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Photos: 2018 Winter Olympics: U.S. women's hockey team wins gold

Twenty long years after taking gold when the sport debuted in 1998 at Nagano, the United States snapped Canada's streak of four straight Olympic golds Thursday with a 3-2 shootout victory.

U.S. women's hockey team wins Olympic gold

The United States has defeated Canada 3-2 to win the gold medal in women’s hockey at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

>> PHOTOS: 2018 Winter Olympics: U.S. women's hockey team wins gold

>> Read more trending news 

Vonn 3rd in last Olympic DH; her pal Goggia of Italy wins

Lindsey Vonn knew that the bronze medal she earned Wednesday came in her final Olympic downhill, the signature event of her singular career. She knew that, but she didn't have an easy time processing it.

That's why the words "probably" and "most likely" kept slipping into her sentences. Why she marked the occasion by posing with dozens of folks for a group photo near the finish line. Why she engaged in a series of warm, lengthy hugs — with her sisters; with U.S. coaches; with the winner, her good friend Sofia Goggia of Italy; with the runner-up, Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway. With, seemingly, anyone she could grab ahold of.

"I wish I could keep going. I wish this wasn't my last Olympics, but it is," Vonn said, looking down at the snow underfoot and shaking her head, "so I'm trying to accept that and deal with the emotions of that and enjoy the ride."

Goggia finished in 1 minute, 39.22 seconds, just 0.09 seconds faster than Mowinckel. Vonn was 0.47 seconds off Goggia's pace.

"I came here ... with one goal: to beat Lindsey," Goggia said.

Yes, for years now, Vonn has been the standard by which all other female ski racers are judged — and judge themselves. And as much as ski racing has meant to Vonn, and as much as Vonn has meant to her sport, she knows that this is, indeed, goodbye.

She is 33, the oldest woman to ever win an Alpine medal at a Winter Games. Vonn's total of three includes downhill gold and super-G bronze at Vancouver in 2010.

The American wasn't at Sochi in 2014, instead "on the couch, watching," she said, after two operations to repair torn ligaments in her right knee. She's endured a lengthy list of injuries .

"It's taken its toll. And that's why I can't keep ski racing, you know?" she said with a sigh. "I think my injuries made me stronger. I do. Because I wouldn't be the same person that I am today. When you're young, you ski and you win and you don't appreciate things. I've been in the fence so many times. I know so many doctors on a first-name basis that it's ridiculous."

All of the rehabbing, all of the recoveries — all worth it.

"Every single meal she's eaten for the last two years is to build up to this moment. Every single gym workout. You don't realize the amount of every single thing she's done every day for the last eight years has been for this day and that 2 minutes," said Vonn's sister, Karin Kildow. "The emotion of it is kind of overwhelming."

Afterward, competitors spoke glowingly about Vonn's influence and legacy.

Fifth-place finisher Alice McKennis of the U.S. praised Vonn's "day-to-day perseverance."

Goggia, who got advice from Vonn over coffee in Colorado a few months ago, said: "She is the greatest. And she had a wonderful career — and she is still 'having,' because it's not over."

It is not. Vonn will compete again Thursday, taking on U.S. teammate Mikaela Shiffrin in the Alpine combined . And then comes the return to the World Cup circuit and Vonn's pursuit of Ingemar Stenmark's record of 86 race wins.

"She has 140 podiums. Me? I have 20. She has 81 victories. I have four. Five, with this," Goggia said with a laugh. "But she's unbelievable."

Under a bright sun and on a course that was not very steep, Goggia was better than anyone at a hill where she beat Vonn in two World Cup races last March. This time, Goggia was not great at the outset, nearly fell backward while landing a jump midway through, then was terrific on the final third of the course. When her run ended, she shrugged.

"I knew I had a competitive time, but I didn't know if it would be enough for gold," Goggia said. "You've seen me more excited after a third-place World Cup finish."

Vonn went two racers later, the seventh starter overall, and kept losing ground throughout.

"I just saw the middle part of the run, where I was standing. It was just a little tentative, a little uncharacteristic, not quite charging," coach Chris Knight said.

Knight thought that knowing this would be the close of Vonn's Olympic downhill career informed her performance.

"Realistically speaking, it has to play on your mind," he said. "You've got one chance."

When Vonn crossed the line, she put her head back, spread her arms wide, then jutted an index finger toward her pal. Goggia exhaled.

"We saw each other and she pointed at me, like, You again!" Goggia said.

Vonn looked skyward and blew kisses in the air, a tribute to her grandfather , who passed away last year.

"I wanted desperately to win for him today," she said. "I wish he was here. I wish he could have watched me. But I think he still is."

If a screenwriter might have opted to let Vonn leave the scene with a medal of a different hue, she sounded at peace with the result.

The time spent in hospitals, the wait to get back on this stage, helped make the meaning clear.

"Today," she said, "bronze, to me, feels like gold."

___

Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

___

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org/

How did 'average' skier Elizabeth Swaney make it to the 2018 Winter Olympics?

One skier who competed in the women's halfpipe at the 2018 Winter Olympics really stood out – but not for her skills.

>> Watch her halfpipe run here

>> Visit WPXI.com for complete coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics

American Elizabeth Swaney, a member of Hungary's team who finished in last place Monday after a qualifying run that Deadspin described as "thoroughly average," apparently was able to game the Olympics' quota system to get to Pyeongchang. She also met another requirement – cracking the top 30 at a World Cup event – because many of those events featured fewer than 30 competitors.

>> All the curling stones used in every Olympics have come from the same small island

“The field is not that deep in the women’s pipe, and she went to every World Cup, where there were only 24, 25 or 28 women,” International Ski Federation judge Steele Spence told the Denver Post. “She would compete in them consistently over the last couple years, and sometimes girls would crash so she would not end up dead last."

>> Read more trending news 

The 33-year-old from California was able to snag a spot on Hungary's team instead of the more competitive U.S. team because her grandparents are Hungarian, Deadspin reported. She also skied for Venezuela, where her mother is from, in World Cup events.

>> Mikaela Shiffrin of Team USA wins Olympic gold medal in women's giant slalom

In Pyeongchang, Swaney didn't attempt any fancy tricks and finished last – but she didn't fall.

"It is an honor to compete at the Olympics, and I am really excited to compete among other amazing women from across the world," Swaney said, according to Reuters.

She added: "I hope this can be a platform to inspire others."

Photos: 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics - Day 12

Check out the latest action from the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic games.

All the curling stones used in every Olympics have come from the same small island

Few people quite understand what exactly curling is, but every four years, people across the world suddenly find themselves invested in a sport that, at first glance, can be described as people pushing rocks across ice with brooms.

>> On Rare.us: A French ice dancer somehow kept her cool in the Olympics’ latest wardrobe malfunction

For those who are using this year’s go-around to learn what they can about the sport, here’s a fun fact to tell at the next watch party: Olympic curling rocks aren’t just any old bits of earth; they all come from the exact same kind of stone from the exact same place.

>> Visit WPXI.com for complete coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics

According to the Huffington Post, the curling stones are made from a specific kind of granite that can only be located on a deserted island off the coast of Scotland. 

>> Read more trending news 

The island — Ailsa Craig, also known as “Paddy’s milestone” — is a volcanic plug, meaning it coalesced over an extinct volcano, apparently leaving the granite in the perfect condition to make curling stones. All the stones used during the Olympic Winter Games are produced by the only company with rights to the Ailsa Craig granite: Kays of Scotland, which has been creating the stones since 1851. According to the Huffington Post, thousands of tons of two varieties of stone are removed from the ground once every decade: a blue hone granite, which is impenetrable by ice and water and makes up the insert and running band of the curling stone, and a green granite that composes the body of the stone. There is apparently a third variety, red hone granite, but it isn’t used in curling stones.

Read more here.

Adam Rippon won’t be joining NBC as 2018 Olympics correspondent after all 

Audiences won’t be seeing much more of Adam Rippon during the 2018 Winter Olympics after all.

USA Today previously reported that the 28-year-old figure skater had accepted a job as a correspondent with NBC, but it appears Rippon has changed his mind.

>> Read more trending news 

Rippon’s decision to decline the offer stems from the fact that he would have to relinquish certain privileges were he to make the jump from Olympian to TV correspondent.

“I am so flattered that NBC wanted me to work as a correspondent, but if I took this opportunity, I would have to leave the Olympic team and I would have to leave the (Olympic) Village,” Rippon initially said in an interview with NBC Sports Network, via USA Today. “It’s so important to me, you know. I worked so hard to be on this Olympic team, and my teammates and my friends were there for me during my events, and that meant so much to me, that I really feel like I need to be there for them during their events.”

Related: 2018 Winter Olympics: Who is Adam Rippon?

Rippon said on Twitter he found out about the offer on the social media platform. He also repeated similar comments about his decision to turn down the offer.

Rippon, the first openly gay athlete to qualify for the Winter Olympics, has garnered the attention of milllions through his candid and colorful interviews. He earned a bronze medal in team competition, and he finished in 10th place in the singles competition, a big accomplishment that has left him extremely proud.

“To come away from this Olympic Games to skate three clean programs in the midst of what seems like a lot going on, and a top-10 finish in the individual event and a bronze medal (in the team event), I think this is sort of like a dream Olympic Games for me,” Rippon told reporters after his men’s free skate event Saturday. “I think I’ve shown the world that I’m a fierce competitor, but I think I’ve shown them that I’m also a fierce human being.”

While he’s used his platform as an Olympic athlete to speak out against Vice President Mike Pence and his stances on the LGBT community, Rippon doesn’t want his sexuality to distract from the person he is.

“I’ve gotten a lot of attention I think just for being myself. I think that a lot of people, when they come to a competition, are afraid to be themselves no matter who they are,” he said. “I think one thing that I want people to come away with from this competition is that I’m not a gay icon or America’s gay sweetheart — I’m just America’s sweetheart, and I’m just an icon. And if you have a personality like mine, it’s for everybody.”

Olympic curling star's husband handles stress by double-fisting beers at 9 a.m.

One doesn’t normally associate pressure with curling -- oh sure, placement, guarding and furious sweeping are crucial to a team’s success -- but the husband of Canadian women’s team skip Rachel Homan was experiencing plenty of anguish during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Gangneung, South Korea. 

>> Read more trending news

What better way to calm your nerves than to have a beer or two? Or, three or four?

Even if it’s 9 a.m.

As Homan tried to lift Canada back into medal contention against Japan -- the women’s team is in sixth place after Monday’s competition -- Shawn Germain was seen hoisting beers and heading back to the concession stand for refills, SB Nation reported.

“You can judge all you want,” Germain tweeted. “The stress level is high, I’m not a drunk, I’m just Canadian.”

Germain knows about athletic competition, having competed as a hockey player in the ECHL. He missed the end of Canada’s match against Japan because he was fetching more beers, SB Nation reported. 

Canada’s 8-3 victory against second-place Japan was a big win and kept the team’s medal hopes alive. 

If the Canadians reach the medal round, the stakes will be higher and nerves will be taut.

One can only wonder how Germain will react.  It could be a stressful day for people from the Great White North, but they remain supportive.

Photos: 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics - Day 10

Check out the latest action from the 2018 Pyeongchang games.

Here's why Olympic figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu's fans throw Winnie the Pooh bears on the ice

In one of the strangest stories that we’ve seen out of the 2018 Winter Olympics, beloved bear Winnie the Pooh is making a comeback.

>> Olympic figure skater Paul Fentz wows with 'Game of Thrones' costume

The lovable bear is the unofficial mascot of Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu. Every time Hanyu takes to the ice, he keeps a stuffed bear on the side of the rink for good luck, often bowing to the toy before performing, Time magazine reported. Fans know of Hanyu's love for the character and throw Winnie the Pooh bears onto the rink. The carefree bear has proved to be a pretty effective spirit animal for Hanyu, who is considered by some to be the best figure skater in history.

>> Visit WPXI.com for complete coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics

And the bears aren’t wasted, either. After Hanyu leaves the ice, the stuffed animals are collected and donated to local charities.

Too racy for the Olympics? Figure skaters Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir tone down controversial lift

The 23-year-old won a gold medal in Pyeongchang on Saturday, making him the first male skater since 1952 to win back-to-back Olympic golds. In a New York Times profile of the star, the paper wrote that thousands of Hanyu’s fans traveled to South Korea to see him compete. Some of them wore Winnie the Pooh hats while others donned Winnie the Pooh costumes.

>> Olympic figure skater Yura Min suffers wardrobe malfunction, handles it with class

>> Read more trending news 

And the story of Hanyu’s gold medal performance has the kind of storybook twists and turns that you might expect from something a lot more dramatic than Winnie the Pooh. In the months leading up the games, when he should have been entering his final round of preparation, Hanyu suffered an injury to his ankle that threatened his performance. But, in a comeback story for the ages, the Japanese star managed to return with a vengeance, cementing himself as the greatest ice skater in the world. And, Winnie the Pooh was there on the sidelines for the entire thing.

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