touching moments in the Winter Games came from 36-year-old Bode Miller of Franconia.
After winning his sixth overall Olympic medal (a bronze in 1:18.67 in the men's super-G), making him the oldest man to win an Olympic Alpine skiing medal, Miller broke down and cried thinking about his late brother, Chelone.
His younger brother, who died last year at age 29, had aspirations of joining Miller in the Olympic Games, competing in snowboarding.
Miller didn't say if he would compete in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea, but told USA Today "I feel really good about where I am. I feel like I did my best. I came out with a medal, so I'm happy."
Miller was sixth in the men's super combined slalom in 2:46.60, eighth in the men's downhill in 2:06.75 and, 20th in the men's giant slalom in 2:47.82.
From the oldest to the youngest, Shiffrin made Alpine skiing history with her gold medal effort in the women's slalom in 1:44.54. At age 18, Shriffin is the youngest winner of an Olympic slalom gold medal.
Shiffrin told usskiteam.com "I wish I could have an American flag on my back in every World Cup, because that's a really cool feeling to hold that and know that you're representing not only yourself or your family or your team but your entire country. I owe this to so many people and I'm really glad that I could share it with them. Really, it's not just me up here, it's the entire U.S. I've seen all the tweets and all of the support and all of the critics, the doubters or whoever that don't want to see me do it or don't know if I can. Every single one of them has pushed me to this point and I owe this to them as well."
Shiffrin, who also finished fifth in the giant slalom in 2:37:37, said she's living in the moment. "I always dream of the best case scenario and accept it if it doesn't happen, but I'm really glad that it did today. I've just got to keep going. It's an amazing feeling to win an Olympic gold. It's going to be something that I chalk up as one of my favorite experiences for the rest of my life, but my life is not over yet."
Julia Ford, of Holderness, finished 24th in the women's slalom in 1:52.87. Making her first Olympic Games appearance, she told usskiteam.com this year was a learning experience. "It was really cool and really fun. It's been an amazing experience and I feel really fortunate to be here and to do this, and I'll just keep improving over the next four years so I can come back and really be in there."
Weibrecht, a Dartmouth graduate, wasn't sure at first if he actually won a silver medal.
"It's unbelievable," said Weibrecht to usskiteam.com. "I came down and I knew I had skied well. I knew I had a good run. I came through the finish and I just sort of appreciated my run ... and I took a couple seconds and looked at the time. I saw second, looked away and then I looked again and I saw it. I was like 'You've got to be kidding me!' It's been a rough couple years with all the injuries and everything else, but this makes up for it." His time was 1:18.44.
Leanne Smith, of Conway, was 20th in the women's Super Combined Downhill in 1:45.06 and did not finish her race in the super combined slalom. She was 18th in the women's super-G in 1:28.38.
Frustration and disappointment hovered over the U.S. women's ice hockey team that blew a 2-0 lead to Canada in the finals with 3:26 remaining in regulation. Marie-Philip Poulin of Canada scored the tying goal with 55 seconds left in regulation and tallied the winner in overtime to deny USA of a gold medal.
The U.S. men's hockey team bowed to Canada 1-0 in the semifinal round and lost to Finland 5-0 in the bronze medal game. Former UNH hockey standout James Van Riemsdyk, now playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs, produced an Olympic highlight for himself when he scored a goal in a 5-2 quarterfinal win against the Czech Republic. Teammate and former Manchester Monarchs goalie Jonathan Quick, now with the Los Angeles Kings, stopped 21 shots in that win.
In freestyle skiing, Kearney placed third in 21.49 in the women's moguls finals and wasn't happy with her performance.
She told usskiteam.com "I wanted that gold medal. And I skied great. But I made a few mistakes and you don't win the Olympics when you make mistakes. I'm proud to contribute to the medals count for Team USA at the Olympics. But right now I'm very disappointed ... I'll have to treat this bronze medal as a reward for fighting and not perfection."
There were other New Hampshire Olympians who didn't fare as well as Kearney, but still competed in Sochi.
In the biathlon, Conway's Sean Doherty did not finish in the men's 15-kilometer race. Dartmouth graduate Hannah Dreissigacker placed 23rd in the women's 15-kilometer race. Two other former Big Green grads did themselves proud. Susan Dunklee was 11th (36:57.9) in the 12.5 kilometers and Sara Studebaker was 55th overall (50:53.4) in the women's 15 kilometers. In freeskiing, Julia Krass, of Hanover, ended 11th (38.60) in the ski slopestyle finals.
In Nordic skiing, Dartmouth grads Sophie Caldwell and Ida Sargent both did not qualify for the cross country skiing women's 4 x 5 kilometer relay. Also failing to qualify in the men's team large hill ski jumping were Nick Alexander of Lebanon and Nick Fairall of Andover. Kris Freeman of Andover finished 54th (1:14:34.6) in the cross country skiing 15-kilometer race and 57th (1:59:46.7) in the 50-kilometer mass start freestyle.