U.S. Wins Olympic Skiing Halfpipe as Dutch Speedskaters Dominate

David Wise won the inaugural Olympic gold medal in freestyle skiing’s men’s halfpipe, pulling the U.S. even atop the medal standings with the Netherlands, which recorded its fourth speedskating sweep of the Sochi Winter Games in the men’s 10000-meter event.

Wise, the reigning world champion and three-time X Games winner in the freestyle skiing halfpipe, scored a competition-best 92 points on the first of his two runs in yesterday’s 12-man final after adjusting to a heavy snowfall at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park in Russia.

“I had all these crazy, amazing runs that I wanted to do here, but if you can’t get the speed you can’t do the tricks,” said Wise, 23. “Unfortunately, I had to change my run. The run I competed was like plan C, or D even, but that’s just the way it goes, you’ve got to adjust and do the best you can.”

It was the first time the halfpipe has been a medal event in the Olympic freestyle skiing program. Wise’s win helped the U.S. match the Netherlands with 20 medals, one better than host Russia and two ahead of Norway, which claimed two golds and a silver yesterday. Norway’s seven gold medals are one behind leader Germany and one ahead of the Americans and Dutch.

Among the eight medal events scheduled for today is the men’s Alpine skiing giant slalom, where world champion Ted Ligety of the U.S. is among the contenders after missing out on medals in the super combined and super-G. Medals will also be awarded today in biathlon, women’s bobsled, men’s and women’s team cross country skiing, men’s and women’s snowboard parallel giant slalom and women’s 5000m speedskating.

Dutch Dominance

The Dutch continued their speedskating dominance yesterday as Jorrit Bergsma set an Olympic record in leading a medals sweep in the men’s 10000-meter event.

Bergsma finished in 12 minutes, 44.45 seconds, with teammate and world record holder Sven Kramer 4.57 seconds back. Both broke the mark of 12:58.55 set in Vancouver in 2010 by Korea’s Seung Hoon Lee. Bob de Jong was third, with Lee fourth.

“It is a fantastic feeling,” Bergsma said. “I knew with my current shape I could do it, but these are the Olympic Games, you have to cope with the pressure and control your nerves.”

Bergsma also was part of the Dutch sweep of the 5000 meters, which was won by Kramer as Jan Blokhuijsen took silver. The nation also took all three medals in the men’s 500 meters and the women’s 1500 meters, and has now almost doubled its previous best of 11 medals at the 1998 Nagano Games.

Norway’s Climb

Norway pushed up the standings by taking the first two spots in men’s Nordic combined as Joergen Graabak edged Magnus Hovdal Moan for the gold by six-tenths of a second in the men’s combined, which pairs ski jumping and cross-country skiing.

“It’s a bit surreal,” Graabak said after finishing in 23 minutes, 27.5 seconds. “I will need time to enjoy the moment.”

Norway also got gold when Emil Hegle Svendsen took the men’s 15-kilometer mass start biathlon in a photo finish, holding off France’s Martin Fourcade after both were timed in 42 minutes, 29.1 seconds. The event was held yesterday after four postponements.

Weather affected several events yesterday in Sochi, with rain eventually turning to heavy snow at the extreme park.

A mix of rain and snow also caused delays at the women’s giant slalom, where Slovenia’s Tina Maze won her second Alpine gold medal. Maze, 30, who tied for first in the downhill, finished her two runs in 2 minutes, 36.87 seconds, 0.07 seconds faster than Austrian Anna Fenninger. Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg won the bronze, with American Mikaela Shiffrin fifth, 0.5 seconds back, in her Olympic debut.

Fickle Weather

“The weather is playing games with us, but I love it when it works out fine,” Maze said. “I don’t care if it’s rainy or sunny as long as it’s possible to ski well.”

In the extreme park, France’s Pierre Vaultier won the men’s snowboard cross in a rainy final delayed from two days ago, giving his nation its first non-biathlon gold. Russia’s Nikolay Olyunin was second in the snowboard event, with American Alex Deibold taking the bronze. The event had been postponed two days ago because of heavy fog on the mountain, and several of the favorites crashed out before the final.

Wise won the final medal of the day at the park’s halfpipe as a heavy snow fell, with Mike Riddle of Canada taking the silver medal and Kevin Rolland of France earning the bronze. Wise fell on his second run and clinched gold when top-ranked Justin Dorey of Canada, the final competitor, crashed while trying to land a trick on his last run.

Debut Gold

“That was really nerve racking,” Wise said. “Just watching him skiff out, all this relief flooded over me.”

Korea won the women’s 3000-meter short-track speedskating relay after passing China in the final turn. The Chinese team was disqualified for impeding competitors on the final lap, allowing Canada to take the silver and Italy the bronze even after a fall that placed the squad in last place.

In men’s ice hockey, Russia avoided elimination and reached the quarterfinals with a 4-0 preliminary-round win over Norway and will play Finland in the final eight.

The Czech Republic held off Slovakia 5-3 to earn a spot against the U.S. in the quarterfinals, while Slovenia and Latvia also won yesterday to advance. Slovenia topped Austria 4-0 and will next face Sweden for a spot in the semifinals, while Latvia meets Canada after a 3-1 win over Switzerland.