Russians Beaten in Hockey as Bjoerndalen Sets Winter Medals MarkChristopher Elser
Russia’s men’s hockey team crashed out of the Sochi Games and the U.S. and Canada advanced as Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen became the most decorated Winter Olympian ever, gaining his 13th medal.
The Russians stumbled out of the tournament with a 3-1 loss to Finland, which goes to a semifinal against Sweden, a 5-0 winner against Slovenia. The Americans beat the Czech Republic 5-2 and the Canadians overcame Latvia 2-1 with a late power-play goal yesterday to set up the other semifinal.
“We attacked, we had our moments, we fought until the end to score, but it just hasn’t worked for us,” Russian forward Alex Ovechkin told reporters. “We lost our Olympic games. There is no one to blame.”
The Russians, who share the record of eight hockey golds with the Canadians, now haven’t won an ice hockey medal in three straight Olympics. In skiing, Ted Ligety won the first American Alpine gold of the Sochi Games in the men’s giant slalom.
Bjoerndalen won his medal as part of Norway’s mixed biathlon team, along with Tora Berger, Tiril Eckhoff and Emil Hegle Svendsen. The group finished ahead of the Czech Republic and Italy, with each of the Norwegians picking up their second medals of the Sochi Games.
The 40-year-old now has eight golds among his record 13 medals. He equaled the record of Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie when he won the 10-kilometer sprint earlier in the Sochi games, a victory that also made him the oldest gold medalist in an individual event at an Olympic Winter Games. At the 2002 Olympic Winter Games he became the first biathlete to win four gold medals at a single Games.
“I’m really grateful for this victory, I’m happy for my team,” Bjoerndalen told reporters. “My shape is good now, I’m glad I’m coming back after some poorer performances.”
Today -- when temperatures are expected to rise as high as 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) in the mountains -- there are six medal events, including women’s ice hockey, women’s figure skating and men’s skicross. The bronze medals will be decided in women’s ice hockey and curling.
Ligety became the first American man to win the giant slalom and the first with two Olympic gold medals in Alpine skiing. He won the super combined in 2006.
The 29-year-old was 14th fastest in his second run, but the 1.5-second first-run gap over silver medalist Steve Missillier helped give him the victory. Ligety took 2 minutes, 45.29 seconds on his two attempts, 0.48 second faster than the Frenchman, whose teammate Alexis Pinturault finished third.
“Sometimes my best or fastest run doesn’t feel like that,” Ligety told reporters after his first run. “I actually felt at times that I was going a little too cautiously, but I managed to get a nice buffer.”
Ligety’s teammate Bode Miller, who took silver in the event in 2002, finished 20th, and said it may have been his last Olympic race.
The only other American athlete with two gold medals in skiing is Andrea Mead-Lawrence, who won the women’s slalom and giant slalom in 1952.
The victory comes after a disappointing start for Ligety in Russia. He finished 8th in the super combined slalom and 14th in the super giant slalom.
His gold medal in combined at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin was the first for a U.S. skier in combined and made him the youngest American male to win a gold medal in any Alpine skiing event at the Olympic Winter Games. Last year, he became the first athlete since 1968 to win three gold medals at the same world championships.
Missillier, the silver medalist, got his first Olympic medal. The only other time he’s finished in the top three at a major competition was a third place in a slalom world cup race in 2010. Pinturault’s bronze is also his first at a games.
It’s the first time France has had two spots on the podium in the same event since the country’s athletes took the top two spots in the men’s slalom in 2002.
In the women’s bobsled, Canada retained its Olympic title by blocking an attempt by American Lauryn Williams to become the first woman to win gold at summer and winter games.
The Canadian pair of Kaillie Humphries, 28, and Heather Moyse, 35, took the lead on the last run and Americans Williams and Elana Meyers couldn’t make it up, losing by 0.10 second.
The 30-year-old Williams won gold in the 400-meter relay at the London 2012 Olympics. The only man to have accomplished the feat was Edward Eagan, an American who earned boxing gold in the light-heavyweight event in 1920 and in the four-man bobsled at the 1932 Olympic Winter Games. Meyers, 29, won bronze at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
Americans Aja Evans and Jamie Greubel finished third, one second back.
The medals pushed the U.S. into the lead in the medal standings, with 23. Russia and the Netherlands each have 22, two ahead of Norway. Canada has 18.
The Russians had success outside of hockey, as married couple Vic Wild and Alena Zavarzina both won medals in the men’s and women’s snowboard parallel giant slalom events. The host nation also got a silver in men’s sprint classic cross-country.
Wild, a U.S. native who became Russian in 2012 when he married Zavarzina, won Olympic gold and his wife took the bronze medal.
Nevin Galmarini of Switzerland won silver in the men’s event and Zan Kosir of Slovenia took the bronze.
In the women’s event, Patrizia Kummer of Switzerland captured the gold medal and the silver went to Japan’s Tomoka Takeuchi.
Finland and Norway won gold in the men’s and women’s team sprint classic cross-country events as Scandinavian countries took five of the six medals.
Finland won the men’s race, followed by Russia and Sweden. Norway captured first place in the women’s race, with Finland taking the silver medal and Sweden the bronze.
In the women’s 5000-meter speedskating event, defending champion Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic retained her title by holding off two Dutch skaters, including Ireen Wust, who won her third silver medal in Sochi, as Carien Kleibeuker took bronze.
It was Sablikova’s third gold medal, a record for a Czech athlete at the Olympic Games, summer or winter.
In women’s figure-skating, defending champion Kim Yuna finished in the lead after the short program, with a score of 74.92. Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova is in second with a score of 74.64 and Italy’s Carolina Kostner is in third, with 74.12. American Gracie Gold, in fourth, and Ashley Wagner in sixth, sandwich crowd favorite Yulia Lipnitskaya, a Russian 15-year-old who tumbled and failed to challenge Kim’s score.
The skaters compete in the free skate this evening.
In the men’s curling semifinal, Britain beat Sweden 6-5 and won’t play for the gold medal against Canada, which beat China 10-6. In the women’s semifinals, Sweden beat Switzerland 7-5, and today will meet Canada, a 6-4 winner over Britain.