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Olympics recap, Day 6: A historic tie, Kaitlyn Farrington takes gold, and Russia wins pairs skating (and our hearts!)

Day 6 of NBC’s Primetime Olympics coverage saw more action than the Tinder-using athletes on the prowl at Olympic Village.

The biggest shock of the night? Something we thought only happened at the Producer’s Guild Awards — A TIE! Dominque Gisin of Switzerland and Tina Maze of Slovenia tied for gold in the women’s downhill, a race in which “nine one hundredths of a second” is an actual thing. For Gisin, the win comes after the athlete has endured nine knee surgeries (!!) , which [S.H.I.E.L.D. spoiler alert] is more surgeries than Agent Coulson received to come back to life. In other words, she’s amazing. And while we’re on the subject of fascinating facts, Maze, too, is a rock star. Literally. In her native country, the skier is a well-known pop star and model. The crown jewel of her country. Meaning, the Beyoncé of Slovenia. The T-Swift. The Britney. But more badass than all of those combined because she’s now also a gold medal-winning Olympian.

On the American front, Kaitlyn Farrington scored the US another gold by rocking the halfpipe, besting event fave and fellow American Kelly Clark, who took bronze. On a night that saw a number of upsets — Julia Mancuso and Shani Davis, who competed in downhill and 1000-meter speed skating, respectively, failed to medal — Farrington’s surprise victory was a spirit-lifter.

We also saw the conclusion of the pairs skate, where Russia’s powerhouse duo Maxim Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar took the gold, which was not a surprise. More surprising? How incredibly interested I was in their romantic lives. Actually, no, that was not a surprise either. I have no self-control.

Time to give out some EW Gold Medals for the night: READ FULL STORY

Olympics preview: The fun of the new luge team relay event

The Sochi Games have already produced a first for luge: Erin Hamlin became the first American to win a singles medal in the sport when she took home the bronze. But there’s another first to look forward to on Feb. 13 — the inaugural team relay event, which livestreams at 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCOlympics.com. Before he left for Russia, NBC luge analyst Duncan Kennedy, a three-time Olympian who’s also the technical director for USA Luge, told EW why he thinks it’s going to be “off the charts exciting.” And yes, he does expect the U.S. to medal. “I’m puttin’ that out there,” he said. “I don’t care. People are like, ‘Don’t curse it.’ Forget that. I expect it, and it’ll be a shame if we don’t. It’s right there for us if everyone’s on their game. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be on the podium.”

How it works: READ FULL STORY

Olympics preview: 10 reasons to root for ski slopestyle favorite Nick Goepper

By now you may have checked out slopestyle, the snowboarding and freestyle skiing event making its Olympic debut in Sochi with long rails and big jumps. The U.S. has represented well with golds for snowboarders Sage Kostenburg and Jamie Anderson and silver for skier Devin Logan, but the best may be yet to come.

Nineteen-year-old Nick Goepper drops in Feb. 13 as the favorite in men’s ski slopestyle. Qualifying and finals live-stream on NBCOlympics.com at 1:15 a.m. ET and 4:30 a.m. ET before making NBC’s prime-time cut Thursday. (Click here for results.) He defended his X Games gold last month in Aspen landing a triple cork, a high-flying, death-defying trick Shaun White has yet to lay down in competition in the more restrictive halfpipe. Below, check out his X Games runs — which also include the awesomely named switch double cork 900 Screamin’ Seemann (you cross, then hopefully uncross your skis while rotating) — and 10 more reasons why you want to be cheering for him…and following him on Twitter…and maybe crowning him your Olympic crush. READ FULL STORY

Guest blog: Bree Schaaf on the transition from Olympic athlete to Olympic commentator

After a fifth place finish at the 2010 Winter Olympics in bobsled, Bree Schaaf was determined to slide again for the U.S. in Sochi. Today, she is in Russia — but as a commentator for NBC. She’ll make her Olympic debut as an analyst for skeleton, the sport that launched her sliding career, when competition gets underway Feb. 13. Below, she writes about what that transition has taught her — which resonates whether or not you “speak crazy.”

By: Bree Schaaf

You can’t bobsled forever, but as anyone who meets me knows — you can talk about bobsled forever. That factor seems to have seamlessly transitioned me into another role — one I anticipate involving significantly less bruising. I am headed to Sochi in an extremely unique position — to act as Bobsled team alternate as well as the skeleton analyst for NBC.

I spent the first five years of my 12-year sliding career competing in skeleton before transitioning to the pilot seat of a bobsled. Twelve years of professional sleigh riding? Sounds like a Christmas movie starring the Lawrence brothers! But the few who have had the chance to give bobsled or skeleton a try just for “fun,” soon realize that it’s far too hardcore for made-for-TV movies. That is unless your brand of “fun” involves climbing into a washing machine, setting it on spin, getting pushed off a hill and slamming into boulders the whole way down. It is an almost violent 60 seconds, and something most people rarely want to repeat.

And then there are those athletes among us that not only seek it out, but choose to repeat that cycle day in and day out in the quest for Olympic glory as they try to hog-tie physics, gravity, speed, and ice all at once. It is a rare breed of athlete that is attracted to sliding sports, and for those that speak crazy — it gets in your blood and never leaves.

After finishing 5th in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the sport that I loved so much became an obsession. I was hell-bent on uncovering and quantifying those four places that stood between awesome (the gold) and just shy of awesome (5th). As it turns out, you push the universe and it pushes back. My effort to force learning how to win actually led me down a path of self-destruction that resulted in major injuries and illness. But somehow that, in turn, led me to mastery of a different sort — letting go of the illusion that I can control everythingREAD FULL STORY

Olympics: Tara Lipinski talks figure skater superstitions -- VIDEO

Tara-Lipinski.jpg

As figure skating continues at the Sochi Olympics — the pairs medals are decided Feb. 12, and the men take the ice again Feb. 13 and Feb. 14 — the jumps aren’t the only thing to tune in for. We asked 1998 gold medalist-turned-commentator Tara Lipinski, who’s calling all the action live on NBCSN with Johnny Weir and Terry Gannon, what else we should be watching — and she told us to keep an eye out both for pre-skating rituals and excitable coaches. (Can we get picture-in-picture for Brian Orser?) READ FULL STORY

Olympics: What to watch today

The Olympics: So many sports, so little time. Need help deciding which events to watch? We’re here to help. Each day, we’ll give you our three picks for the most watch-worthy events. Here’s what we recommend for Wednesday, February 12: READ FULL STORY

Olympics recap, Day 5: Shaun White's bum run, Russia's record-breaking pairs skate, and Sochi's biggest luger

In retrospect, the haircut might have been a bad idea.

Tonight’s biggest Sochi story: The sad saga of two-time Olympic halfpipe champion Shaun White, which NBC is hoping fervently you hadn’t heard about before primetime. The Flying Tomato came to Russia hoping to add another gold medal to his collection — but will leave instead with a disappointing fourth-place finish. Was White’s downfall telegraphed when he sheared off his glorious, Sampson-esque locks? Could a subpar halfpipe course — riddled with bumps and slushy patches — be to blame? Was snowboard’s elder statesman simply no match for a younger, dashing Swiss-Russian armed with an awesome nickname (I-Pod), a hashtag-inspired signature move (the “YOLO Flip”), and his own striking head of hair?

The world may never know. In the end, all that matters is that White had a killer run in the event’s qualifying round — scoring a spectacular 95.75 — but failed to impress in the finals, handing the victory to 25-year-old Orlando Bloom lookalike Iouri Podladtchikov. The Swiss boarder’s winning run scored a 94.75; if White had flipped and landed as well as he did earlier in the day, he’d have gotten that threepeat. But even if you’re a White fan, it’s tough to grumble about I-Pod’s triumph. Just look how ecstatic he was to snag the gold!

READ FULL STORY

Olympics preview: Another brawl in women's hockey as USA meets Canada?

If you don’t follow women’s hockey, you may want to start Feb. 12, when USA meets rival Canada in a preliminary round that is expected to be the matchup we’ll see again in the Feb. 20 gold medal game. The first head-to-head airs live on NBCSN at 7:30 a.m. ET. It will also live-stream on NBCOlympics.com.

“Canada — all you have to say is a mini-brawl,” four-time U.S. Olympian Julie Chu told EW last October, a couple weeks after the teams got into a fight on the ice. Watch it below. (It happened again in December, which we’ve also embedded.) “I think a lot of people were like, ‘I can’t believe you guys got in a fight in women’s hockey,’ and the reality is, it’s because both teams are so strong, so passionate. We compete hard, and we’re here to win a game, and sometimes tempers flare,” Chu said. “But at the end of the day, everyone’s protecting their teammates, and I think no-harm/no-foul is done there.”

Women’s hockey has been an Olympic event since 1998, when the U.S. won the first gold. Since then, that medal has belonged to Canada, with the U.S. earning silver in 2002 and 2010 and bronze in 2006. Chu also expects Finland to be strong, as well as Russia. “Obviously being the host country with a rich hockey culture, they’re really putting a strong push on supporting their women’s program,” she said.  READ FULL STORY

Olympics: Why you should root for Billy Demong in Nordic Combined

Billy Demong is a five-time Olympian who became the first American athlete to win gold in Nordic Combined in Vancouver. So when he tells you that his sport is good TV, you listen. It combines ski jumping and cross-country skiing. “The guy who wins the jumping starts first, and then depending on how much shorter you jump, you start a time deficit back [for the skiing],” he says. Then, it’s all about the chase: “It’s watching people get caught or try to catch up.” The individual event that combines one jump on the normal hill and a 10-km cross-country race is set for Feb. 12; the long hill jump and 10-km race, which is the discipline Demong won in 2010, is scheduled for Feb. 18; and the team event, which features four athletes per country on the long hill and in a 4×5 km relay happens Feb. 20.

Why you might want to root for Demong: You know from a certain commercial that he listens to hip-hop in the gym and classical when he’s skiing, but did you know that he marathons TV shows like the rest of us? “I’ll pick a show and watch an episode or two a day for a couple of months,” Demong told EW at an event last October. At that time, he was marathoning Breaking Bad. The team in general, he said, was into USA’s Suits and White Collar. (They all like to bring seasons of different TV shows when they travel.) He was planning on saving Dexter Season 8 for the trip to Russia. READ FULL STORY

Olympics: What to watch today

The Olympics: So many sports, so little time. Need help deciding which events to watch? We’re here to help. Each day, we’ll give you our three picks for the most watch-worthy events. Here’s what we recommend for Tuesday, Feb. 11:

WOMEN’S SPEEDSKATING 500M GOLD MEDAL FINAL
1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Korea’s Sang Hwa Lee is the defending gold medalist in this event and is expected to win again… but not if American Heather Richardson gets to the finish line first. READ FULL STORY

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