SOCHI, Russia — Mathias Lange, a 2009 graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, made his Olympic debut Friday when he played the final period for the Austria men’s hockey team in a 6-0 loss to Canada.
Lange played the third period and stopped all 15 shots he faced against the Canadians, who scored six goals in the first two periods to chase Austria’s starting goalie, Bernhard Starkbaum.
Lange, who is currently playing for the Iserlohn Roosters in Germany, is the first Engineers alumnus to play in the Olympics since Mo Mansi represented Italy in 1988 in Nagano, Japan. Mansi also skated for the Italian national team in 1994.
Two other former RPI players competed in the Olympics. Marty Dallman played for Austria in 1994 and Joe Juneau was a member of Team Canada in 1992.
Today, Paul Martin will take a moment to listen to the echoes of history when the U.S. men’s hockey team skates into the Bolshoy Ice Dome to face Russia and an overflowing crowd of fevered fans.
“We don’t know exactly what it’s going to be like for a U.S. team in that situation,” Martin said, “but we can’t wait to find out.”
After that moment, the U.S. defenseman will get back to work on slowing down a Russian team with an entire nation willing it to victory in the revival of a classic hockey rivalry.
The latest U.S.-Russia showdown is the undeniable highlight of the preliminary round in Sochi, even though the loser remains firmly in the medal hunt. Sochi’s sparkling new hockey arena was built with just such a moment in mind, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the game.
Time for a change
They were touted as the fastest speedskating suits in the world.
Now, the U.S. is dumping the high-tech attire after a dismal start to the Sochi Olympics.
Kevin Haley, vice president of innovation for suit developer Under Armour, told The Associated Press the Americans have received permission to go back to the suits they used while posting impressive results on the fall World Cup circuit and at the U.S. Olympic trials in December.
The change begins today with the men’s 1,500 meters, when Shani Davis hopes to make up for a disappointing performance in his first race at Sochi. Under Armour was busy altering the logo on the old suits, so it conforms with International Olympic Committee regulations.
“We want to put the athletes in the best possible position when they’re stepping on the ice to be 100 percent confident in their ability to capture a spot on the podium,” Haley said by phone from Baltimore.
The change was a stunning reversal after the Americans arrived in Sochi proclaiming they had a suit that would give them a technological edge over rival countries such as the Netherlands.
Instead, the Dutch have dominated through the first six races, winning 12 of a possible 18 medals, including four golds. The Americans have yet to finish higher than seventh; Davis and female stars Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe have all been major disappointments.
While Haley expressed confidence in the new suit, saying all the data proved it should produce faster times, he said the company agreed to the change because a few athletes felt it was actually a drag on their times.
“If they have one less thing to be distracted by,” Haley said, “that should give them a little bit of an advantage.”
The new skinsuits, developed with help from aerospace and defense giant Lockheed Martin and unveiled just before the Sochi Olympics, had definitely become a major distraction.
Even though several coaches and athletes defended the technology, it was clear that U.S. Speedskating needed to change things up to make sure this didn’t become a total bust of a Winter Games.
“Morale is down right now,” said Joey Mantia, another of the U.S. skaters in the 1,500.
Swiss double up
A pair of skiers from Switzerland collected gold medals at the Sochi Games, and a teenager from Japan overcame a pair of falls to become the first Asian man to win an Olympic title in men’s figure skating.
With competitors seeking relief from the unusually warm weather on the mountain trails, Swiss skiers earned gold in the men’s super-combined and the men’s classical-style 15-kilometer cross-country race. The haul gave the Swiss five golds, only two behind Germany.
Sandro Viletta stunned the favorites to win the super-combined. Two of the favorites, defending gold medalist Bode Miller and world champion Ted Ligety, failed to win a medal.
Dario Cologna added the other gold for Switzerland and his second of the games, winning the sweat-drenched 15K race. Cologna, who had ankle surgery in November, won the 30K skiathlon on Sunday.
In figure skating, 19-year-old Yuzuru Hanyu claimed the men’s title, one day after Russian great Evgeni Plushenko withdrew from the Olympics because of injury.
Hanyu made a bid to take Plushenko’s mantle when he became the first skater to score more than 100 points in the men’s short program on Thursday. On the final night of the men’s competition, however, all three medalists had flawed performances.
Plushenko, who won gold in the team competition at the start of the Sochi Games, came under criticism at home about his decision to drop out, leaving Russia without a contestant in the men’s finals. The outburst prompted President Putin to come to his defense.
“He really does have a big problem with his health,” Putin said, according to Russian news agencies.
Hanyu won the gold despite two falls during his free skate routine, largely because of the lead he built up with his record-setting short program. Canadian Patrick Chan, skating after Hanyu, won the silver despite three errors. World silver medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan took bronze.
Darya Domracheva of Belarus earned her second gold medal of the games by winning the women’s 15-kilometer individual race. Domracheva, who also won the 12.5K pursuit three days ago, missed one target before finishing in 43 minutes, 19.6 seconds.
Selina Gasparin of Switzerland finished 1:15.7 behind to take silver. Nadezhda Skardino of Belarus got the bronze.
Alla Tsuper of Belarus pulled off a stunning upset to win gold in women’s aerials. Tsuper beat a field that included defending Olympic champion Lydia Lassila of Australia and two-time Olympic medalist Li Nina of China. The 34-year-old Tsuper had never finished higher than fifth in four previous Olympics. Xu Mengtao of China won silver while Lassila earned bronze.