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Olympic Daily News - Saturday, February 8th

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - American Sage Kotsenburg won the men's snowboard slopestyle to capture the first gold medal of the 2014 Olympics.

The 12-man final consisted of two runs for each rider and Kotsenburg was third on the course Saturday. His brilliant first run earned a score of 93.50 and it held up for the rest of the day.

"The first score held up the whole time, so the last time down I had to wait 10 people, it was so brutal," said Kotsenburg about waiting to see if his early score would hold up.

Norway's Staale Sandbech took silver with a sensational second run and Canada's Mark McMorris won the bronze medal.

Max Parrot of Canada was tops in qualifying on Thursday, earning a direct spot into the final, but he fell on his first run Saturday and had a strong second run that netted only a fifth-place result.

The top eight qualifiers from Thursday reached the final, leaving four places available for riders in the semifinals on Saturday. Kotsenburg and McMorris were among the four to qualify Saturday.

Only four of the 12 riders managed to stay upright on their respective first runs in Saturday's final.

Kotsenburg, the lone American in the field, was among them and his first run was judged the best of the day. While the top contenders were trying triple- cork jumps, his best move was something he called the "Holy Crail," a 4 1/2- rotation spin while grabbing the back of the board.

The 20-year-old Idaho native and Park City, Utah resident was unable to duplicate the effort on his second run, but it didn't matter.

"It's pretty sick to see that some weird, creative stuff was rewarded," added Kotsenburg.

McMorris, a two-time X Games gold medalist, fell on his first run in the final and had no issues on a second run that featured a trio of triple-cork jumps. It resulted in a score of 88.75, good enough for second until Sandbech swiped the silver with a score of 91.75.

Parrot had the last run of the second round and was clean throughout, but he was given a score of only 87.25, finishing behind Sweden's Sven Thorgren.

Another Canadian, Sebastien Toutant, fell on each run and finished ninth.

CANADIAN SISTERS BEAT KEARNEY IN MOGULS

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Justine and Chloe Dufour- Lapointe held hands before stepping onto the podium for the flower ceremony.

The Canadian sisters had just ended American Hannah Kearney's bid for Olympic history.

Justine, the youngest of three sisters who each made the women's moguls finals, won the gold medal Saturday after earning top scores on her turns and jumps at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

The 19-year old was awarded 22.44 points, .78 points more than 22-year-old sister Chloe.

Together, they kept Kearney from becoming the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion.

Kearney skied last, just as she did four years ago at Cypress Mountain outside Vancouver when she overtook 2006 gold medalist Jennifer Heil to win gold.

In position to knock another Canadian off the top podium, Kearney was more than a half-second faster down the hill than the younger Dufour-Lapointe, but lost points for her turns and wound up with the bronze, .17 points back of Chloe.

Kearney was a little loose during the same stretch in each of her final runs, after the first jump.

"I wanted that gold medal. And I skied great. But I made a few mistakes," she said. "And you don't win the Olympics when you make mistakes. I'm proud to contribute to the medals count for Team USA at the Olympics. But right now I'm very disappointed."

The Dufour-Lapointe medals were Canada's first gold and silver at the Sochi Olympics.

Kearney's win in 2010 denied the since-retired Heil the chance to win Canada's first Olympic gold on home soil, something Alexandre Bilodeau accomplished in the men's moguls the following night.

This year's three-round, knockout-style format for the 20 skiers who made the finals was new to the Olympics.

The field was whittled to 12, then six skiers, with scores resetting before each round.

Japan's Aiko Uemura, competing in her fifth Olympics at 34 years old, finished fourth by .83 points to miss out winning her first medal. Australia's Britteny Cox was fifth and American Eliza Outtrim finished sixth.

Canada's Audrey Robichaud was 10th and 24-year-old Maxime Dufour-Lapointe ended 12th, one spot ahead of American Heather McPhie.

Though she was competing in her third Olympics, Kearney had said it didn't feel like it until she looked at her bib before the first qualifying round on Thursday.

Now a veteran, she was the youngest-ever Olympic moguls competitor when she crashed out of the competition in a qualifying run as a 19-year-old in 2006.

Justine Dufour-Lapointe, who skied third-to-last in front of sister Chloe and Kearney, stood and screamed, then blew kisses when her score flashed and she saw she was guaranteed a medal.

The women were given flowers to hold as they stood on the podium at the bottom of the hill. Medals are awarded during a ceremony at a plaza in Sochi.

Kearney's bronze gave the U.S. two medals on the first full day of competition at the Sochi Games. Sage Kotsenburg won the men's snowboard slopestyle earlier Saturday.

"I'll have to treat this bronze medal as a reward for fighting," said Kearney.

WAGNER, U.S. MOVE INTO MEDAL POSITION

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Ashley Wagner shook off the controversy that followed her to Sochi and came through in a big way for a U.S. team now in medal contention at a new Olympic event.

Skating to Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," Wagner helped the U.S. move into third place in the team figure skating event with a short program that made U.S. officials look anything but crazy for picking the 22-year-old for the team.

Wagner was chosen over Mirai Nagasu, who skated at the 2010 Olympics and was third at the U.S. championships. Wagner finished fourth but got the nod in a hotly-debated decision that left Nagasu publicly disappointed.

"It was tough going out there after a disappointing nationals so it was important for me to redeem myself." Wagner said. "I got the triple-triple out there, so I'm pleased. It was a different kind of pressure because it's the team event."

Wagner placed fourth out of 10 skaters. Along with Meryl Davis and Charlie White's first-place finish in the short dance, Wagner's performance helped the U.S. make it into the final five after a cut down from 10 teams.

Russia leads the competitions with 47 points, Canada is second with 41 and the U.S. has 34 points going into Sunday, when the medals will be awarded after men's and women's free skates and ice dancing.

The U.S. -- tied for fifth place entering Saturday -- is three points ahead of Italy and four ahead of Japan for the final medal position.

"Now that we're done, it's nice to see the U.S. back on top," said Davis.

She and White are six-time reigning U.S. champions and won the 2010 Olympic silver medal. They scored a 75.98 skating to "I Could Have Danced All Night" to earn 10 points or the U.S.

Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the reigning Olympic champions, finished second and Russia's Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev were third.

In the last skate, U.S. duo Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir finished fourth for the U.S. in the pairs free program after Castelli landed with two feet on a quadruple Salchow throw.

"I had a glitch," she said. "But one mistake does not break a program. We were finally able to pull it all together."

Canada's Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch ended second in the program behind Russians Ksenia Stolbova Fedor Klimov.

Wagner finished behind Yulia Lipnitskaya of Russia, Carolina Kostner of Italy and Mao Asada of Japan. Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond was fifth.

U.S. FIGURE SKATING DENIES REPORT OF RUSSIAN DEAL

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - U.S. Figure Skating on Saturday denied a French report saying there was a deal between the U.S. and Russian teams to help each other win gold medals at the Sochi Olympics.

The sports newspaper L'Equipe, citing an unnamed Russian coach, reported that Russia would help U.S. skaters Meryl Davis and Charlie White win the ice dance competition in exchange for help in winning the pairs and team events.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that the comments in the story were "categorically false."

"There is no 'help' between countries," it said. "We have no further response to rumors, anonymous sources or conjecture."

Davis and White have won six straight U.S. championships and are the reigning world champions. They won silver behind Canadian rivals Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

ANKLE INJURY TO KEEP VOISIN OUT OF SLOPESTYLE SKIING

Rosa Khutor, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - American Maggie Voisin will not participate in Tuesday's slopestyle skiing competition because of an ankle injury.

Voisin hurt her right ankle after falling on a rail feature during a training run on Friday. A silver medalist last month at the X Games, the 15-year-old was considered a medal favorite.

"Maggie distinguished herself as one of the top slopestyle athletes in the world in qualifying for Team USA," said USSA vice president Luke Bodensteiner in a statement Saturday. "We're disappointed for her in being unable to start but have great respect for what she accomplished to get here."

Voisin will not be replaced.

She is the second American to withdraw from competition because of an injury, as Heidi Kloser pulled out of the women's moguls after tearing knee ligaments earlier this week.

BJOERNDALEN TAKES BIATHLON GOLD

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen tied the record for most Winter Olympics medals on Saturday, winning biathlon gold in the men's sprint at the Sochi Games.

Bjoerndalen picked up his 12th medal, and seventh gold, to tie countryman Bjorn Daehlie for the Winter Olympic record. Daehlie won 12 medals (eight gold) in cross-country skiing for Norway from 1992-98.

The 40-year-old Bjoerndalen finished the 10-kilometer sprint with a time of 24 minutes, 33.5 seconds. Austria's Dominik Landertinger finished 1.3 seconds behind Bjoerndalen for silver and Jaroslav Soukup of the Czech Republic was third.

Landertinger earned his second Olympic medal. He helped Austrian win silver in the relay at the 2010 Vancouver Games, finishing second to Bjoerndalen and Norway.

Canada's Jean-Philippe Le Guellec finished fifth on Saturday with a time of 24:43.2, four seconds behind Soukup. Nathan Smith placed 13th for the Canadians.

Tim Burke had the best showing by an American, finishing 19th.

KRAMER WINS GOLD IN 5,000 TO LEAD DUTCH SWEEP

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer successfully defended his gold medal in the men's 5,000 meters on Saturday, winning the event at the Sochi Games with an Olympic-record time.

Kramer earned his fifth Olympic medal and second gold after crossing the finish line in six minutes, 10.76 seconds. The Netherlands swept the event with Jan Blokhuijsen finishing 4.95 second behind his countryman for silver and Jorrit Bergsma placing third with a time of 6:16.66.

In addition to winning gold in the 5.000 four years ago in Vancouver, the 27- year-old Kramer also helped Netherlands take bronze in the team pursuit at the 2010 Olympics. He also would have won gold in the 10,000 meters in Vancouver, but was left without a medal after being disqualified for an incorrect lane change, a mistake that allowed Lee Seung-Hoon of South Korea to claim gold instead.

Lee placed 12th in Saturday's competition.

Blokhuijsen earned his second Olympic medal after winning bronze in the team pursuit in Vancouver.

Belgium's Bart Swings finished 1.13 seconds behind Bergsma in fourth place.

American Emery Lehman, a 17-year-old high school senior, finished 16th with a time of 6:29.94. Jonathan Kuck and Patrick Meek placed 19th and 20th for the U.S.

Mathieu Giroux was the lone Canadian participant in the 5,000. He finished in 22nd place.

BJOERGEN CAPTURES WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY SKIATHLON GOLD

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Norway's Marit Bjoergen won cross-country gold in women's 15-kilometer skiathlon at the 2014 Olympics.

Bjoergen repeated as Olympic champion, having captured gold in the same event four years ago in Vancouver when it was known as the pursuit. She finished Saturday in a time of 38 minutes, 33.6 seconds for her fourth career Olympic gold medal.

Sweden's Charlotte Kalla took the silver medal, finishing 1.8 seconds behind Bjoergen, while Heidi Weng of Norway won the bronze.

The skiathlon features a 7.5-kilometer leg in the classical style followed by a 7.5-kilometer freestyle segment.

Bjoergen led after the first leg, but a slow stop to change skis for the free technique put her behind. She stayed close to the lead and overtook Kalla late in the race. The two broke free from the pack, but Bjoergen had enough to cross the line first.

Weng was 13.2 seconds behind on a difficult day for the Norwegian team, which on Saturday said the brother of women's cross-country skier Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen died on Friday night. Jacobsen did not compete in the skiathlon.

Another Norwegian, Therese Johaug, finished fourth. She was second after the classical leg and had the third-best time in the freestyle technique, but a slow ski change likely cost her a medal. She finished 1.4 seconds behind Weng.

American Jessica Diggins finished eighth, doing so with a fantastic freestyle effort. She was 25th after the classical portion and moved up 17 spots. The U.S. women have never won a cross-country Olympic medal.

U.S. ANNOUNCES TWO-MAN BOBSLED TEAMS

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - The United States has announced its two-man bobsled teams for the 2014 Olympics.

The men's teams will feature the combinations of Steven Holcomb and Steve Langton, Nick Cunningham and Dallas Robinson, and Chris Fogt and Cory Butner. Holcomb won gold as the driver of the four-man U.S. sled four years ago in Vancouver.

Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams will comprise one of the women's teams, while the other pairs will be Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans, and Lolo Jones and Jazmine Fenlator. Meyers won bronze with pilot Eric Pac in Vancouver, while Jones and Williams were track and field stars in the Summer Olympics.

The men's competition is set for Feb. 16-17, while the women will race Feb. 18-19.

RADIVOJEVIC TO REPLACE GABORIK FOR SLOVAKIA

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Branko Radivojevic will replace the injured Marian Gaborik on the roster for Team Slovakia at the 2014 Olympics.

Gaborik did not receive medical clearance from the Columbus Blue Jackets, as he continues to recover from a broken collarbone that has sidelined him since September.

Radivojevic last played in the NHL with the Minnesota Wild during the 2007-08 season.

U.S., CANADA EARN WINS IN WOMEN'S HOCKEY

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - The United States women's hockey team opened the Sochi Olympics with a 3-1 victory over Finland on Saturday and Canada routed Switzerland 5-0.

The U.S. and Canada are heavy favorites to make the gold medal game. The Americans won the first gold in women's hockey at the 1998 Nagano Games, but Canada has won the last three. U.S. took silver at both the 2002 and 2010 Winter Games, while the Canadians beat Sweden for gold in 2006.

The U.S. and Canada are both members of Group A in Sochi and will face off against each other in on Wednesday. Before that showdown, however, the Americans are scheduled to battle Switzerland on Monday, while Canada faces Finland later that day.

The Swiss were pinned in their own zone for most of Saturday's game and the Canadians outshot their opponents by a 69-14 margin. Charline Labonte posted the shutout for Canada with 14 saves, while Florence Schelling made 64 saves in the loss and turned aside all 21 shots she faced in the third period.

Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening period and outshot the Swiss by a 29-3 margin over the first 20 minutes. Jocelyne Larocque scored on a shot from the point just 1:25 into the contest and Tara Watchorn made it a 2-0 game at the 6:30 mark.

Hayley Wickenheiser, appearing at her fifth Winter Games, pushed Canada's cushion to three goals at 3:54 of the second period. The Swiss turned it over in their own zone and Canada's opening ceremony flag bearer was able to pounce on the puck, break in alone on goal and beat Schelling glove side.

Marie-Philip Poulin and Rebecca Johnston scored to give Canada a 5-0 lead by the end of two periods.

The U.S. also held a huge advantage in shots in its win over Finland, but the final score failed to accurately reflect that dominance.

Hilary Knight scored 53 seconds into the contest for the Americans, who also received goals from Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter. Knight added an assist and Jessie Vetter made 14 saves for the U.S., which outshot Finland 43-15.

Susanna Tapani scored late in the third period on a power play for Finland to avoid the shutout, while Noora Raty stopped 40 shots in defeat.

The Finns turned the puck over at center ice in the first minute of the contest, leading to Knight's breakaway goal.

Raty kept Finland in the contest with 14 saves in the opening period, while her teammates mustered just three shots. The Americans continued to pepper the net in the second period with 18 shots and two found the net.

Stack knocked a rebound out of midair into the net at the 7:42 mark of the second and Carpenter backhanded home a rebound on a power play with 4:01 remaining in the period to make it 3-0.

Finland finally beat Vetter with 4:38 to play in the contest when Tapani converted a cross-ice feed from Michelle Karvinen.

The women's tournament continues Sunday with Sweden facing Japan and Russia taking on Germany in Group B action.

MORGENSTERN MOVES ON IN SKI JUMPING

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Former gold medalist Thomas Morgenstern of Austria was one of 40 ski jumpers to make it to the next round in the men's normal hill competition at the Sochi Olympics.

Morgenstern placed ninth in Saturday's qualification round with a score of 118.3. He is competing in Sochi less than a month after suffering head and lung injuries in a scary crash Jan. 10 during training for a World Cup event

The 27-year-old Morgenstern won gold in the large hill at the 2006 Winter Games and also captured gold in Turin as part of Austria's winning team in the event. He was part of the team that won team gold at 2010 Vancouver Games as well.

Morgenstern will join fellow Austrians Thomas Diethart, Michael Hayboeck and Gregor Schlierenzauer in the final day of the event on Sunday. Hayboeck posted the top score in Saturday's qualification round with a mark of 128.6. Diethart and Schlierenzauer did not take part in Saturday's qualification round, as they had already pre-qualified for Sunday's action.

Switzerland's Simon Ammann also pre-qualified and he'll be out to defend his gold from the Vancouver Games on Sunday. Ammann has four golds in Olympic ski jumping, winning both the normal and large hill events at the 2002 and 2010 Winter Games.

The United States will send three jumpers into Sunday with Anders Johnson, Peter Frenette and Nicholas Alexander making the cut. Canada's Mackenzie Boyd- Clowes and Dusty Korek also will compete for a medal after placing 21st and 28th, respectively, on Saturday.

GERMANY'S LOCH LEADS LUGE SINGLES

Rzhanaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Germany's Felix Loch grabbed the early lead in the men's luge singles on Saturday after posting the best time in the first two runs at the Sochi Olympics.

Loch, the defending gold medalist, leads the field with a total time of 1 minute, 44.149 seconds. The 24-year-old Loch was second to Russia's Albert Demchenko after one run but carries a lead of 0.294 seconds over Demchenko into the final two runs on Sunday.

Italy's Armin Zoeggeler, who won gold in men's singles at the 2002 and 2006 Winter Games, is currently running third with a total time of 1:44.893.

Canada's Samuel Edney is in 10th place and Chris Mazdzer of the U.S. is 13th heading into Sunday.

Medals will be awarded Sunday to the luger with best total time after the completion of the third and fourth runs.