Downhill Tie Makes Olympic History as Russian Duo Skates to Gold

A pair of women downhillers shared a historic Olympic gold medal and a Russian figure skating duo gave a superstar performance for a Sochi Games championship.

Dutch men continued their domination of speedskating on a fifth straight day of mild weather along the Black Sea, while Americans took gold and bronze medals in the women’s snowboard halfpipe. Norway continues to lead the overall medals standings, with six more medal events scheduled for today.

Russian teams took gold and silver last night in the pairs free skating event, giving the host nation its biggest reason to celebrate so far. Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov won with a powerful yet refined performance of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus Chris Superstar” to become the first duo to skate to an Olympic pairs gold on home ice in 78 years.

“Today was a big day for all of Russia,” Trankov said. “Two of our couples have skated very well and I think everyone in our big country is pleased. It was the hardest job of our lives. We dealt with huge pressure today.”

Volosozhar and Trankov had the best score in the short program and also in the free skating segment to win with 236.86 points. Russians Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov won silver with 218.68 points, and the German duo of Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy had 215.78 for third place.

Tina Maze of Slovenia and Dominique Gisin of Switzerland skied to the first gold-medal tie in an Alpine skiing event in Olympic history. Maze, 30, and Gisin, 28, completed the 2.7-kilometer (1.7-mile) downhill course in 1 minute, 41.57 seconds. Lara Gut, 22, of Switzerland was a tenth of a second back for the bronze medal.

Mancuso’s Disappointment

“It’s a great feeling because Dominique and I are pretty good friends,” Maze told reporters. “We have the same mentality. It’s good to see her winning gold, too. I am very happy for her.”

The top American was Julia Mancuso, who finished eighth in 1:42.56. She was a pre-race favorite after turning in the fastest time two days ago on the downhill portion of the super combined event, in which she got a bronze medal.

“It’s really crazy, I’m really happy for both those girls,” Mancuso said of the gold-medal tie. “It’s an amazing show.”

The Netherlands took first and third in the men’s 1000-meter speedskating event, giving it eight of the sport’s nine medals awarded to men. The women have a gold and a bronze. It’s tied with Canada for second in total medals, with all 10 of the Dutch medals coming in speedskating. Norway leads with 12.

Halfpipe Medals

In the halfpipe, Kaitlyn Farrington edged defending champion Torah Bright of Australia, while Kelly Clark captured the bronze for her third halfpipe medal -- she won gold in 2002 and bronze in 2010. Hannah Teeter, an American who won Olympic gold in the halfpipe in 2006 and silver in 2010, was fourth.

Clark, 30, became the first person to win three Olympic medals in the halfpipe, which debuted in the games 16 years ago.

“I come back and learn new things every year to progress and to keep having fun,” she said.

Stefan Groothuis won in speedskating in 1 minute, 8.39 seconds, with Canada’s Denny Morrison coming 0.04 seconds back. Michel Mulder, who won the 500 meters three days ago, was third. American Shani Davis, the world record holder and two-time defending champion, finished eighth.

Germany’s Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt won in doubles luge, overcoming Austrian brothers Andreas Linger and Wolfgang Linger, the two-time defending champions. Another pair of siblings, Andris Sics and Juris Sics of Latvia, were third.

In the men’s Nordic combined 10-kilometer ski event, Germany’s Eric Frenzel beat Akito Watabe of Japan. Magnus Krog won bronze for Norway.

Women’s Hockey

In women’s hockey, Meghan Agosta scored two of Canada’s three goals in the final period in a 3-2 defeat of the U.S. in a women’s hockey matchup featuring teams that might meet again in the gold-medal game.

Canada is the defending Olympic champion in women’s hockey, and its battles against the Americans form one of the most intense rivalries in women’s sports.

“It’s awesome, and it’s what makes losing so painful and winning so fun,” U.S. forward Julie Chu said.

Earlier Ties

There had been three ties for silver medals in previous Olympic Alpine races, according to “The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics,” by Olympic historian David Wallechinsky.

France’s Christine Goitschel and American Jean Saubert tied for second place in the women’s giant slalom at the 1964 Innsbruck Games, and there was a tie for second in the women’s giant slalom at the 1992 Albertville Olympics between Diann Roffe of the U.S. and Anita Wachter of Austria.

In men’s events, the only medal tie has been for silver in the super-giant slalom at the 1998 Nagano Games between Didier Cuche of Switzerland and Hans Knauss of Austria.

The last gold-medal tie in any Winter Games sport came at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics when two Norwegian men finished in first place in the Nordic 30-kilometer skiathlon.

There have been medal ties in Winter Olympics sports including biathlon, ski jumping, bobsled and luge. Such ties were relatively common in speedskating until 1968, when timing first was done to hundredths of seconds. The very first event in the first Winter Olympics, men’s 500-meter speedskating at the 1924 Chamonix Games, had a bronze-medal tie.

‘It’s Over’

Mancuso, who was seeking to extend her U.S. record with a fifth Alpine medal in the Olympics, was a silver medalist in the downhill at the 2010 Games.

“I am disappointed with my skiing, I made some big mistakes,” she said. “I would like to have another chance, but it’s over.”

Balmy weather continues in Sochi, with a high of 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit) expected today. Olympic organizers said the warm temperatures have not been a big problem.

“I gather there will be snow at the weekend, temperatures will go down at the weekend,” International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said yesterday at a news conference. “I think we’re being a little premature to talk about bad weather. I love the blue sky, the pictures are fantastic.”

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