Hockey team woes at the Winter Games (Plus a 17-picture Sochi Olympics photo gallery)

Catherine Ward of Canada (18) shoves Anne Schleper of the United States (15) to the ice during overtime of the women's gold medal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Catherine Ward of Canada (18) shoves Anne Schleper of the United States (15) to the ice during overtime of the women’s gold medal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The American women’s hockey team was 3:26 seconds away from its first Olympic gold medal since 1998. Then everything went wrong.

The Canadians got on the board when a shot deflected off Team USA’s Kacey Bellamy and past Jesse Vetter to make the score 2-1.

Two minutes later, the U.S. had a chance to seal the victory when Canada pulled its goaltender and Kelli Stack’s shot started rolling toward the goal. But the puck hit the left post with 1:14 to play, keeping Canada alive.

Marie-Philip Poulin scored with 55 seconds to go to tie the game and got the game-winner in overtime on a power play to win Canada’s fourth straight gold medal in the event.

Tears flowed on the American side and the team stood on the ice in stunned disbelief as they watched the Canadians celebrate.

Reported by JON KRAWCZYNSKI of the Associated Press from SOCHI, Russia. — Twitter http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

Members of Team Canada celebrate after defeating the United States during sudden death overtime women's hockey final action at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014.  (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

Members of Team Canada celebrate after defeating the United States during sudden death overtime women’s hockey final action at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)

KNOW YOUR SLALOM

Let’s dance.

It’s time for skiers to wiggle their way through tightly set slalom gates under the lights at the Sochi Games.

The women’s slalom is set for Friday night followed by the men’s race Saturday night.

American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin and overall World Cup leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria are the clear favorites.

Here are five things to know about Alpine skiing entering the final two races of the games:

1) MAZE BIDS FOR THREE: Tina Maze of Slovenia heads into the slalom with a chance to become only the second woman in Olympic history with three Alpine golds at a single Winter Olympics. Janica Kostelic of Croatia did it in 2006.

Maze already won the downhill and giant slalom in Sochi. She also pushed Shiffrin during the 2012-13 World Cup season for the slalom title. It came down to the last race, when Shiffrin took first place and Maze was third.

“She has so much power in her turns. She doesn’t ever stop skiing. She just goes. She goes down the hill as fast as she possibly can, and I learned from that throughout last season and this season,” Shiffrin said. “I don’t think I have a big advantage against her, and I don’t think she has an advantage against me. We’re just two girls who want to win.”

2) CRAZY DOGS: When Austria’s Marcel Hirscher won the slalom title before 50,000 ski-mad fans on home snow at last season’s world championships in Schladming, it was an impressive display of performing under pressure.

Recalling that race at the beginning of this season, Hirscher likened it to a pretty scary scene.

“If you’re standing in front of a big, big, huge wall, and you have no opportunity to climb up there, and then behind you, there are a hundred crazy dogs who want to eat you up, then you have to go for your life,” he said.

Saturday’s slalom could be low-key in comparison to the Schladming race, but Hirscher remains the favorite. After all, he’s also won seven of 18 World Cup slalom races over this season and last.

3) YOUTH MOVEMENT: At 18, Shiffrin has a chance to become the youngest women’s slalom champion in Olympic history.

Paoletta Magoni of Italy was 19½ when she won the slalom at the 1984 Sarajevo Games.

The youngest Olympic Alpine champion in any discipline was Michela Figini of Switzerland, who won the Sarajevo downhill a month shy of her 18th birthday.

4) RIESCH RACES: Defending champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch will race the slalom despite being slowed by a cold and breathing problems.

Germany’s Alpine spokesman Ralph Eder said that Hoefl-Riesch trained Thursday and is planning to compete after sitting out Tuesday’s giant slalom.

Hoefl-Riesch already has one gold and one silver medal from these games, along with two golds from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. She won the super-combined here and finished second to Anna Fenninger of Austria in the super-G.

One more gold for Hoefl-Riesch would equal Croatian great Janica Kostelic’s record of four career Olympic titles.

5) UKRAINIAN WITHDRAWS: Ukraine will not be represented in the women’s slalom.

That’s because Bogdana Matsotska has withdrawn from the Olympics in response to the deaths of anti-government protesters in her country.

“I don’t want to participate when in my country people die,” Bogdana Matsotska told The Associated Press.

Matsotska wants to leave the Olympics immediately to join protesters in the camp known as Maidan in Kiev’s Independence Square, but said she has been unable to book a flight home.

“I am in Maidan but just with my soul,” she said.

Switzerland's Denise Feierabend skis in the first run of the women's slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Switzerland’s Denise Feierabend skis in the first run of the women’s slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

RUSSIA LOVES HOCKEY

Russia’s shock ouster from the Olympic men’s hockey competition hasn’t sent the host nation’s hockey-mad fans stampeding for Sochi’s exits.

Games chief Dmitry Chernyshenko told The Associated Press on Thursday that, despite the disappointment, there was no “massive rush” for ticket refunds by Russian spectators.jd-olympicdreamslogo

“This means Russian fans have big hearts, and will continue to have fun and support the teams (still) here,” Chernyshenko said.

Chernyshenko, a former hockey player who saw his dreams of Russian gold dashed by the team’s 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Finland, said the match was “upsetting.” But, as he tweeted shortly after Wednesday’s game: “The show must go on.”

Some Russian fans share his sentiment. Minutes after Chernyshenko spoke outside the Bolshoy Hockey Arena, Russians mobbed the US men’s hockey team as they made a surprise appearance for a group photograph in Olympic Park.

Chernyshenko spoke as he walked the grounds of Olympic Park, visiting venues and reflecting on the years of preparation that went into the games. While he wouldn’t pronounce the Sochi Olympics a success until they ended, he said he was already “modestly proud” at the accomplishments of his organizing committee.

Reported by MARK DAVIES of the Associated Press from SOCHI RUSSIA — http://twitter.com/MarkDaviesAP
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OLYMPIC PHOTO GALLERY

Olga Graf of Russia celebrates after competing in the women's speedskating team pursuit quarterfinals at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014.  (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Olga Graf of Russia celebrates after competing in the women’s speedskating team pursuit quarterfinals at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

Lebanon's Jacky Chamoun finishes the first run of the women's slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

Lebanon’s Jacky Chamoun finishes the first run of the women’s slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

A fan waves a Russian flag during the women's slalom at the Alpine ski venue during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

A fan waves a Russian flag during the women’s slalom at the Alpine ski venue during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

The team from Brazil BRA-1, piloted by Edson Bindilatti, start a run during the men's four-man bobsled training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

The team from Brazil BRA-1, piloted by Edson Bindilatti, start a run during the men’s four-man bobsled training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

The team from Brazil BRA-1, piloted by Edson Bindilatti, take a curve during a training run for the men's four-man bobsled at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

The team from Brazil BRA-1, piloted by Edson Bindilatti, take a curve during a training run for the men’s four-man bobsled at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Czech Republic's Sarka Strachova skis past a gate in the first run of the women's slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Czech Republic’s Sarka Strachova skis past a gate in the first run of the women’s slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Sweden’s Fredrik Lindberg delivers the rock during the men's curling bronze medal game against China at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. His tattoo is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger," the Olypmic motto. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Sweden’s Fredrik Lindberg delivers the rock during the men’s curling bronze medal game against China at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. His tattoo is Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger,” the Olypmic motto. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

South Korea's Lee Sang-hwa, left, gold medallist for the women's 500-meter speedskating, signs a stack of autographs as she sits in the stands prior to the start of the men's speedskating team pursuit quarterfinals at Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

South Korea’s Lee Sang-hwa, left, gold medallist for the women’s 500-meter speedskating, signs a stack of autographs as she sits in the stands prior to the start of the men’s speedskating team pursuit quarterfinals at Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Gracie Gold of the United States competes in the women's free skate figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Gracie Gold of the United States competes in the women’s free skate figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

France's Ophelie David, from left, Canada's Kelsey Serwa, Canada's Marielle Thompson and Sweden's Anna Holmlund compete during their ski cross final at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

France’s Ophelie David, from left, Canada’s Kelsey Serwa, Canada’s Marielle Thompson and Sweden’s Anna Holmlund compete during their ski cross final at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Czech Republic's Jitka Landova ejects the cartridge as she shoots during the women's biathlon 4x6k relay at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Czech Republic’s Jitka Landova ejects the cartridge as she shoots during the women’s biathlon 4x6k relay at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Competitors start the women's biathlon 4x6k relay at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Competitors start the women’s biathlon 4x6k relay at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Megan Bozek of the United States (9) wipes a tear as she stand with Monique Lamoureux of the United States (7),  and Meghan Duggan of the United States (10) during the medal ceremony for the women's ice hockey tournament at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Team USA took silver after losing 3-2 to Team Canada in overtime. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Megan Bozek of the United States (9) wipes a tear as she stand with Monique Lamoureux of the United States (7), and Meghan Duggan of the United States (10) during the medal ceremony for the women’s ice hockey tournament at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Team USA took silver after losing 3-2 to Team Canada in overtime. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Finland forward Teemu Selanne trips over a Swedish player during the second period of a men's semifinal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Finland forward Teemu Selanne trips over a Swedish player during the second period of a men’s semifinal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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Americans succumb to the lure of the rings (Plus a 21-picture Sochi Olympics photo gallery)

In this still image taken from video, members of the men's ice hockey team from the United States post in front of the Olympic rings in Olympic Park during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. The U.S. and Canada will play each other in the semifinal round on Friday, Feb. 21. (AP Photo/Ben Jary)

In this still image taken from video, members of the men’s ice hockey team from the United States post in front of the Olympic rings in Olympic Park during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. The U.S. and Canada will play each other in the semifinal round on Friday, Feb. 21. (AP Photo/Ben Jary)

Everyone wants to get their picture taken in front of the Olympic rings in Sochi. The U.S. men’s hockey team is no different.

One day before they take on Canada in a highly anticipated semifinal, the Americans walked into Olympic Park for a team photo in front of the rings. After the team picture was taken, they welcomed in some family members who made the trip to Sochi as well.jd-olympicdreamslogo

Most of the players were wearing Navy blue jerseys with their names and numbers on the back, so it wasn’t long before fans realized they were in the company of stars.

Several players were approached for photos, including the team’s newest star. A woman quickly grabbed T.J. Oshie, who carried Team USA to a victory over Russia with four shootout goals, for a photo.

After a few photos, the team hurried away to resume preparations for its showdown with Canada on Friday.

Reported by JON KRAWCZYNSKI of the Associated Press from SOCHI, Russia — http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

NO PLACE TO MOURN

The IOC’s reluctance to allow competitors to wear black arm bands, or any other individual badge, to honor fallen loved ones might seem on the surface to be insensitive. That’s hardly the intent, the Olympic committee says.

Athletes the world over have routinely worn some kind of arm band, jersey patch or decal to pay tribute when someone close to them dies. Many use it as a way to shine a bit of light on a dark situation, to make sure that others mourning the loss can see that they are in their hearts and on their minds.

At the Sochi Games, the IOC has reprimanded Norwegian competitors for wearing an arm band to honor a family member of one of the athletes and told Australian snowboarder Torah Bright she could not wear a sticker on her helmet in memory of snowboarder Sarah Burke, who died in 2012.

On Wednesday, Ukraine officials said the IOC denied them permission to wear arm bands to honor those killed in a clash between anti-government protesters and police in Kiev. IOC spokesman Mark Adams says that they never made a firm denial and that Ukrainian officials decided on their own to make a different gesture before it got to that point.

But either way, Adams says the IOC isn’t trying to appear cold or insensitive.

“We try to concentrate on the sport. There are 2,800 athletes here,” he said. “As you can imagine, there are a lot, sadly, a lot of people with personal tragedy in their lives. Some with big political tragedies, some with personal tragedies, friends, loved ones, some athletes, some nonathletes. The idea is to try to help them to find other ways, individual or collectively, to mark those moments.”
Reported by JON KRAWCZYNSKI of the Associated Press from SOCHI, Russia — http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

Germany's Stefan Luitz reacts after being disqualified in the first run of the men's giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

Germany’s Stefan Luitz reacts after being disqualified in the first run of the men’s giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

A BAD FALL

Even Stefan Luitz called himself an idiot.

The German skier tripped over the very last gate in the Olympic giant slalom on Wednesday, tumbling across the finish line as one of his skis flew off.

As he lay on the snow, disqualified for straddling that final gate, one thought struck him.

“You idiot,” he said.

Luitz had a smooth performance going, too, and would’ve been the second-fastest on the course heading into the final run. He would’ve been a strong medal contender in an event that Ted Ligety of the United States won by a 0.48-second margin over Steve Missillier of France.

“Happens,” Luitz said.

Really? Has that happened to him before?

“No, it’s the first time,” Luitz said.

His teammates were flummoxed by his late fall, with his Sochi roommate Felix Neureuther calling it “unbelievable” and “unreal.”

“Something like that happens, it’s without words definitely,” Neureuther said.

Ligety felt a bad for Luitz.

“An unfortunate mistake,” Ligety said. “That’s super disappointing for him. … It actually happens a little bit, especially when it’s so flat like this and you’re fully in your tuck and you’re trying to take a fast line. It’s easy to get your skis bumped around.”

Luitz is trying not to think about what might’ve been had he not struggled with that last gate.

“I straddled,” he said, “and it’s over.”

Reported by PAT GRAHAM of the Associated Press from
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Twitter http://twitter.com/pgraham34

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OLYMPIC PHOTO GALLERY

Jean Frederic Chapuis of France, right, leads compatriots Arnaud Bovolenta, second right, and Jonathan Midol, third right, as  at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, as Canada's Brady Leman crashes in the men's ski cross final at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Jean Frederic Chapuis of France, right, leads compatriots Arnaud Bovolenta, second right, and Jonathan Midol, third right, as at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, as Canada’s Brady Leman crashes in the men’s ski cross final at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Hostesses present the flowers during the flower ceremony of the Nordic combined Gundersen large hill team competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Hostesses present the flowers during the flower ceremony of the Nordic combined Gundersen large hill team competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Australia's Anton Grimus waits after a men's ski cross heat at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Australia’s Anton Grimus waits after a men’s ski cross heat at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Yuna Kim of South Korea skates during a practice session at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Yuna Kim of South Korea skates during a practice session at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

A spectator takes a photo from behind a U.S. flag during men's ski cross competition at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

A spectator takes a photo from behind a U.S. flag during men’s ski cross competition at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Canada's Rosalind Groenewoud gets air during women's ski halfpipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Canada’s Rosalind Groenewoud gets air during women’s ski halfpipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Polish speedskaters sit together during a training session at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014.  (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Polish speedskaters sit together during a training session at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Norway's Joergen Graabak, right, crosses the finish line to win the gold ahead of second placed Fabian Riessle of Germany during the cross-country portion of the Nordic combined Gundersen large hill team competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Norway’s Joergen Graabak, right, crosses the finish line to win the gold ahead of second placed Fabian Riessle of Germany during the cross-country portion of the Nordic combined Gundersen large hill team competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Canada's skip Jennifer Jones, center, delivers the rock while Jill Officer, left and Dawn McEwen, right sweep the ice during the women's curling gold medal game against Sweden at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Canada’s skip Jennifer Jones, center, delivers the rock while Jill Officer, left and Dawn McEwen, right sweep the ice during the women’s curling gold medal game against Sweden at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Goalkeeper Valentina Wallner of Sweden (35) blocks a shot on goal by Jessica Lutz of Switzerland (17) as Linnea Backman of Sweden (17) helps defend the goal during the first period of the women's bronze medal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Goalkeeper Valentina Wallner of Sweden (35) blocks a shot on goal by Jessica Lutz of Switzerland (17) as Linnea Backman of Sweden (17) helps defend the goal during the first period of the women’s bronze medal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Christine Nesbitt, second from left, practices with other Canadian speedskaters during a training session for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Christine Nesbitt, second from left, practices with other Canadian speedskaters during a training session for the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Gabrielle Daleman of Canada falls as she competes in the women's free skate figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Gabrielle Daleman of Canada falls as she competes in the women’s free skate figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

The team from the United States USA-1, piloted by Steven Holcomb, take a curve during the men's four-man bobsled training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

The team from the United States USA-1, piloted by Steven Holcomb, take a curve during the men’s four-man bobsled training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Austria's Andreas Matt , bottom and France's Jonas Devouassoux land from a jump during a men's ski cross heat at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Austria’s Andreas Matt , bottom and France’s Jonas Devouassoux land from a jump during a men’s ski cross heat at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Lara Stalder of Switzerland (7) reacts to the bench after a third period goal against Sweden in the women's bronze medal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Switzerland won 4-3. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Lara Stalder of Switzerland (7) reacts to the bench after a third period goal against Sweden in the women’s bronze medal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Switzerland won 4-3. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Park So-Youn of South Korea competes in the women's free skate figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Park So-Youn of South Korea competes in the women’s free skate figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Switzerland's skip Mirjam Ott, center, delivers the rock to teammates Carmen Kueng, left, and Janine Greiner, right, during the women's curling bronze medal game against Britain at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Switzerland’s skip Mirjam Ott, center, delivers the rock to teammates Carmen Kueng, left, and Janine Greiner, right, during the women’s curling bronze medal game against Britain at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Adelina Sotnikova of Russia reacts as she waits in the results area after completing her routine in the women's short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Adelina Sotnikova of Russia reacts as she waits in the results area after completing her routine in the women’s short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

A light from the ground illuminates the face of a visitor to the Olympic Park at dusk as the flame burns in the background at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

A light from the ground illuminates the face of a visitor to the Olympic Park at dusk as the flame burns in the background at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Britain's skip Eve Muirhead, right, embraces Anna Sloan after defeating Switzerland to win the women's curling bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Britain’s skip Eve Muirhead, right, embraces Anna Sloan after defeating Switzerland to win the women’s curling bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

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The crash-fest at the Winter Games (Plus a 24-picture Sochi Olympics photo gallery)

Men's giant slalom gold medalist Ted Ligety of the United States poses for photographers with the American flag on the podium at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Men’s giant slalom gold medalist Ted Ligety of the United States poses for photographers with the American flag on the podium at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

With 109 listed starters in men’s giant slalom, there are bound to be lots of crashes. The slow-mo replay folks are having a field day.

Only 79 competitors finished their qualifying run Wednesday. Most of the others fell, sometimes in comical fashion, losing skis or their poles down the course and momentarily doing their best to try to salvage a hopeless run.

At one point, Antonio Pardo of Venezuela fell on his side and lost his skis, then pounded his hands into the snow in frustration — all replayed in slow motion to live audiences.

Spain's Alex Puente Tasias crashes during  the first run of the men's giant slalom the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Spain’s Alex Puente Tasias crashes during the first run of the men’s giant slalom the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Andorra's Joan Verdu Sanchez is carried away by medics after he crashed in the first run of the men's giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

Andorra’s Joan Verdu Sanchez is carried away by medics after he crashed in the first run of the men’s giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

United States' Ted Ligety celebrates winning the gold medal in the men's giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

United States’ Ted Ligety celebrates winning the gold medal in the men’s giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Germany's Stefan Luitz crashes into a safety barrier after finishing the first run of the men's giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Germany’s Stefan Luitz crashes into a safety barrier after finishing the first run of the men’s giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Spain's Alex Puente Tasias slides down the course after crashing during  the first run of the men's giant slalom the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Spain’s Alex Puente Tasias slides down the course after crashing during the first run of the men’s giant slalom the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Andorra's Joan Verdu Sanchez crashes in the first run of the men's giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Andorra’s Joan Verdu Sanchez crashes in the first run of the men’s giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

By OSKAR GARCIA of the Associated Press — Twitter http://twitter.com/oskargarcia

A VERY SPECIAL ROCK

jd-olympicdreamslogo
— Every time American freeskier David Wise travels for a halfpipe competition, he searches for a rock — typically in the shape of a heart — to bring back home for his wife Lexie.

On the biggest night of his professional life, she returned the favor.

Lexie smuggled in a rock from near their home in Reno, Nev., to Tuesday night’s men’s Olympic halfpipe skiing final, handing it to a friend who gave it to her husband. Wise posted a picture of the gray, vaguely heart-shaped gem on Instagram just before the competition then stuffed it in his pocket before soaring to gold.

See the post here: http://instagram.com/p/kj43IsF5t6/

The rock was still there in the giddy aftermath, ready to take up a very prominent place in the family’s growing collection. Considering the success Wise had with the trinket in place, he knows he’ll have to step his game up the next time he’s on the road.

“There’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “You want to pick out the best rock you possibly can.”

His wife certainly found a winner.

Reported by WILL GRAVES of the Associated Press from SOCHI, Russia. — http://twitter.com/WillGravesAP
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ATHLETE AND ASIAN POP STAR

Thailand's Kanes Sucharitakul reacts after finishing the first run of the men's giant slalom the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Thailand’s Kanes Sucharitakul reacts after finishing the first run of the men’s giant slalom the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Thailand only has two Olympians — and one’s getting most of the attention because she’s also a pop star at home.

The country’s other Olympian is Kanes Sucharitakul, an Alpine skier who was Thailand’s flag-bearer at the opening ceremony and finished 65th in the giant slalom.

His teammate, Vanessa-Mae, is a platinum-selling pop violinist who lives in England and was born to a Thai father. She’s sold 10 million records worldwide.

Sucharitakul’s focus at the Olympics has been skiing. When asked about anti-government protests in his home country that have turned deadly, he said: “I get the news mostly from my family but I would really rather not comment on that.”

By GRAHAM DUNBAR of the Associated Press from KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — http://twitter.com/gdunbarap

OLYMPIC PHOTO GALLERY

Finland's Iivo Niskanen, left, and Sami Jauhojaervi celebrates winning the gold during the men's classical-style cross-country team sprint competitions at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Finland’s Iivo Niskanen, left, and Sami Jauhojaervi celebrates winning the gold during the men’s classical-style cross-country team sprint competitions at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Women's snowboard parallel giant slalom gold medalist Switzerland's Patrizia Kummer, center, celebrates on the podium with silver medalist Tomoka Takeuchi of Japan, left, and bronze medalist Alena Zavarzina of Russia at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Women’s snowboard parallel giant slalom gold medalist Switzerland’s Patrizia Kummer, center, celebrates on the podium with silver medalist Tomoka Takeuchi of Japan, left, and bronze medalist Alena Zavarzina of Russia at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Russia forward Ilya Kovalchuk reacts after scoring a goal against Finland during the first period of a men's quarterfinal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.  (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Russia forward Ilya Kovalchuk reacts after scoring a goal against Finland during the first period of a men’s quarterfinal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Sweden forward Loui Eriksson shoots and scores against Slovenia goaltender Robert Kristan in the third period of a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Sweden won 5-0 to advance to the semifinals. (AP Photo/Martin Rose, Pool)

Sweden forward Loui Eriksson shoots and scores against Slovenia goaltender Robert Kristan in the third period of a men’s ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Sweden won 5-0 to advance to the semifinals. (AP Photo/Martin Rose, Pool)

France's Alexis Pinturault makes a turn in the men's giant slalom to win the bronze medal at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

France’s Alexis Pinturault makes a turn in the men’s giant slalom to win the bronze medal at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Russia forward Ilya Kovalchuk reacts after scoring a goal against Finland during the first period of a men's quarterfinal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Russia forward Ilya Kovalchuk reacts after scoring a goal against Finland during the first period of a men’s quarterfinal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The team from Italy ITA-1, piloted by Simone Bertazzo, start a run during the men's four-man bobsled training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

The team from Italy ITA-1, piloted by Simone Bertazzo, start a run during the men’s four-man bobsled training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Norway's Marit Bjoergen leads during the cross-country team sprint competitions at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Norway’s Marit Bjoergen leads during the cross-country team sprint competitions at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Sweden's skip Margaretha Sigfridsson, wipes the rock before delivering it to her teammates during the women's curling semifinal game against Switzerland at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Sweden’s skip Margaretha Sigfridsson, wipes the rock before delivering it to her teammates during the women’s curling semifinal game against Switzerland at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Britain's Anna Sloan sweeps ahead of the stone during the women's curling semifinal game against Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Britain’s Anna Sloan sweeps ahead of the stone during the women’s curling semifinal game against Canada at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

The team from Australia AUS-1, piloted by Heath Spence, take a curve during the men's four-man bobsled training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

The team from Australia AUS-1, piloted by Heath Spence, take a curve during the men’s four-man bobsled training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Switzerland's Kaspar Fluetsch competes during snowboard parallel giant slalom heats at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Switzerland’s Kaspar Fluetsch competes during snowboard parallel giant slalom heats at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

A hockey fan cheering for Russia gives a thumbs up before play between Russia and Finland period of a men's quarterfinal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

A hockey fan cheering for Russia gives a thumbs up before play between Russia and Finland period of a men’s quarterfinal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Sweden's Ida Ingemarsdotter skis during the women's classical-style cross-country team sprint competitions at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter skis during the women’s classical-style cross-country team sprint competitions at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

Gold medal winner, United States' Ted Ligety skis in the second run of the men's giant slalom to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Gold medal winner, United States’ Ted Ligety skis in the second run of the men’s giant slalom to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

The alpine ski finish area is reflected in the sunglasses of an Olympic volunteer during the first run of the men's giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.  (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

The alpine ski finish area is reflected in the sunglasses of an Olympic volunteer during the first run of the men’s giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

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Australian is flying high at the Winter Games (Plus a 23-picture Sochi Olympics photo gallery)

Silver medal winner, Australia's David Morris makes his final jump during men's freestyle skiing aerials at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Silver medal winner, Australia’s David Morris makes his final jump during men’s freestyle skiing aerials at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

There is no men’s aerials program in Australia. There is only David Morris, a former gymnast — “I wasn’t amazing at it,” he says — whose persistence turned into history.

Morris won the first men’s aerials medal for his home country on Monday, grabbing silver with a spectacular but admittedly safe jump in the finals.

The leap served as validation for the 29-year-old who kept plowing his way despite a decided lack of support from Australian officials, who don’t consider the event a priority even as countrywoman Lydia Lassila has captured gold and bronze in the last two Winter games.

Maybe Australia will now.

“We did something right,” Morris said. “We know how long it takes to get up to (this) level. Hopefully people will start ringing up and saying ‘I want to do that, it’s stupid.’”

Morris made it look sublime while finishing as runner-up to Anton Kushnir of Belarus. While he could have attempted a version of the five-twisting triple back flip — considered the toughest jump in the sport — he opted for a four-twisting one he knew he could land.

“I knew I was never going to out-jump them,” Morris said.

So he outsmarted them. When Chinese finalists Jia Zongyang and Qi Guangpu failed to nail their five-twisters, Morris had silver draped around his neck.

“Silver is sweet,” he said, “but if I had been outjumped at any point I wouldn’t have been disappointed.”

Reported by WILL GRAVES of the Associated Press from KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Twitter http://twitter.com/WillGravesAPjd-olympicdreamslogo

SOCHI BY THE NUMBERS

A look at some numbers compiled by the IOC that illustrate the digital engagement of fans at the Sochi Olympics:

  • 17 million: Mentions of the Sochi Games on VKontakte — the Russian equivalent to Facebook — during the first week of competition.
  • 2.7 million: Fans of the IOC’s Olympic page on VKontakte, which makes it the most popular official community page in the world among Russian-speaking fans.
  • 2 million: Number of fans the IOC added on its Facebook page as the Sochi Games approached, with 1 million added in the first seven days of competition.
  • 849,752 : Number of new followers the IOC has added on its Sina Weibo account, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, since the start of the games.
  • 100,000: Number of new followers of the IOC’s Twitter account since the start of the games.
  • 40,000: Updates from Olympic athletes on the Olympic Athletes’ Hub (http://hub.olympic.org ), a digital gathering player were 1,500 Sochi athletes and 6,000 from past games can post photos and comments to interact with fans.
  • 10,000: Number of tweets per minute sent out at the height of the opening ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium that commented on the festivities.

Reported by JON KRAWCZYNSKI of the Associated Press from SOCHI, Russia — http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT

This combination of photos taken on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, shows white security guard tents along the route between the coastal city of Sochi, Russia, and the mountain village of Krasnaya Polyana, where the Alpine and Nordic events for the 2014 Winter Olympics are taking place. The tents would have been well camouflaged in a snowy environment, but the warm weather has left them exposed against the brown background. (AP Photo/Steve Barker)

This combination of photos taken on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, shows white security guard tents along the route between the coastal city of Sochi, Russia, and the mountain village of Krasnaya Polyana, where the Alpine and Nordic events for the 2014 Winter Olympics are taking place. The tents would have been well camouflaged in a snowy environment, but the warm weather has left them exposed against the brown background. (AP Photo/Steve Barker)

— Camouflage is meant to conceal military positions. Yet it seems Russian forces didn’t count on the lack of snow in the mountains that overlook Sochi.

Sentry posts lining the roads to the mountain sports venues are covered in bright, white camouflage netting. But surrounded by bare, brown earth or concrete paving instead of snow, the posts are anything but concealed.

Security forces staffing the positions also seem divided on how to deal with the lack of snow cover. Several were spotted huddling inside one post wearing full white winter camouflage uniforms. Farther up the road, though, one policeman was wearing a green high-visibility vest inside his “camouflaged” hut.

A case of Sochi’s security forces hiding in plain sight?

Reported by MARK DAVIES of the Associated Press from ROSA KHUTOR, Russia — http://twitter.com/MarkDaviesAP

___

Associated Press reporters are filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: http://apne.ws/1c3WMiu

OLYMPIC PHOTO GALLERY

New Zealand's Lyndon Sheehan jumps during men's ski half pipe training ahead of qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

New Zealand’s Lyndon Sheehan jumps during men’s ski half pipe training ahead of qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

United States' Trevor Jacob, from left, Spain's Lucas Eguibar, Canada's Kevin Hill, United States' Alex Deibold, and Russia's Nikolay Olyunin compete during the men's snowboard cross semifinal at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

United States’ Trevor Jacob, from left, Spain’s Lucas Eguibar, Canada’s Kevin Hill, United States’ Alex Deibold, and Russia’s Nikolay Olyunin compete during the men’s snowboard cross semifinal at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Switzerland's Lara Gut passes a gate in the second run of the women's giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Switzerland’s Lara Gut passes a gate in the second run of the women’s giant slalom at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

France's Martin Fourcade prepares to shoot during the men's biathlon 15k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

France’s Martin Fourcade prepares to shoot during the men’s biathlon 15k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Czech Republic's Ondrej Moravec shoots during the men's biathlon 15k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Czech Republic’s Ondrej Moravec shoots during the men’s biathlon 15k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Germany's Viktoria Rebensburg makes a turn in the second run of the women's giant slalom to win the bronze medal at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg makes a turn in the second run of the women’s giant slalom to win the bronze medal at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Spectators put on rain gear during the Nordic combined individual Gundersen large hill competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Spectators put on rain gear during the Nordic combined individual Gundersen large hill competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Members of Team Germany celebrate their 3-2 win over Japan in the 2014 Winter Olympics women's ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Members of Team Germany celebrate their 3-2 win over Japan in the 2014 Winter Olympics women’s ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Charles Hamelin of Canada leads the field in a men's 500m short track speedskating heat at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Charles Hamelin of Canada leads the field in a men’s 500m short track speedskating heat at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Gold medalist Pierre Vaultier of France, center, silver medalist Nikolay Olyunin, of Russia, right, and bronze medalist Alex Deibold of the United States celebrate their win as they cross the finish line during the mens Snowboard Cross final at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

Gold medalist Pierre Vaultier of France, center, silver medalist Nikolay Olyunin, of Russia, right, and bronze medalist Alex Deibold of the United States celebrate their win as they cross the finish line during the mens Snowboard Cross final at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jonathan Hayward)

Patrick Meek of the U.S. rests after competing in the men's 10,000-meter speedskating race at Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Patrick Meek of the U.S. rests after competing in the men’s 10,000-meter speedskating race at Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Austria's Markus Schairer, top, and Canada's Robert Fagan crash during a men's snowboard cross heat at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Austria’s Markus Schairer, top, and Canada’s Robert Fagan crash during a men’s snowboard cross heat at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Germany's Eric Frenzel, left, and Norway's Haavard Klemetsen who led after the ski jumping ski during the Nordic combined individual Gundersen large hill competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Germany’s Eric Frenzel, left, and Norway’s Haavard Klemetsen who led after the ski jumping ski during the Nordic combined individual Gundersen large hill competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

A Dutch skating fan has the colors of his national flag anted on his face as he watches the men's 10,000-meter speedskating race at Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip )

A Dutch skating fan has the colors of his national flag anted on his face as he watches the men’s 10,000-meter speedskating race at Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014.(AP Photo/David J. Phillip )

Emery Lehman of the U.S. holds a bucket to his face as he gets sick after his 10,000-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Emery Lehman of the U.S. holds a bucket to his face as he gets sick after his 10,000-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Japan's Kentaro Tsuda jumps during men's ski half pipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Japan’s Kentaro Tsuda jumps during men’s ski half pipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Bob de Jong of the Netherlands competes in the men's 10,000-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Bob de Jong of the Netherlands competes in the men’s 10,000-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Russia forward Alexander Ovechkin makes an off-balance shot against Norway goaltender Lars Haugen in the third period of a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Russia forward Alexander Ovechkin makes an off-balance shot against Norway goaltender Lars Haugen in the third period of a men’s ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Olympics pins are covered in rain drops while waiting to be traded at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Olympics pins are covered in rain drops while waiting to be traded at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Czech Republic's Ondrej Moravec celebrates winning the bronze medal in the men's biathlon 15k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Czech Republic’s Ondrej Moravec celebrates winning the bronze medal in the men’s biathlon 15k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Shim Suk-Hee of South Korea, front left, Valerie Maltais of Canada, centre, and Fan Kexin of China, front right, compete in the women's 3000m short track speedskating relay final at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Shim Suk-Hee of South Korea, front left, Valerie Maltais of Canada, centre, and Fan Kexin of China, front right, compete in the women’s 3000m short track speedskating relay final at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

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The quest for winter games’ souveneirs (Plus a 24-picture Sochi Olympics photo gallery)

In Sochi’s Olympic Park there are two constants: the Olympic flame burning triumphantly in the middle of the park and the long line of waiting shoppers snaking out of the official store.jd-olympicdreamslogo

Russian retailer Bosco di Ciliegi has told Olympic organizers that it was caught off guard by the demand for souvenirs in Sochi and it has been scrambling to keep the lines moving and the merchandise racks stocked. Average wait times just to get in are more than an hour, and it can take another hour to get through the store to the exit.

“I think Bosco actually commented several days ago that indeed, let’s say, demand was much over their projections and they were a bit overwhelmed,” Sochi 2014 spokeswoman Aleksandra Kosterina said on Monday. “But they are sorting this out and hopefully it will work better.”

Marina Novokovskaya says it all worked out for her in the end, but it requires a lot of patience.

“I got what I expected,” she said with a bright smile after her two-hour journey.

Susan Taylor, visiting from London, did not have to wait in a long line because workers noticed her using a cane and ushered her in. Once there, however, she found things in a bit of disarray. She was looking for a T-shirt in large or XL, but had to settle for an XXL because everything was taken.

“It was kind of chaotic,” she said.

According to Bosco, the store has had more than 100,000 visitors since it opened. They say that every hour they sell:

    • 120 overcoats
    • 210 baseball caps
    • 400 t-shirts
    • More than 1,000 pins and keychains.
Men's slopestyle skiing silver medalist Gus Kenworthy of the United States smiles while holding his medal during the medals ceremony at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Men’s slopestyle skiing silver medalist Gus Kenworthy of the United States smiles while holding his medal during the medals ceremony at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

— By JON KRAWCZYNSKI of the Associated Press from SOCHI, Russia — Twitter http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

DOG-GONE IT, RUSSIA!

Gus Kenworthy’s party back in Colorado to celebrate his silver medal in men’s slopestyle skiing is going to have to wait.

He’s still waiting for Russia to let the dogs out. No, seriously.

The 22-year-old who lives in Telluride, Colo., was scheduled to return home from Sochi on Monday, nearly a week after Kenworthy was part of a historic sweep by the U.S. as slopestyle skiing made its Olympic debut.

Yet Kenworthy’s medal in some ways took a backseat to his decision to adopt four puppies — along with their mother — he discovered near the media center at the base of the mountain that houses the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

Kenworthy wasn’t kidding. He is taking all five dogs back to the U.S. with him, but getting the paperwork done is taking some time.

A U.S. skiing official says Kenworthy had to push back his plans so the dogs can join him for the long trip halfway across the world back home.

The reaction to Kenworthy’s decision to adopt the family has gotten perhaps more attention than the medal he claimed alongside gold medalist Joss Christensen and bronze medalist Nick Goepper.

Pop star Miley Cyrus tweeted at Kenworthy on Sunday, saying there were “4 reasons to follow @guskenworthy” while forwarding a picture of Kenworthy playing with his new pooches.

By WILL GRAVES of the Associated Press from KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Twitter http://twitter.com/WillGravesAP

A TASTE FOR GOLD

Julie Chu of the U.S. women’s hockey team has won five world championships, but never an Olympic gold medal. She won silver in 2010 and 2002 and a bronze in 2006.

Immediately after her team beat Sweden on Monday night to get to the gold medal game, Chu said she’s been seeing gold the last four years.

“There’s no secret, we wanted to get to the gold medal game, and that was since the buzzer rang in 2010,” said Chu, of Fairfield, Conn. “We wanted to get the chance to play and compete and win a gold medal.

“Being able to come a long journey in the last four years and be here and to earn a spot to battle on Thursday night . to earn that right is huge for our team,” she said. “But we know, again, that we haven’t won anything yet.”

By OSKAR GARCIA of the Associated Press from SOCHI, Russia — Twitter http://twitter.com/oskargarcia

THE CUP OR THE MEDAL?

Jade Agosta, left, sister of Canadian Olympic women's hockey player Meghan Agosta, kisses the Stanley Cup with her friend, at Canada House in Olympic Park on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Larry Lage)

Jade Agosta, left, sister of Canadian Olympic women’s hockey player Meghan Agosta, kisses the Stanley Cup with her friend, at Canada House in Olympic Park on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Larry Lage)

Lord Stanley is receiving a warm welcome in Sochi.

The Stanley Cup made an appearance at the Olympics on Monday, making several stops around Olympic Park, including the USA House and Canada House.

“It’s yours — for an hour,” Canadian Olympic Committee President Marcel Aubut told the packed house.

Dozens of people lined up to pose for pictures with it. Some put their arms around Cup, which is awarded to the NHL’s champion each year and is one of the most revered trophies in all of professional sports, as if it was a friend.

Some stood off to the side, perhaps in awe, as their picture was taken next to it.

Jade Agosta, whose sister, Meghan, is a star for the Canadian Olympic hockey team, was one of the many people who kissed the Cup.

“That was pretty cool,” she said.

Reported by LARRY LAGE of the Associated Press from SOCHI, Russia. Larry Lage — Twitter http://twitter.com/larrylage

OLYMPIC PHOTO GALLERY

Norway's Tiril Eckhoff, left, and Germany's Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle sprint towards the finish line to finish third and fourth in the women's biathlon 12.5k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

Norway’s Tiril Eckhoff, left, and Germany’s Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle sprint towards the finish line to finish third and fourth in the women’s biathlon 12.5k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer)

Natalie Spooner of Canada reacts after scoring a goal against Switzerland during the first period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women's semifinal ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Natalie Spooner of Canada reacts after scoring a goal against Switzerland during the first period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women’s semifinal ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas of Lithuania compete in the ice dance free dance figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Isabella Tobias and Deividas Stagniunas of Lithuania compete in the ice dance free dance figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Brianna Decker of the United States reacts after scoring a goal against Sweden during the third period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women's semifinal ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. The USA won 6-1. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Brianna Decker of the United States reacts after scoring a goal against Sweden during the third period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women’s semifinal ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. The USA won 6-1. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Russia's Timofei Slivets jumps during men's freestyle skiing aerials qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Russia’s Timofei Slivets jumps during men’s freestyle skiing aerials qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Andy Wong)

The skis of Norway's Rune Velta bend as he lands his trial jump during the ski jumping large hill team competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

The skis of Norway’s Rune Velta bend as he lands his trial jump during the ski jumping large hill team competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

The team from Jamaica JAM-1, piloted by Winston Watts and brakeman Marvin Dixon, take a curve during the men's two-man bobsled competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

The team from Jamaica JAM-1, piloted by Winston Watts and brakeman Marvin Dixon, take a curve during the men’s two-man bobsled competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

The athletes shoot during the women's biathlon 12.5k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

The athletes shoot during the women’s biathlon 12.5k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Russia's Ilya Burov sticks out his tongue after crashing following his landing in the men's freestyle skiing aerials qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Russia’s Ilya Burov sticks out his tongue after crashing following his landing in the men’s freestyle skiing aerials qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The team from Russia RUS-1, piloted by Alexander Zubkov and brakeman Alexey Voevoda, celebrate their gold medal run during the men's two-man bobsled competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The team from Russia RUS-1, piloted by Alexander Zubkov and brakeman Alexey Voevoda, celebrate their gold medal run during the men’s two-man bobsled competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Alex Carpenter of the United States shoots on goalkeeper Valentina Wallner of Sweden during the first period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women's semifinal ice hockey game at Shayba Arena Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Alex Carpenter of the United States shoots on goalkeeper Valentina Wallner of Sweden during the first period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women’s semifinal ice hockey game at Shayba Arena Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

U.S. speedskaters Joey Mantia, rear left, Shani davis, front left, Brian Hansen, second right, and Jonathan Kuck, right, practice for the team pursuit at Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

U.S. speedskaters Joey Mantia, rear left, Shani davis, front left, Brian Hansen, second right, and Jonathan Kuck, right, practice for the team pursuit at Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

China's Liu Zhongqing jumps during men's freestyle skiing aerials qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

China’s Liu Zhongqing jumps during men’s freestyle skiing aerials qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.(AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Canada's Travis Gerrits crashes on landing during men's freestyle skiing aerials qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Canada’s Travis Gerrits crashes on landing during men’s freestyle skiing aerials qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Silver medalist Czech Republic's Gabriela Soukalova, left, celebrates with gold medal's winner Belarus' Darya Domracheva after the women's biathlon 12.5k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Silver medalist Czech Republic’s Gabriela Soukalova, left, celebrates with gold medal’s winner Belarus’ Darya Domracheva after the women’s biathlon 12.5k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov of Azerbaijan compete in the ice dance free dance figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Julia Zlobina and Alexei Sitnikov of Azerbaijan compete in the ice dance free dance figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

The team from France, who won the bronze medal in the men's cross-country 4x10K relay, jump on the podium during their medals ceremony at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip )

The team from France, who won the bronze medal in the men’s cross-country 4x10K relay, jump on the podium during their medals ceremony at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip )

The team from the United States USA-3, Nick Cunningham, second from left, and brakeman Dallas Robinson,  far left, greet teammates from USA-3, Nick Cunningham and brakeman Dallas Robinson, as they finish their final run during the men's two-man bobsled competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The team from the United States USA-3, Nick Cunningham, second from left, and brakeman Dallas Robinson, far left, greet teammates from USA-3, Nick Cunningham and brakeman Dallas Robinson, as they finish their final run during the men’s two-man bobsled competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Norway’s Haavard Vad Petersson, left, and Christoffer Svae sweep ahead of the stone during men's curling competition against Denmark at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Norway’s Haavard Vad Petersson, left, and Christoffer Svae sweep ahead of the stone during men’s curling competition against Denmark at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Belarus' Darya Domracheva celebrates winning the gold medal in the women's biathlon 12.5k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Belarus’ Darya Domracheva celebrates winning the gold medal in the women’s biathlon 12.5k mass-start, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Goalkeeper Kim Martin Hasson of Sweden blocks a shot by Jocelyne Lamoureux of the United States as Lina Backlin of Sweden defends during the third period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women's semifinal ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. The USA won 6-1. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Goalkeeper Kim Martin Hasson of Sweden blocks a shot by Jocelyne Lamoureux of the United States as Lina Backlin of Sweden defends during the third period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women’s semifinal ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. The USA won 6-1. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Danielle O'Brien and Gregory Merriman of Australia wait in the results area after competing in the ice dance free dance figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Danielle O’Brien and Gregory Merriman of Australia wait in the results area after competing in the ice dance free dance figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

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Russian-U.S. diplomacy at the Winter Games (Plus a 21-picture Sochi Olympics photo gallery)

Russia's Anton Gafarov falls with a broken ski during his men's semifinal of the cross-country sprint at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Russia’s Anton Gafarov falls with a broken ski during his men’s semifinal of the cross-country sprint at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

It was diplomacy, playing out on the snow: An American who helped a Russian finish his Olympic race has drawn praise from the IOC.jd-olympicdreamslogo

Justin Wadsworth, a three-time U.S. Olympian who is now head coach of the Canadian cross-country team, witnessed Anton Gafarov falling and breaking his left ski during the first semifinal heat of the men’s sprint at the Sochi Games on Tuesday.

Wadsworth didn’t think long and ran onto the track to hand Gafarov a new ski, enabling the Russian to continue his run into the Laura cross-country stadium. Gafarov was then cheered by his home crowd despite finishing 2 minutes, 49.62 seconds off the lead.

A La Jolla, Cal., native who grew up in the Seattle area and now lives in Bend, Oregon, Wadsworth said he wanted Gafarov to have a chance to complete the race with dignity. By then, no Canadian was left in the competition; the country’s best finisher, Alex Harvey, was beaten in the quarterfinals.

“It is entirely to be applauded,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Wednesday. “That’s one of the things why we all love the Olympics, because, as well as being an amazing elite sport, there is something special as well, there are values underlying it as well.”

A similar Olympic spirit between nations has surfaced before at cross-country skiing these Games. Last week, the Russian team granted Germany access for one night to its grinding machine, used to prepare skis before a race, after the Germans’ own gear got damaged during transport to Sochi.

—Reported by ERIC WILLEMSEN of the Associated Press from
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Twitter http://twitter.com/eWilmedia

___

WAITING FOR A MEDAL

Erin Hamlin of the United States waves the flag after finishing her final run to win the bronze medalduring the women's singles luge competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Erin Hamlin of the United States waves the flag after finishing her final run to win the bronze medalduring the women’s singles luge competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Erin Hamlin spent more than half her life waiting to become an Olympic medalist.

Hey, what’s one more day?

Hamlin finished third in the Olympic women’s luge competition on Tuesday night — but went home with only a bunch of flowers. The bronze medal wasn’t being awarded until Wednesday, in a separate ceremony down in Sochi, roughly an hour’s drive from the Sanki Sliding Center where she competed.

“It’s still pretty cool,” said Hamlin, from Remsen, N.Y. “The excitement gets drawn out, so it’s still awesome.”

And given how impressed Hamlin is with the design of the medals, just getting one was enough to make her happy. Another 24 hours or so of waiting wasn’t going to bother her whatsoever.

“They’re awesome,” Hamlin said. “I remember seeing them for the first time and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. If there’s ever a time to win a medal, it’s this time, because those are the coolest medals ever.’”

Reported by TIM REYNOLDS of the Associated Press from KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Twitter http://twitter.com/ByTimReynolds

TRY WALKING UP THE TRACK

Loading up on carbs with Russian bread and potatoes for a long Olympic day has consequences. There’s one way to burn those extra calories: Walk the world’s longest bobsled track.

From the bottom up.

With Springsteen queued up on my iPod, I began the long climb up the Sanki Sliding Center track, which snakes down the side of one of the snow-kissed Caucasus Mountains northeast of Sochi. With “Born to Run” blasting in my ears — Sorry, Boss, I’m walking — I passed a trio of smiling volunteers who seemed amused to see the “friendly American writer” on his trek.

After crossing a pedestrian bridge, the incline got super steep. As I navigated Curve 6, my heart rate soared well into triple digits. Two purple-clad Russian police barely nodded as I huffed and puffed my way around several tourists stopping to take photos next to the icy track.

After a quick pit stop to catch my breath and soak in the breathtaking view, I powered past two guys dressed in red-white-and-blue onesies decorated like an American flag. They turned out to be the brothers of U.S. luger Erin Hamlin, who won a bronze medal, the first for an American singles slider. Rounding another turn, I saw the start house and imagined how Hillary felt staring at Everest’s summit.

Well, hardly the Himalayas. But my Olympic conquest.

When I reached the top, another Russian volunteer asked if he could help.

Sure, I said. “How about a ride down?”

Reported by TOM WITHERS of the Associated Press from KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Twitter http://twitter.com/twithersAP

YOUR OLYMPIC PHOTO GALLERY

A man rappels down the Bolshoy Ice Dome to repair a light fixture at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

A man rappels down the Bolshoy Ice Dome to repair a light fixture at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Mark Tuitert of the Netherlands competes in the men's 1,000-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip )

Mark Tuitert of the Netherlands competes in the men’s 1,000-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip )

In this photo taken with a fisheye lens France's Jason Lamy Chappuis makes his trial jump during the ski jumping portion of the Nordic combined at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

In this photo taken with a fisheye lens France’s Jason Lamy Chappuis makes his trial jump during the ski jumping portion of the Nordic combined at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

The doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt from Germany speed down the track on their first run during the men's doubles luge at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

The doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt from Germany speed down the track on their first run during the men’s doubles luge at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Women's downhill gold medal winners Switzerland's Dominique Gisin, left, and Slovenia's Tina Maze, right, celebrate on the podium during a flower ceremony at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Women’s downhill gold medal winners Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin, left, and Slovenia’s Tina Maze, right, celebrate on the podium during a flower ceremony at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

United States' Hannah Teter wears goggles with a strap in the colors of the U.S. flag while competing in the women's snowboard halfpipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

United States’ Hannah Teter wears goggles with a strap in the colors of the U.S. flag while competing in the women’s snowboard halfpipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Britain's Chemmy Alcott smiles after finishing the women's downhill at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Britain’s Chemmy Alcott smiles after finishing the women’s downhill at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Meghan Agosta-Marciano of Canada celebrates her second goal of the game against USA Goalkeeper Jessie Vetter during the third period of the women's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Canada won 3-2 over the United States. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, Pool)

Meghan Agosta-Marciano of Canada celebrates her second goal of the game against USA Goalkeeper Jessie Vetter during the third period of the women’s ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Canada won 3-2 over the United States. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, Pool)

Canada's Katie Tsuyuki competes in the women's snowboard halfpipe semifinal at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Canada’s Katie Tsuyuki competes in the women’s snowboard halfpipe semifinal at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Australia's Stephanie Magiros waves after a run in the women's snowboard halfpipe semifinal at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Australia’s Stephanie Magiros waves after a run in the women’s snowboard halfpipe semifinal at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Shani Davis of the U.S. gestures in dejection after competing in the men's 1,000-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Shani Davis of the U.S. gestures in dejection after competing in the men’s 1,000-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Slippers check the surface of the halfpipe during a break in the women's snowboard halfpipe semifinal at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Slippers check the surface of the halfpipe during a break in the women’s snowboard halfpipe semifinal at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

A worker throws salt during the women's snowboard halfpipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

A worker throws salt during the women’s snowboard halfpipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Anne Schleper of the United States celebrates a goal against Canada during the second period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women's ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Anne Schleper of the United States celebrates a goal against Canada during the second period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women’s ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

China's skip Wang Bingyu watches her teammates during the women's curling competition against the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

China’s skip Wang Bingyu watches her teammates during the women’s curling competition against the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Argentina's Macarena Simari Birkner makes a jump during the women's downhill at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Argentina’s Macarena Simari Birkner makes a jump during the women’s downhill at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Japan's Rana Okada competes in the women's snowboard halfpipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Japan’s Rana Okada competes in the women’s snowboard halfpipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise of Italy compete in the pairs free skate figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise of Italy compete in the pairs free skate figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

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Shaun offers hugs at Winter Games (Plus a 22-picture Sochi Olympics photo gallery)

Shaun White of the United States waves to the crowd after a run during the men's snowboard halfpipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Shaun White of the United States waves to the crowd after a run during the men’s snowboard halfpipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Hours before he went for the win, Shaun White already had delivered a gold-medal moment.jd-olympicdreamslogo

Shortly after qualifying for the Olympic halfpipe final Tuesday, White vaulted the barriers separating him from the fans and gave two young cancer patients high-fives and hugs.

“I thought, ‘He’s here? What?’” said Ben Hughes, a 10-year-old from St. Louis who was diagnosed with luekemia four years ago.

Also sharing the love was 19-year-old Kaitlyn Lyle, who, like Hughes, was in Russia courtesy of the Make A Wish Foundation.

Lyle said she had “liked” White on his Facebook page.

“I had no idea he’d do this,” she said.

She was diagnosed a bit before the Vancouver Olympics and her wish was to come to Russia, where she was torn between asking for tickets for figure skating or snowboarding.

“But when I saw Shaun win gold (in Vancouver), I chose snowboarding,” she said.

Good choice.

Reported by EDDIE PELLS of the Associated Pres from KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia. Reach him on  Twitter https://twitter.com/epells

UP IN A TREE

Coaches perch in a tree to watch the downhill portion of the women's supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Coaches perch in a tree to watch the downhill portion of the women’s supercombined at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Alpine skiing coaches are also expert tree climbers.

That’s because lofty perches provide better and more expansive views of lengthy downhill courses, letting them see the best lines down the mountain for their skiers.

Coaches from most of the big teams at the Sochi Games have claimed a tree along the Rosa Khutor course. On some trees there’s even room for more than one coach.

U.S. men’s head coach Sasha Rearick explains the process.

“You first go up, put the rope up, and do the old telephone pole technique with spikes on your feet,” he says. “Then the next days, you put your fixed line up and you just (climb) up, like you’re doing a big wall.”

Rearick’s spot is on the Big Pan section of the course, midway down and just above the key Bear’s Brow jump. He estimates that his perch is about 100 or 120 feet above the ground.

“There’s advantages and disadvantages,” Rearick said. “The advantage is I can see a lot more of the course. … You can see the difference in line relatively well. The disadvantages are you don’t see the angle when the athlete comes in and picks the ski up. So that’s what we actually changed today, we put some different video spots to look at where you pick the ski up before the roll. On the ground. Coaches on the ground.”

Reported by ANDREW DAMPF of the Associated Press from KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia. Reach him at Twitter http://twitter.com/asdampf

IT’S ALL ABOUT STYLE

Now that’s headgear.

Check out this image of 10 different helmets, taken by various Associated Press photographers during various skeleton training runs at the Sochi Olympics.

In photos taken Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 and Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, top from left, Eric Neilson of Canada, Janine Flock of Austria, Alexander Kroeckel of Germany, John Fairbairn of Canada, Sarah Reid of Canada; bottom row from left, Dominic Parsons of Britain, John Daly of the United States, Hiroatsu Takahashi of Japan, Sean Greenwood of Ireland, and Katie Uhlaender of the United States train in the men and women's skeleton at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo)

___
And now some more great images from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

during the women's biathlon 10k pursuit, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

during the women’s biathlon 10k pursuit, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Miriam Ziegler and Severin Kiefer of Austria compete in the pairs short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Miriam Ziegler and Severin Kiefer of Austria compete in the pairs short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Ami Nakamura of Japan and Yekaterina Lebedeva of Russia battle for control of the puck during the first period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women's ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Ami Nakamura of Japan and Yekaterina Lebedeva of Russia battle for control of the puck during the first period of the 2014 Winter Olympics women’s ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Yvonne Daldossi of Italy competes in the second heat of the women's 500-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Yvonne Daldossi of Italy competes in the second heat of the women’s 500-meter speedskating race at the Adler Arena Skating Center during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

A cartridge flies out of the rifle of Austria's Lisa Theresa Hauser during the women's biathlon 10k pursuit, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

A cartridge flies out of the rifle of Austria’s Lisa Theresa Hauser during the women’s biathlon 10k pursuit, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise of Italy compete in the pairs short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Nicole Della Monica and Matteo Guarise of Italy compete in the pairs short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Matteo Guarise of Italy falls as he and Nicole Della Monica compete in the pairs short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Matteo Guarise of Italy falls as he and Nicole Della Monica compete in the pairs short program figure skating competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Canada's Brad Martin falls during the men's snowboard halfpipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Canada’s Brad Martin falls during the men’s snowboard halfpipe qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

during the men's skeleton training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

during the men’s skeleton training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Skips from top to bottom, Switzerland's Mirjam Ott, Denmark's Lene Nielsen, United States' Erika Brown, Russia's Anna Sidorova, and Japan's Ayumi Ogasawara look down the ice sheets during the women's curling competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

Skips from top to bottom, Switzerland’s Mirjam Ott, Denmark’s Lene Nielsen, United States’ Erika Brown, Russia’s Anna Sidorova, and Japan’s Ayumi Ogasawara look down the ice sheets during the women’s curling competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)

China's skip Liu Rui, below, shouts to his team as they approach the house as John Shuster of the United States looks on during men's curling competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

China’s skip Liu Rui, below, shouts to his team as they approach the house as John Shuster of the United States looks on during men’s curling competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

This combination of four images shows Canada's Yuki Tsubota crashing on her last run in the women's freestyle skiing slopestyle final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia.  (AP Photos/Andy Wong/Jae C. Hong)

This combination of four images shows Canada’s Yuki Tsubota crashing on her last run in the women’s freestyle skiing slopestyle final at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photos/Andy Wong/Jae C. Hong)

Norway's Ola Vigen Hattestad competes on his way to win the gold medal in the men's cross-country sprint at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Norway’s Ola Vigen Hattestad competes on his way to win the gold medal in the men’s cross-country sprint at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Goalkeeper Jennifer Harss of Germany dives on the puck during the second period of the game against Sweden at the 2014 Winter Olympics women's ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Goalkeeper Jennifer Harss of Germany dives on the puck during the second period of the game against Sweden at the 2014 Winter Olympics women’s ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

women's skeleton singles training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

women’s skeleton singles training at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Julia Krass of the United States waits for her score after a run in the women's freestyle skiing slopestyle qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Julia Krass of the United States waits for her score after a run in the women’s freestyle skiing slopestyle qualifying at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde makes a turn during Men's super combined downhill training at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde makes a turn during Men’s super combined downhill training at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Danny Davis of the United States competes during the men's snowboard halfpipe qualifying session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Danny Davis of the United States competes during the men’s snowboard halfpipe qualifying session at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Sweden's Emil Joensson sits in the snow after the men's final of the cross-country sprint at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

Sweden’s Emil Joensson sits in the snow after the men’s final of the cross-country sprint at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

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Olympians will get up close look at Rio’s resident reptiles

In this Oct. 14, 2013 photo, ecology professor Ricardo Freitas catches a broad-snouted caiman to examine, then release back into the water channel in the affluent Recreio dos Bandeirantes suburb of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. “Caimans are like tanks, a very old species with a remarkable capacity for renovation that allows them to survive under extreme conditions where others couldn’t,” said Freitas, who runs the Instituto Jacare, or the Caiman Institute, which aims to protect the reptiles. “But the fact of the matter is that their days are numbered if things don’t change drastically.” (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Ecology professor Ricardo Freitas catches a broad-snouted caiman to examine, then release back into the water channel in the affluent Recreio dos Bandeirantes suburb of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)


Oh, the glories of Rio that await spectators and athletes at the 2016 Olympics: Those beaches, that music, the dramatic mountains. And then there are a few thousand alligator-like creatures slithering through sewage-like lagoons.

Some 5,000 to 6,000 broad-snouted caimans live in fetid lagoon systems of western Rio de Janeiro, conservationists say, and there’s a chance that visitors could have an encounter with one, though experts hasten to add that the caimans, smaller and less aggressive than alligators or crocodiles, are not considered a threat to humans.

Some of the animals have already taken refuge in ponds being built inside the Olympic golf course, which abuts a once pristine mangrove-filled lagoon that’s now thick with tons of raw sewage pumped from nearby high-end condominiums.

In fact, with two decades of anarchic growth decimating natural habitats, the hardy caimans have become an increasingly common sight in the urban heart of western Rio, drawn in part by the scraps tossed to them by humans.

Olympics: The district is the main hub for 2016 Games and site of the Olympic village, though most events will take place in indoor facilities. One exception is the golf course, where some caimans have taken up residence in lakes. Wildlife on golf courses isn’t uncommon, with alligators spotted on greens in Florida and kangaroos bounding around courses in Australia.

Conservationists say Olympic organizers are beginning to examine what to do about the reptiles on the still-unfinished golf course.

The caimans congregate in a canal in the affluent Recreio dos Bandeirantes suburb that’s sandwiched between two busy thoroughfares. Beach-bound mothers with toddlers in strollers, neighbors out to walk the dog and pizza delivery boys pause on a narrow wooden footbridge over the canal to observe the caimans, whose brown color camouflages them in the brackish, sulfuric waters.

Survival: With few fish surviving in the polluted waters, caiman increasingly rely on handouts from humans, which can range from raw chicken to crackers, sometimes still in their plastic packages. They also feed on birds and the sewer rats that emerge from the culverts.

“Caimans are like tanks, a very old species with a remarkable capacity for renovation that allows them to survive under extreme conditions where others couldn’t,” said Ricardo Freitas, an ecology professor who runs the Instituto Jacare, or the Caiman Institute, which aims to protect the reptiles. “But the fact of the matter is that their days are numbered if things don’t change drastically.”

With a population that’s 85 percent male, a serious demographic problem is looming for Rio’s caimans, said Freitas, who suspects that the uncontrolled release of raw sewage is behind the gender imbalance. Organic matter raises water warmer and among caimans, high temperatures during a certain stage of incubation result in male offspring.

While a few caimans wander from the canal, sometimes getting hit by cars, Freitas said he is aware of only one other person attacked by a caiman, a fisherman who was superficially bitten after he stepped on one.

Freitas himself has grabbed and tagged 400 of the reptiles over the past decade. He wades into the toxic sludge, slips a metal lasso around their heads and taps expertly on their snapping jaws until he’s able to tape them shut. While local caimans average about 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) long and weigh about 10 kilograms (22 pounds), older males can be up to twice as long and much heavier. Still, Freitas has been known to dive into the water to catch some with his bare hands.

“I was only bitten once, on the hand,” he said. “It was fine, although it got super infected because of the state of the water.”

Reported by JENNY BARCHFIELD of the Associated Press from RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil.

Brazilian caimans average about 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) long and weigh about 10 kilograms (22 pounds), older males can be up to twice as long and much heavier. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Brazilian caimans average about 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) long and weigh about 10 kilograms (22 pounds), older males can be up to twice as long and much heavier. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

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Monday Olympic Photo Gallery: The closing ceremony, basketball, pentathlon, handball, rythmic gymnastics, wrestling and more

Yes, the 2012 Summer Olympics in London are over, but Junior Dispatch had to squeeze in one more photo gallery to cover the big final day on Sunday.

The Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, waves the Olympic flag during the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Jeff J Mitchell, Pool)

The London Olympics have ended. IOC President Jacques Rogge just pronounced them closed.

“We will never forget the smiles, the kindness and the support of the wonderful volunteers, the much-needed heroes of these games. You, the spectators and the public, provided the soundtrack for these games,” Rogge says.

He adds: “You have shown the world the best of British hospitality.”

And this: “These were happy and glorious games.”

He concluded: “I declare the games of the 30th Olympiad closed.”

Next stop for the Summer Games: Rio 2016.

As the London Olympics closed, the next host, Rio de Janeiro, was set to kick off four years of preparations for games that some see as Brazil’s entrance onto the world stage.
Many are bracing for a rocky ride as Rio — a laid-back beach city not known for its efficiency or punctuality — rushes to build four main Olympic sites and undertake a massive infrastructure overhaul.
Rio native Joao Carlos de Figueireiro said that despite the “mess” that was sure to come, he had faith things would work out in the end.
“There are definitely things we need to work on, organization-wise,” said Figueireiro, a 56-year-old barman at a neighborhood cafe. “But we’re experts at pulling rabbits out of hats at the last minute and I’m sure that’s what we’re going to do.”

Overnight, Olympic Park in London has gone from party central to an empty, blocked-off construction site.

Now that the games are over, the park is eerily deserted. The main stadium is blocked off by metal barriers, concession stands are closed, and the world’s biggest McDonald’s empty. Small groups of construction workers are working to transform the venues for use in the Paralympic Games, which begin Aug. 29.

Olympic Park had been visited by more than 5 million people over the last 17 days.

It will be closed to the public until the Paralympics — and for almost a year afterwards, while some venues are torn down and others are modified. It will open in stages from next summer as the 560-acre (227-hectare) Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Now on to the last batch of photos from the 2012 Olympic games in London.

Russia’s Egor Mekhontcev, left, fights Kazakhstan’s Adilbek Niyazymbetov in a light heavyweight 81-kg gold medal boxing match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. Mekhontcev won the gold and Niyazymbetov won the silver. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

Fans watch as cyclists compete in the Mountain Bike Cycling men’s race, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, at Hadleigh Farm, in Essex, England. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

Silver Medalist Nino Schurter, of Switzerland, competes in theMountain Bike Cycling men’s race, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, at Hadleigh Farm, in Essex, England. Schurter rode an aggressive race as only two riders, bronze medalist Marco Aurelio Fontana, of Italy, and gold medalist Jaroslav Kulhavy, of the Czech Republic, were able to follow his frenetic pace. The leading trio started to work together to distance the rest of the field, building a gap of 10 seconds after the second lap. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

The team from Russia performs during the rhythmic gymnastics group all-around final at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The bronze medallist team from Italy performs during the rhythmic gymnastics group all-around final at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

France’s Thierry Omeyer reacts during the men’s handball gold medal match against Sweden at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

France’s Nikola Karabatic (13) and Sweden’s Tobias Karlsson challenge for the ball during their men’s handball gold medal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

The United States’ Kobe Bryant jumps to score during the men’s gold medal basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London on Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Mark Ralston, Pool)

United States’ LeBron James celebrates after winning the gold medal at the men’s basketball game against Spain at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

United States’ Kevin Durant celebrates after the men’s gold medal basketball game against Spain at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. USA won 107-100. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Athletes run near Big Ben during the men’s marathon at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Athletes run through the Leadenhall Market during the men’s marathon at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Gold-medalist Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda finishes the men’s marathon at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

Margaux Isaksen, of United States, competes with horse Puck Glen in the equestrian show jumping stage of the women’s modern pentathlon, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Aya Medany of Egypt shoots in the combined running and shooting stage of the women’s modern pentathlon, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Margaux Isaksen, of the United States, left, hunches over after crossing the finish line in fourth place behind bronze medalist Yane Marques, of Brazil, right, in the women’s modern pentathlon at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Croatia’s Paulo Obradovic, top, shoots against Italy’s Amaurys Perez during the men’s water polo gold medal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Croatia coach Ratko Rudic swims after jumping in the pool to celebrate his team’s 8-6 victory over Italy during the men’s water polo gold medal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Sergey Grankin of Russia sets the ball during a five set win over Brazil 25during the men’s gold medal volleyball match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Brazil’s Wallace de Souza, right, spikes the ball past Russia’s Alexander Volkov, left, and Sergey Tetyukhin during a men’s gold medal volleyball match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Ramazan Sahin of Turkey competes with Ikhtiyor Navruzov of Uzbekistan (in blue) during their 66-kg freestyle wrestling match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Jacob Stephen Varner of the United States, celebrates winning against Valerii Andriitsev of Ukraine, at the end of their 96-kg freestyle wrestling gold medal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Fireworks explode during the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

French athletes Amelie Cazae and Julien Bahain sit after the Closing Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Jamie Gray shows off her gold medal after returning home to the United States. Gray, of Lebanon County, won the medal at the the women’s 50-meter three-position rifle shoot at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. (LEBANON DAILY NEWS EARL BRIGHTBILL)

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Friday Olympic Photo Gallery: Water polo, soccer, decathlon, triple jump, sailing, hockey, taekwondo and more

Australia’s crew Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page, foreground, celebrate after winning the gold medal of the 470 men’s class sailing competition at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, in Weymouth and Portland, England. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)


Here are five things to look out for at the London Olympics on Friday, according to the Associated Press:

1. 4×100 RELAY: The American women look like the team to beat in the final.

2. OSCAR PISTORIUS: South Africa’s double-amputee runner finishes his landmark first Olympics in the men’s 4×400-meter relay final.

3. BEYOND BOLT: Jamaica’s men run in the 4×100 relay heat, but Usain Bolt is unlikely to feature. How much strength in depth do they have?

4. DOPING:
Just days before the eight-year deadline expires, the IOC formally stripped American cyclist Tyler Hamilton of his 2004 gold for doping.

5. THEY RULE THE WAVES: Australia bounced back — slightly — from a disappointing Olympics, winning a sailing gold — its third — to become the most successful nation on the ocean at these games.

Gold medalist Claressa Shields of the United participates in the medals ceremony after their women’s final middleweight 75-kg gold medal boxing match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)


Claressa Shields’ hometown of Flint, Mich., has been celebrating this week after the teen boxing sensation punched her way to an Olympic gold medal.

Mayor Dayne Walling and City Councilman Bryant Nolden invited city residents to a local bar to watch the 17-year-old’s gold medal match against Nadezda Torlopova of Russia. Shields won the middleweight bout 19-12

Shields’ father, Clarence, was among the about 200 people who attended the free viewing event in downtown Flint. He took to a knee to pray after watching his daughter receive her medal.

The mayor said “the atmosphere was electric” as people watched a young product of the struggling community’s schools and youth sports programs reach the peak of her craft.

A television crew from NBC affiliate WTHR in Indianapolis has been toting around its meteorologist for the entire games. Or, at least, one version of its meteorologist.

The crew is trying to get as many athletes and celebrities as possible to pose with a cutout of Chuck Lofton. On Thursday, entertainer Ryan Seacrest went along with the gag.

Looking into the television camera as he held out the miniature picture of Lofton, the diminutive Seacrest told the meteorologist, “Chuck, you might be bigger than me.”

Check out Flat Chuck with swimmer Allison Schmidt here: http://pic.twitter.com/A5T27mkU

United States’ Abby Wambach, rear, hugs teammate Heather Mitts after winning the women’s soccer gold medal match against Japan at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)


If athletes from the University of Florida comprised their own country in the Olympics, they’d give many nations a run for their money.

Gator athletes had another big day Thursday, when triple jumpers Christian Taylor and Will Claye won gold and silver, soccer players Abby Wambach and Heather Mitts were part of the U.S. women’s gold medal winning squad and Melanie Booth of Canada got bronze on her national team’s effort.

The triple jumpers, Wambach and swimmers Ryan Lochte and Conor Dwyer reveled in the Gator success on Friday and posed for pictures together doing the trademark Gator chomp.

“Gator nation is the best,” says Lochte, winner of five swimming medals in London.

“We’ve worked hard. I’ve personally seen most of the athletes working out. We push our bodies to the limit and that’s why we did so well.”

He continued: “And you know what? We’re like a big family so we always help each other out. No matter what sport it is, we come together and work toward the goal. Once swimming was done, I was totally tuned into track and field and all the other sports Gators are representing.”

The gender balance at the Summer Olympics is changing.

The International Olympic Committee says Thursday that 44 percent of the athletes competing in London are women. At the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, women made up only 24 percent of participants.

The London games are also the first Olympics where all 204 nations have sent a female athlete.

As the London Games wind to a close, Rio is ramping up.

Leonardo Gryner, head of the Rio organizers, says they are “transforming the whole city” for the 2016 Summer Games.

“All of the construction is on time,” Gryner says. “All of the sports venues will be completed by 2015 in time for full test events for each competition.”

See more of the Junior Dispatch’s Olympic photo galleries:

And now on to today’s Olympic photo gallery, as shot by the Associated Press’s photographers.

Emanuel of Brazil digs out a ball during the men’s gold medal beach volleyball match against Germany at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)


Canada’s Emilie Fournel paddles in the women’s kayak single 200m in Eton Dorney, near Windsor, England, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Cyclists compete in a BMX cycling men’s quarterfinal run during the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)


Montenegro’s Majda Mehmedovic, foreground, and team mate Suzana Lazovic celebrate after winning the women’s handball semifinal match against Spain at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)


Czech Republic’s Barbora Spotakova takes a throw in the women’s javelin throw final during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


United States’ Ashton Eaton leads in the men’s decathlon 1500-meter during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. Eaton won the gold medal for the event. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)


This combination of eleven photos shows in the center frame, United States’ Ashton Eaton being embraced by his fiancee Brianne Theisen after winning gold in the decathlon following the 1500-meter race during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. The other ten frames show Eaton competing in the ten disciplines that comprise the decathlon event over two days, Wednesday to Thursday, Aug. 8-9, at the London Olympics – from top left, clockwise: the long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meter run, 110-meter hurdles, pole vault, 1500-meter run, 100-meter run, javelin and discus. (AP Photo)


The Netherlands’ Billy Bakker, left, celebrates after scoring his third goal against Britain during a men’s field hockey semifinal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)


France’s Sandrine Gruda, top, battles Russia’s Anna Petrakova for a rebound during a women’s semifinals basketball game at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)


United States’ Manteo Mitchell competes in a 4×400-meter relay heat during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. Manteo had half a lap to go in the first leg of the 4×400-meter relay preliminaries Thursday and a choice to make: keep running or stop and lose the race. To him, it was never much of a choice. He finished the lap and limped to the side to watch the Americans finish the race and qualify easily for the final. A few hours later, doctors confirmed what he suspected: He had run the last 200 meters with a broken left fibula. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)


United States women’s water polo players huddle before the gold medal match against Spain at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. The U.S. won 8-5. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


Elsie Windes of the United States, goes for a shot on goal as Andrea Blas Martinez of Spain, goes to block during their women’s water polo gold medal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)


Members of the United States women’s water polo team celebrate after winning the gold medal match against Spain at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)


A fan wears a costume representing the flag of the United States at the canoe sprint competition in Eton Dorney, near Windsor, England, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)


Fans of the United States wait for the start of the gold medal match between the United States and Japan at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. The U.S. women’s football team won its third straight Olympic gold medal Thursday, beating Japan 2-1 in a rematch of last year’s World Cup final and avenging the most painful loss in its history.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)


United States goalkeeper Hope Solo dives for the ball during the women’s soccer gold medal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)


United States goalkeeper Hope Solo celebrates with teammates after winning the gold medal match against Japan at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

United States players celebrate winning the gold medal in their women’s soccer final against Japan at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)


Sweden’s Elin Johansson reacts during her fight against Egypt’s Seham Elsawalhy in women’s 67-kg taekwondo competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)


Jamaica’s Usain Bolt kisses the finish line after winning the men’s 200 meters at the Summer Olympics in London on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)


Jamaica’s Usain Bolt uses a photographer’s camera as he takes pictures after winning the gold medal in the men’s 200-meter during the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

USA’s Amanda Clark, not seen, and Sarah Lihan compete during the 470 women’s class medal race at the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, in Weymouth and Portland, England. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)


United States’ Christian Taylor competes in the men’s triple jump final during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)


United States’ Christian Taylor kisses his gold medal during the ceremony for the men’s triple jump at the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

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Thursday Olympic Photo Gallery: Volleyball, basketball, boxing, taekwondo, wrestling, running and more

Here are five things to look out for at the London Olympics on Thursday according to the Associated Press:

1. USAIN BOLT: The Jamaican sprinter runs in the men’s 200-meter final. If he wins, he’ll be the first Olympian to repeat the so-called sprint double of 100-meter and 200-meter golds.

2. WOMEN’S SOCCER: The United States plays Japan at Wembley in a repeat of last year’s World Cup final.

3. ONE MORE CHANCE: South Africa has won an appeal to advance to the 4×400-meter relay final despite a crash in the heat. That means Oscar Pistorius, a double-amputee runner, can compete for a medal on Friday.

4. DOPING: The IOC is set to formally strip U.S. cyclist Tyler Hamilton of his gold from the 2004 Athens Games and reassign the medals after his admission of doping.

5. WOMEN’S BOXING: The first Olympic gold will be awarded, with American Claressa Shields slugging it out with Russia’s Nadezda Torlopov.

South Africa’s Oscar Pistorius reacts after fellow team members crashed out of a men’s 4×400-meter relay heat during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Michael Phelps isn’t the only G.O.A.T at the Olympics.

Taffy the goat wandered the open water venue at the Serpentine in Hyde Park on Thursday. He was led by his red-clad handler from the Royal Welsh, Wales’ infantry regiment.

Like Phelps — nicknamed G.O.A.T., or greatest Olympian of all time, after winning his 18th gold in the pool in London — Taffy boasted his own medals. Three shiny ones were pinned to the green cloth covering him. Silver sheaths adorned the tips of Taffy’s horns and his white beard was neatly groomed.

Curious volunteers posed for photos with Taffy and one asked his handler if the goat ever got cross. The reply: “Yes.”

United States’ Aries Merritt wins the men’s 110-meter hurdles final ahead Jamaica’s Hansle Parchment, left, during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

The American men are way out front in the hurdles — and the hairstyles.

Gold medal winner Aries Merritt has his hair twisted into intricate braids while silver medalist Jason Richardson has sported his trademark dreadlocks for years.

“We both have a little hair thing going on,” Merritt says with a smile.

NBC’s “Today” show weatherman Al Roker seemed a little envious.

“It’s not for everyone,” Richardson said with a chuckle.

Ryan Bailey of the United States looks to shoot against Croatia during a men’s quarterfinal water polo match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in London. Croatia won 8-2 and will play Montenegro in the semifinal round. The U.S. will play Spain in the fifth to eight place semifinal. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

One thing is for sure about this year’s final four in the men’s water polo bracket: the teams are likely to watch what they say in the water.

That’s because three of the four teams are from the former Yugoslavia: Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro — and will know each other’s native tongue. The fourth team in the final four is Italy.

The last grouping also represents a victory for the little guys. Montenegro, with a population of 625,000, beat Spain, population 47.2 million, in the quarterfinals. Croatia, population of 4.7 million, beat the United States, at 312 million. Serbia, population 7.3 million, beat Australia, 22.6 million.

United States’ Kerri Walsh Jennings, right, and Misty May-Treanor, left, react during a podium ceremony after winning the women’s gold medal beach volleyball match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Ross were opponents in the gold medal game in London. There’s a good chance they could be teammates in Rio.

Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor capped a brilliant career with their third straight Olympic gold, beating Ross and Jennifer Kessy in straight sets. Both May-Treanor and Kessy plan to be out of the international game by the time the Rio Games come around in 2016.

May-Treanor is done competitively, looking to turn her attention to starting a family with Dodgers catcher Matt Treanor. Kessy says she’s going to play for one more year until Ross finds another partner.

“She’s a winner,” Walsh Jennings says. “She’s a champion. She’s a fighter. She’s someone I’d be honored to play with.”

See more of the Junior Dispatch’s Olympic photo galleries:

And now on to today’s Olympic photo gallery, as shot by the Associated Press’s photographers.

United States’ forward LeBron James jumps for the ball during his team’s men’s quarterfinal basketball game against Australia at the 2012 Summer Olympics on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Mark Ralston, Pool)

France’s Kevin Mayer takes a throw in the discus throw for the decathlon during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Iran’s Ehsan Rouzbahani reacts as he leaves the ring following a fight against Kazakhstan’s Adilbek Niyazymbetov in a light heavyweight 81-kg quarterfinal boxing match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

United States’ Brittany Viola competes in the women’s 10-meter platform diving preliminaries at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Christin Steuer from Germany competes during the women’s 10-meter platform diving preliminaries at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

Canada’s Meaghan Benfeito competes in the women’s 10-meter platform diving preliminaries at the Aquatics Centre in Olympic Park during the 2012 Summer Olympics Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

China’s Wu Jingyu reacts after defeating Spain’s Brigette Yague Enrique (in red) in their gold medal match in women’s 49-kg taekwondo competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Britain’s Martin Stampler, right, reacts after his match against Mexico’s Erick Osornio Nunez in men’s 68-kg taekwondo competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Czech Republic’s Petr Frydrych takes a throw in a men’s javelin throw qualification round during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Norway’s Andreas Thorkildsen takes a throw in a men’s javelin throw qualification round during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Sweden’s Ebba Jungmark competes in a women’s high jump qualification round during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Croatia’s Ivan Cupic, right, scores past Tunisia’s Wassim Helal, right, during their men’s handball quarterfinal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

United States’ Trey Hardee reacts after competing in a 110-meter hurdles heat in the decathlon during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Germany’s Peter Kretschmer, right, and Kurt Kuschela react after winning the gold medal in the men’s canoe double 1000m in Eton Dorney, near Windsor, England, at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

United States’ Allyson Felix crosses the finish line to win the women’s 200-meters final ahead of Ivory Coast’s Murielle Ahoure during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

United States’ Aries Merritt, center, crosses the finish line ahead of United States’ Jason Richardson, right, to win gold in the men’s 110-meter hurdles final during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

United States’ Misty May-Treanor, right, dives for the ball as Kerri Walsh Jennings watches during a women’s gold medal beach volleyball match against United States’ April Ross and Jennifer Kessy at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Players of the Netherlands celebrate their victory over New Zealand in a women’s hockey semifinal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)

Clarissa Kyoko Mei Ling Chun of the United States, rear, lifts Irini Merleni of Ukraine during their 48-kg women’s freestyle wrestling bronze medal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Clarissa Kyoko Mei Ling Chun of the United States celebrates after her win against Irini Merleni of Ukraine in their 48-kg women’s freestyle wrestling bronze medal match at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

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