Struggle goes on for skaters
By DAVID PACE
SOCHI, Russia — Maybe it wasn’t the suits after all.
After shedding their new, high-tech skinsuits for their old-fashioned gear, American speedskaters still were without a medal at the Sochi Olympics.
Zbigniew Brodka won Poland’s first gold medal in the men’s 1,500 meters, finishing 0.003 seconds ahead of Koen Verweij of the Netherlands. It was one of the closest 1,500 finishes in Olympic history.
Verweij’s silver medal gave the Dutch 13 of the 21 medals awarded so far in the sport, including four golds. Traditionally, the U.S. team has been among the medal leaders halfway through the competition.
Hoping to end the shutout, the U.S. had gotten IOC approval just hours before the 1,500 started to go back to its old suits. The new ones had been touted as the fastest the world has ever seen.
Norway’s women cross-country skiers were another group whose past success failed to carry over into the games. The Norwegian women had not lost a 4x5-kilometer relay since 2009 and entered Saturday’s race as huge favorites, with a team that featured the top four skiers in the overall World Cup standings. By the time it was over, Sweden had the gold, and Norway was denied a spot on the podium, finishing 53.6 seconds behind the winners.
On Day 9 of the Sochi Olympics, the U.S. hockey team won a shootout to defeat Russia 3-2 in the marquee game of the preliminary round.
Medals also were being awarded in four other sports: Alpine skiing, ski jumping, skeleton and short track speedskating.
SPEEDSKATING: Brodka and Verweij were initially shown on the scoreboard to be tied for the top spot, but when the time was broken down to the thousandths, the victory went to Brodka in 1 minute, 45.006 seconds. Verweij was second in 1:45.009. The bronze went to Canada’s Denny Morrison, his second medal of the Sochi Games.
ALPINE SKIING: Anna Fenninger became the third straight Austrian woman to win a gold medal in the Olympic super-G. Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany won the silver and Nicole Hosp of Austria the bronze. Skiers from Austria have dominated the event since it began at the 1988 Calgary Games. Austrian skiers have now won eight of a possible 24 medals in the super-G.
CROSS-COUNTRY: Charlotte Kalla erased a 25-second deficit on the final leg to give Sweden the gold in the relay. Finland finished second to win silver, and Germany took bronze. Norway was well behind in fifth. “It is tough to see because we are so good in relay, we have always been so good, many seconds before the other girls,” said Heidi Weng, who skied the first leg for Norway. “And today others were better than us.”
SHORT TRACK SPEEDSKATING: Zhou Yang of China won her second consecutive gold medal in the women’s 1,500 meters — a race that included a three-skater crash involving 500-meter gold medalist Li Jianrou of China. Viktor Ahn of Russia won gold in the men’s 1,000, with teammate Vladimir Grigorev taking the silver. It was Ahn’s second medal of the Sochi Olympics.
SKELETON: Alexander Tretiakov won gold in men’s skeleton. Known as the “Russian Rocket,” Tretiakov finished well ahead of Latvia’s Martins Dukurs after hurtling down a track he’s trained on more than anyone else. Matt Antoine of the United States won bronze, the first skeleton medal for the U.S. since Jimmy Shea won gold in 2002.
SKI JUMPING: Polish ski jumper Kamil Stoch completed a gold medal sweep of the normal and large hills. Noriaki Kasai of Japan won the silver on the large hill and Peter Prevc of Slovenia took bronze. Stoch joins Simon Ammann and Matti Nykanen as the only men to win both individual events at the same Winter Games.
CURLING: Canada became the first team to qualify for the semifinals in the women’s Olympic curling tournament by beating Russia and Japan. Sweden has the next best record, one game ahead of China, Britain and Switzerland. In the men’s tournament, China and Sweden earned wins to stay at the top of the qualifying round standings. Canada and Britain are a game behind in the race for the four playoff spots.
MEN’S HOCKEY: T.J. Oshie scored four times in the shootout in the U.S. victory as Russian President Vladimir Putin watched from the stands. Undefeated Sweden beat Latvia 5-3 to become the first team to advance to next week’s quarterfinals. Slovenia, playing in its first Olympic hockey tournament, surprised Slovakia 3-1. In the women’s tournament, Sweden upset Finland 4-2 and Switzerland beat Russia 2-0, setting up next week’s semifinal matchups: Sweden vs. the U.S. and Canada vs. Switzerland.
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