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Olympics Notebook

US women’s hockey mulling shot conversion troubles after frustrating loss to Canada

Abbey Murphy (left) and the Americans fired 53 shots against Canada, but goaltender Ann-Renee Desbiens had nearly all the answers.Petr David Josek/Associated Press

Hilary Knight would like to have a word with one of her former coaches, who placed an emphasis on getting shots on net. Ultimately, the four-time US Olympian said, it comes down to quality over quantity.

“There’s different types of opportunities, right?” Knight said following a 4-2 loss to Canada on Tuesday to close the Olympic women’s hockey preliminary round, in which the Americans had a 53-27 edge in shots. “We had a coach who said, ‘Get 60 shots on net and you’re going to win the game,” she said. “It really doesn’t work that way at this level.”

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They now have work to do to generate more offense if they intend to defend their Olympic title in what is expected to be a rematch against Canada in the gold-medal game. By finishing second in the Group A standings, the United States can begin honing its scoring approach starting with a quarterfinal matchup Friday against the Czech Republic.

“I’m glad to hit the reset button and focus on a different opponent,” coach Joel Johnson said. “And if we see Canada again, great. We hope it’s an opportunity to win.”

The focus is on finishing, especially after the Americans also had scoring issues, with five goals on 62 shots, while shutting out the Russian team on Saturday.

“We generated a bunch of offense, but that offense didn’t create enough high-quality scoring chances,” Johnson said. “Shots on net don’t win hockey games, goals do.”

Through four games, the United States ranks fourth of 10 teams in scoring efficiency, generating 20 goals off a tournament-leading 233 shots. Canada, by comparison, leads the tournament in efficiency, with 33 goals off 194 shots, followed by Japan (13 goals, 140 shots) and the Czechs (10, 111).

South Korea’s Hwang wins Olympic gold in short track

Good thing South Korea didn’t pack up its skates and go home.

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Angered by the disqualifications of two of its short track speedskaters at the Beijing Games, the country filed complaints and its citizens flooded social media urging the team to go home.

They stuck around, and Hwang Dae-heon won gold in the men’s 1,500 meters.

He edged his skate in front in a tight finish of the 10-man final at Capital Indoor Stadium, giving South Korea the title for the fourth time in six Olympics.

Hwang and teammate Lee June-seo were disqualified in the semifinals of the 1,000 two days earlier. That triggered the South Korean contingent to complain to the International Skating Union and International Olympic Committee about the referee’s judgment.

Fans in the short track-mad country flooded the Korean Olympic Committee with phone calls demanding the team leave Beijing.

Hwang downplayed the passionate reaction to the earlier DQs of himself and Lee.

“The judges’ decisions came because I didn’t have a clean game,” he said through a translator. “In today’s race it was the cleanest race and that was our strategy as well, so that’s why we could have this great result.”

Norway’s Ruud wins Olympic gold year after father’s death

Birk Ruud landed at the bottom of Big Air Shougang and unfurled a Norwegian flag, floating the colorful Nordic cross in the breeze behind him.

A camera came close, and he pulled down his sleeve to reveal a gold bracelet — a gift from his father.

“Papa,” he said, tapping his heart. “You’re with me.”

The 21-year-old Norwegian spun away with a gold medal in the Olympics’ first men’s freestyle skiing big air event, re-emerging as a leader in the extreme sport after losing his father to cancer last year.

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Like American-born Chinese big air gold medalist Eileen Gu, Ruud came to the Beijing Games eyeing medals in big air, slopestyle, and the halfpipe — no action sports athlete has earned three medals in the same year.

Ruud has been promising to win Olympic big air gold since middle school, even in a discipline that only became a Winter Games event this year. The last leg of his route to Olympic glory was a painful one.

His father, Øivind, woke him late one night in July 2020 with crushing news: a cancer diagnosis. He was gone nine months later.

Ruud had two Winter X Games big air gold medals and three World Cup wins before his father got sick. He has only one World Cup victory since, and he’s acknowledged that his dad’s illness pulled his mind away from competitive skiing.

His efforts to ramp up for Beijing were interrupted by a knee injury nine weeks ago, and he skipped last month’s Winter X Games to play it safe amid the coronavirus.

The rust came off quickly, though. The result was something he’s sure Øivind would be proud of.

“I’m just thankful to be in this position and I’m thankful for all the time I had with my dad,” he said. “I still have my family, and I have a lot of people that support me, and I’m very thankful for that.”

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Vinzenz Geiger rallies, wins Olympic gold in Nordic combined

Vinzenz Geiger of Germany won Olympic gold in Nordic combined, rallying from a 1-minute, 26-second deficit to cross the finish line first in a 10K cross-country race after ranking 11th in ski jumping.

“I did not believe that it’s possible to get the gold medal,” he said. “I thought about the bronze medal before the start.”

Joergen Graabak of Norway finished eight-tenths of a second behind, winning silver. Lukas Greiderer of Austria earned bronze after starting the cross-country skiing phase of the competition in second place.

When Greiderer crossed the finish line, he collapsed and briefly passed out.

“I was so exhausted that I couldn’t even be happy,” he said. “I just lay down and everything was black. Then, I took at look at the scoring wall and saw I was third and I said, ‘I did it.’”

Germany won gold in each of the three Nordic combined events in South Korea four years ago, including the team event that included Geiger.