Winter Olympics 2018: 'I-pod' unable to defend halfpipe title

One defending champion was ruled out of the Winter Olympics on Friday, while curlers hit back at those who question the athletic element to their sport.

On the day of the opening ceremony, there was little meaningful action in Pyeongchang, with no medals decided, but there was no shortage of interesting developments.

Skiing superstar Lindsey Vonn and her four-legged friend stole the show in a media conference, while it was announced Iouri Podladtchikov would be unable to compete for a second straight halfpipe gold.

Here's our round-up of Friday at the Games...

 

'I-POD' FORCED TO FACE THE MUSIC

Podladtchikov was ruled out of defending his crown due to injuries suffered at the X Games last month.

The Russian-born Swiss suffered a heavy fall in Aspen towards the end of January, landing hard on his face at the bottom of the pipe and sustaining a broken nose.

Podladtchikov, who defeated Japanese duo Ayumu Hirano and Taku Hiraoka to claim gold in Sochi four years ago, had hoped to recover in time to feature in Pyeongchang.

But having practiced on Friday, the man known as 'I-pod' decided he could not compete, despite a recent MRI showing improvements. "My state of health remains far too unstable to allow me to compete at the level of Olympic competition," Podladtchikov said.

With the Swiss set to miss out, the halfpipe medals are likely to be decided between Hirano, two-time champion Shaun White and Scotty James of Australia.

 

A VONN'S BEST FRIEND

Vonn is one of the more recognisable faces at this year's Games, but the American was forced to share the spotlight as her pet dog, Lucy, accompanied her to a news conference.

"She's usually in the hotel room whenever I'm racing," Vonn said. "She enjoys sleeping the majority of the day. I always have her with me, I got her about a year and a half ago.

"It's extremely lonely on the road and since I got divorced I've had a lot of free time on my hands at night and being in a hotel room is often extremely difficult.

"She travels with me everywhere. I questioned whether to bring her because it's a long trip but she's always with me so I figured I need her for the most important event."

 

CURLING IS TOUGH...TRY IT

Armchair fans could be forgiven for thinking curling is not a physically demanding sport.

But Canada's John Morris - who combined with Kaitlyn Lawes for a 10-4 win over China in the mixed doubles on Friday - says that perception could not be further from the truth.

"Back in Canada, we have people coming over to us all the time who tell us they could do it," said Morris. "And then they actually try it and they're like, 'Holy smokes, it's hard'. One of the best examples I can give you is from the Vancouver Olympics.

"A month beforehand, the Canadian ice hockey team went curling as a team-building activity and a few weeks later, Sidney Crosby admitted to us, 'I thought I was pretty athletic and then I tried curling. The next few days, there were muscles in my body which hurt, that I didn't even think I had'.

"It's something that looks very graceful and easy on TV but give it a go and it's definitely a challenge."

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