Scenes around Sochi

The Associated Press /

Published Feb 23, 2014 at 12:01AM

Ukraine’s last remaining alpine skier at the Sochi Olympics is competing with the blessing of his more famous and controversial teammate.

Dmytro Mytsak told The Associated Press that Bogdana Matsotska wished him well Saturday, and he hoped she would come to watch his second run in the men’s slalom. Matsotska refused to race in Friday’s women’s slalom while her friends were risking their lives to protest in Kiev against Ukraine’s pro-Russia government.

“It is her solution,” the 18-year-old Mytsak said. “Some friends they die in Ukraine and she was really mad about this. That is why she just could not start.

“I will not say something like, ‘You should not do it,’ because it is her opinion. Everybody has their own opinion.”

Mytsak said Matsotska, who has remained in the athletes village in the mountains, is “OK right now.”

“She will stay until the end and cheer for us,” he said.

Mytsak wore bib No. 102 of 117 starters under the floodlights Saturday. He was 72nd-fastest, 14.87 seconds behind leader Mario Matt of Austria. His race-time concentration was affected more by the soft, rutted snow than by thoughts of events in Kiev, where his family lives.

“Yeah, I’m OK. I feel good,” he said. “I never ski like this. It was not alpine skiing now.”

He looks forward to competing in more Olympic Games, maybe even at home in 2022. Lviv, in western Ukraine, is bidding for hosting rights.

“You know, like they say, that at home you are skiing much more better because it is your ground, and your country, and your people,” Mytsak said.

Spreading Burke’s ashes

Before these Olympics started, the Canadian freestyle team spread Sarah Burke’s ashes in the halfpipe and around other areas in the mountains above Sochi.

Another tribute they paid to the fallen freeskiing star: all those medals they’re bringing home.

Canada led the world with nine medals at the freestyle events, including four gold.

“Although it was a sad moment, it has created a significant inspiration for us,” said Peter Judge, chief executive of the Canada Freestyle Association.

It’s the culmination of a project that started with Canada’s “Own the Podium” program that pumped more than $110 million into developing winter sports in the advance of the Vancouver Games.

Burke was a big part of the next phase. She pushed hard to get halfpipe and slopestyle skiing into the Olympics. In 2012, less than a year after the sports were added, she died after a training accident.

Nearly everyone competing in the freestyle events dedicated their medals and their moments to her. They were well aware they might not be spending this time in Russia had she not advanced the sport the way she did.

Then, the Canadians took it a step further: They went out and won.

“She’s been remembered in everything around these games,” slopestyle bronze medalist Kim Lamarre of Canada said.

Gracie’s egg

Aside from her bronze medal for the team competition, Gracie Gold is taking away another special prize from the Sochi Games.

She proudly has in her possession a Faberge egg pin, a hot item at the Olympics.

The U.S. champion figure skater who finished fourth in the individual event said Saturday during a Visa function at USA House that she traded several pins during her stay in Sochi. But the only one that was untouchable was the hard-to-get Faberge pin.

When told how difficult that item is to find, the 18-year-old Gold smiled and said, “Yeah, I know. And I have got one of them.”

A Faberge egg pin was sold on eBay on Friday for $256.51. A second one (top right) on eBay was up to $102.50 on Saturday with six days remaining in the auction.

Gold said she’s made the rounds of events since the women’s free skate on Saturday. She went to the U.S.-Canada men’s hockey game and was planning a short trip to the mountains before the Olympics end today.

“It’s a matter of what to do with some down time,” she said. “Just trying to enjoy the last couple of days and have some fun.”