Olympics Buzz: American pair skate for Florida shooting victims despite IOC's ban on demonstrations

Olympics Buzz: American pair skate for Florida shooting victims despite IOC's ban on demonstrations
Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim of the United States perform in the pairs free final on Thursday at the Gangneung Ice Arena at the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Julie Jacobson / Associated Press)

This is your daily infusion of information and news that you might have missed. The really big stuff you’ll find in other stories.

The husband-and-wife figure skating pairs team of Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim finished 15th on Wednesday, although they won’t go home empty-handed being part of the bronze-medal U.S. squad in the team event.


But they stepped up on an invisible platform of humanity on Thursday while discussing their performance.

“We wanted to skate for the 17 children that died in the Florida shooting,” Alexa said. “Today was about much more than us. … Our motivation was to skate for those who were lost today.”

They were the first pair to successfully land a quadruple twist in Olympic competition.

But could such a heartfelt and caring proclamation land them on double-secret probation from the International Olympic Committee?

The IOC has this rule that says no “kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

Despite the suspension of the U.S. Constitution’s 1st Amendment rights on a world stage, it’s not all that unreasonable.

However, before the men’s downhill on Thursday the IOC told French skiers that they couldn’t wear a tiny sticker on their helmets to honor David Poisson, who was killed in a skiing accident in November.

What they wanted is to have a small picture of a fish head, a play on the French word for fish, which is “poisson.” The French wore a heart with a “DP” in the center during the World Cup season.

One wonders whether it would have been OK if the stickers featured the official licensed fish head of the Olympics, with the appropriate price tag attached.

Interestingly, it is OK for Alex Rigsby and Nicole Hensley, goalies on the U.S. women’s hockey team, to wear masks that contain an image of the Statue of Liberty on it.

The French plan to abide by the ruling and not risk disqualification.

The IOC hasn’t offered up any clarity on why the U.S. symbol was OK, while the French one was not.

Fun fact: NBC, i.e. the United States, paid $963 million for the rights to broadcast these Games.

Change of plans

In light of the tragedy in South Florida, NBC switched up its emphasis on its morning moneymaker, the “Today” show. Previously about 80% of the airtime was about the Olympics, but on Thursday, the show devoted less than five minutes to the Games during the first hour. In the second hour, with no new information on the shooting, “Today” devoted about 10 minutes to competition and 17 minutes to travelogue-type stories.


Tag, you’re it

Of all the made-up sports at the Winter Olympics, luge relay has to be one of the most fun. First, a woman slider goes down the track, and when she reaches the bottom at near full speed, she has to hit a pad that signals the second slider, a man, at the top of the run to start down the track. When at the bottom, he hits the pad and alerts a doubles team to head down. At the end, one of them has to hit the pad to end the run. If anyone misses the pad, it’s DQ time.

Germany won the gold, its sixth medal of the 12 awarded in luge, followed by Canada and Austria. The U.S. team, of Summer Britcher, Chris Mazdzer and the team of Matthew Mortensen and Jayson Terdiman, finished fourth, just 0.103 seconds out of a medal. Luge is the first of the 15 sports to close up shop for the Games.

The streak ends

The Netherlands, after winning the first five golds in speedskating, had its streak stopped, sort of, by Ted-Jan Bloeman of “Canada.” Bloemen is really from the Netherlands, but after he couldn’t make that country’s 2014 team, and because his father was born in New Brunswick, Canada, and given the squishy rules of country eligibility, he picked up his clapskates and moved to Canada and made its team. Thursday’s win was in the excruciating-to-watch men’s 10,000 meters.

The U.S did not enter the race and, no doubt, had the time to watch a long movie during the competition.

Biathlon upsets

Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway won the gold in the men’s 20-kilometer individual biathlon race, but more interesting was who didn’t hit the medal stand. Martin Fourcade of France, top rated in the world, blew a 90-second lead when he missed his final two shots. He finished fourth. Boe was ranked second. Tim Burke was the top U.S. finisher at 41st of 86 starters.

The women’s 15K also held a surprise when Hanna Oeberg of Sweden, ranked 42nd in the World Cup standings, beat two-time gold medalist Laura Dahlmeier of Germany, who finished third. The trick was Oeberg hit all 20 of her shots. Susan Dunklee of the U.S. finished 19th of 87 competitors.

More of the same

Norway won yet another cross-country skiing medal, this time it was Ragnhild Haga in the women’s 10K. Not to be overlooked is Jessie Diggins, who finished fifth for the U.S. It was her third top-six finish, which is remarkable for a country that has never won a women’s cross-country medal. Haga won by more than 20 seconds.

Close but no medal

The U.S. finished fourth and fifth in the men’s snowboard cross, which was won by Pierre Vaultier of France. Nick Baumgartner was fourth and Mick Dierdorff right behind him.

In progress …

Italy beat the U.S. men’s curling team 10-9 to improve to 2-1. The U.S. is 1-1. Canada is 3-0 in round-robin play. The U.S. women beat Britain, 7-4, and lost to Switzerland, 6-5, to drop to 1-2. Japan leads that group with a 3-0 record. … After the first two heats of the men’s skeleton, Matt Antoine of the U.S. is in 11th behind leader Sungbin Yun of South Korea.