KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — David Wise soared through sleet and snow and ended up with gold — a mighty nice present to bring home to his daughter.
Skiing with a heart-shaped rock he got from his wife and in front of a crowd waving pictures of his 2-year-old girl, Nayeli, the 23-year-old from Reno, Nev., overcame sloppy conditions to win the first Olympic ski halfpipe contest Tuesday.
A high-flying show this was not. But Wise overcame the conditions to score a 92 on his first run, which held up as the weather worsened. It was almost impossible to see the top of the pipe from the base by the end of the contest.
Mike Riddle won silver for Canada, which has one of its all-time greats, the late Sarah Burke, to thank for shepherding this event into the Olympics.
Kevin Rolland took bronze for France.
The podium ended up much as expected, with the top spot going to the three-time defending Winter X Games champion.
No small thing, considering the way bad weather and variable conditions at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park have shuffled the deck in many of the action sports. Shaun White couldn’t handle the tough halfpipe a week ago, and finished fourth. Kelly Clark also struggled and ended up with bronze, not gold.
The skiers weren’t nearly as critical of the pipe as the snowboarders, and when the tricky conditions kicked in, they rolled with it.
“It diminishes the show a ton,” said 17-year-old American Aaron Blunck. “The cool thing is, I’ve got a ‘pow’ day tomorrow.”
Yes, they’ll ski powder, but first, Wise will head down to Sochi today to pick up his gold medal.
He’ll do that because he threw the best tricks, opening with a 720-degree spin, grabbing one ski and getting so high he could look straight down into the halfpipe. There was a 540-degree spin that left him skiing backward when he landed — one of the coolest and most notable differences from the snowboarding version of halfpipe. There was also the requisite double-twisting jump that he landed with ease.
Wise fell on his second run and skied straight down afterward, earning a 3.4 to record both the highest and lowest scores of the night.
But he wasn’t the only one to fall. The final four skiers all fell — Wise, Rolland, Benoit Valentin and Justin Dorey, who went last and bowed backward on his landing before losing his balance. When he fell, Wise had the gold wrapped up.
It was the 20th medal of the games for the U.S., and their sixth gold. Five of the golds and 11 medals overall have come from the action sports.
Quick gets nod
The U.S. and Canada have chosen to sit the goaltenders that played in the 2010 gold-medal game at the Vancouver Olympics.
The Americans plan to start Jonathan Quick — not Ryan Miller — today against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals of the Sochi Games. He is thankful that his teammates have played well in front of him.
The Canadians are going with Carey Price — not Roberto Luongo — against Latvia in the final eight teams.
Quick started two games in the preliminary round, including the 3-2 shootout win over the host Russians.
USA-1 has lead
The crash didn’t break them, it bonded them.
Lauryn Williams and Elana Meyers laughed off smashing their bobsled into a wall a few days ago, knowing this wasn’t the time to let anything get in their way of winning an Olympic medal.
The gold is right in front of them now.
And for Williams, a special place in Olympic history is within reach.
Williams, a former sprint champion who decided to give bobsled a whirl six months ago, and Meyers lead at the halfway point of women’s Olympic bobsled.
With Williams using her world-class speed to propel her teammate off the starting line, Meyers made two trips down the Sanki Sliding Center track in one minute, 54.89 seconds to open a 0.23-second lead over Canada’s Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, trying to win their second straight title after getting gold in Vancouver.