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Olympic Daily News - Thursday, February 13th

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Joss Christensen claimed the first-ever Olympic gold in men's ski slopestyle on Thursday, leading a medal sweep for the United States.

Christensen won the competition with a top score of 95.80 in the final round. The 22-year-old from Park City, Utah, also had the best mark in Thursday's qualification round.

Gus Kenworthy claimed silver for the Americans with a score of 93.60 and Nicholas Goepper completed the podium sweep with a mark of 92.40.

It was the third time the U.S. swept a Winter Olympics event. Americans previously claimed gold, silver and bronze in men's figure skating in 1956 and in men's snowboard halfpipe in 2002.

"I can't really believe it right now, this is pretty crazy. It has been just an amazing day. I am shocked. I am stoked to be up here with my friends. America, we did it," said Christensen.

The memorable day for the U.S. marked the first time Olympic medals were awarded in men's ski slopestyle. The women's event debuted on Tuesday with Canada's Dara Howell taking gold and American Devin Logan earning silver.

The U.S. won gold in both the men's and women's snowboarding slopestyle events earlier at the Sochi Games. Sage Kostenburg claimed gold for the American men and Jamie Anderson won the women's competition.

Christensen, who finished sixth in slopestyle at last month's X Games in Aspen, Colo., won gold in his first appearance at the Olympics by notching a 95.80 in his opening run of the finals. With gold already wrapped up, Christensen added a 93.80 his second time down the course at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, giving him the two best scores of the medal round.

Kenworthy was in 10th place after his first run before turning in his silver medal effort in his second attempt. That score left Goepper, a three-time X Games medalist, settling for bronze.

Norway's Andreas Haatveit placed fourth behind Goepper and James Woods of Great Britain was fifth.

American Bobby Brown, a four-time winner of X Games gold, was ninth. Canada's Alex Beaulieu-Marchand finished last in the 12-man final round.

ZHANG HOLDS OFF DUTCH ATTACK TO TAKE GOLD IN 1000M

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - China's Zhang Hong set the early pace that the streaking Dutchwomen could not overcome.

Zhang's time on Thursday in the women's 1,000-meter speed skating event was less than a second better than a pair of Netherlands skaters, giving the 25- year-old the gold after she just missed out on a medal earlier in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Zhang was part of the seventh pair with Canada's Christine Nesbitt, the defending gold medalist in this event, and shocked a bit with a time of 1 minute and 14.02 seconds.

Having already bettered Nesbitt, who clocked in at 1:15.62 and finished ninth overall, Zhang figured to be challenged later by Americans Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe as well as Dutchwomen Ireen Wust and Margot Boer.

And while Richardson and Bowe both underperformed, Wust and Boer found their way to the medal podium but behind Zhang, who had never before finished above seventh place in this event at the World Single Distances Championships.

Wust, who earned gold in the 3,000 meters on Sunday, took the silver with a time of 1:14.69. That was 0.67 seconds behind Zhang.

Wust did knock fellow Dutch skater Boer down to third place. Boer, who also won bronze here in the 500 meters, clocked in at 1:14.90.

It was a disappointing showing for the Americans, who have not captured a women's speed skating medal since the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City. Richardson finished seventh at 1:15.23, while Bowe was eighth.

South Korea's Sang Hwa Lee won gold in the women's 500 meters in record time, but came in 12th in this event, while Russian Olga Fatkulina was fourth with a time of 1:15.08.

Fatkulina won silver in Sochi in the 500 meters and came in as the defending 2013 World Singles Distances Championships in this event.

CHINA'S LI WINS 500-METER SHORT TRACK GOLD

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Li Jianrou stayed ahead of a crash that took out the other three skaters Thursday in the 500-meter short track final and won China's first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics.

Li finished in 45.263 seconds -- almost six seconds ahead of silver medalist Arianna Fontana, who was awarded the silver after Great Britain's Elise Christie was penalized for taking out another skater.

Fontana improved on her bronze medal from 2010.

Christie clipped Fontana on the first lap, sending her skidding off, and bronze medalist Park Seung-Hi of South Korea also went into the wall.

Canada's Marianne St-Gelais was eliminated in the semifinals and finished last in the B final. The 2010 silver medalist finished about a half-second too slow in her semifinal race to miss the chance to skate for a medal.

China's Fan Kexin had the top qualifying time earlier Thursday but slipped in her semifinal heat and crashed into the wall.

American Emily Scott and Canadians Jessica Hewitt and Valerie Maltais all failed to reach the semifinals.

China's Meng Wang, who won the last two Olympic gold medals, was injured last month and could not compete in Sochi. She holds the world and Olympic records.

Canada, which had medaled in the men's 5,000-meter relay in four straight Olympics -- winning three golds -- did not qualify for the final in Sochi after Francois Hamelin, brother of 1,500 winner Charles Hamelin, fell.

American Eduardo Alvarez also crashed, but the U.S. team of Alvarez, J.R. Celski, Chris Creveling and Jordan Malone were moved into the final anyway because the collision was caused by a Korean skater.

Russia, led by Korean-born Viktor Ahn, also made the Feb. 21 final. As did China, the Netherlands and Kazakhstan.

Canada's Charle Cournoyer had the fastest time in qualifying heats for the men's 1,000 meters. Charles Hamelin and fellow Canadian teammate Olivier Jean also advanced.

Celski, Creveling and Alvarez moved on.

South Korea has won the last two Olympic gold medals in the event. It will be represented in the next round by Sin Da Woon and Lee Han-Bin, while Ahn made it for Russia.

The quarterfinals, semifinals and finals will all be held Saturday.

Retired American star Apolo Anton Ohno medaled in the event in each of the last three Olympics.

FOURCADE WINS ANOTHER BIATHLON GOLD

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - France's Martin Fourcade won a second biathlon gold, capturing the men's 20-kilometer individual event on Thursday.

Fourcade also won the pursuit gold on Monday.

Germany's Erik Lessler finished second to claim the silver medal, while Russian Evgeniy Garanichev took the bronze.

Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen was never factor, missing one target on each of his four shooting rounds. The penalties left the 12-time Winter Olympic medalist in 34th place. He remains tied with countryman Bjorn Daehlie, the retired cross-country skier, for the most Winter Olympic medals.

While Bjoerndalen struggled, Fourcade was nearly perfect.

The Frenchman overcame a missed target in his second round of shooting to finish in a time of 49 minutes, 31.7 seconds. Lesser was clean throughout his shooting, but still finished 12.2 seconds behind.

Garanichev also missed once and was 34.5 seconds behind the winner. He did finish 3.3 seconds ahead of Austria's Simon Eder to collect the bronze.

Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen, the 2010 Olympic champion, missed once and finished a distant seventh.

Lowell Bailey was the top American in eighth place, while the top Canadian was Brendan Green in 21st.

GERMANS WIN LUGE RELAY FOR GOLDEN SWEEP

Rzhanaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Germany completed a sweep of the luge events at the 2014 Olympics with a gold medal in the first-ever team relay.

Natalie Geisenberger, Felix Loch and the doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt all won gold medals in their respective events earlier in Sochi, and on Thursday the champions combined for a flawless performance to make it 4-for-4.

Russia finished second for the silver medal and Latvia took the bronze.

Thursday's competition featured four-person teams consisting of one woman and one male single luger as well as a two-man doubles team. Each athlete needed to tap a special touch-pad to automatically open the in-run gate for the next team member.

Germany, which started 10th in the 12-nation field, had the fastest time for each run to dominate the event.

Latvia was sitting at the top of the standings before the Russians slipped into first, but the Germans were yet to come.

Geisenberger's split of 54.095 seconds easily set the pace on the women's side. Loch was next and tapped the pad with a time of 55.639 to open the gate for the doubles team, which posted a time of 55.915 seconds to give the Germans a combined time of 2 minutes, 45.649 seconds.

Russia, led by 42-year-old silver medalist Albert Demtschenko, finished 1.030 seconds behind. Latvia was 1.646 off the lead pace, but edged Canada by just 1/10th of a second for the bronze.

The United States got off to a great start behind women's bronze medalist Erin Hamlin. Her time was bettered only by Geisenberger, but Christopher Mazdzer and the team of Christian Niccum and Jayson Terdiman were unable to match and the Americans finished sixth overall.

POLAND'S KOWALCZYK WINS GOLD IN 10K

Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Despite skiing on a broken foot, Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk easily won the women's 10-kilometer classic cross country race on Thursday for her fifth Olympic medal and second gold.

Kowalczyk finished in 28 minutes, 17.8 seconds to beat 2010 Olympic champion Charlotte Kalla of Sweden by 18.4 seconds.

Norway's Therese Johaug earned the bronze, 9.9 seconds behind the silver medalist Kalla.

Kowalczyk, who won the 30-kilometer mass start race in 2010, posted an X-ray of her left foot on Facebook Saturday that showed a fracture. She was injured last month.

Finland's Aino-Kaisa Saarinen was fourth and Norway's Marit Bjoergen, going for her ninth Olympic medal, finished fifth. Bjoergen outsprinted Kalla to the finish line for the gold medal Saturday in the 15-kilometer skiathlon.

Kalla now has four Olympic medals, including one gold and three silvers. Johaug previously won a women's relay gold in 2010.

Sadie Bjornsen was the top American finisher in 18th place. Brittany Webster was 42nd to lead Canada.

HANYU TOPS FIELD AFTER SHORT PROGRAM; PLUSHENKO WITHDRAWS

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Even an incredible score by an up-and- comer couldn't take the spotlight away from Russia's Yevgeny Plushenko.

Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu led the field following the men's figure skating short program on Thursday at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but much of the focus was on the early exit of Plushenko.

The 31-year-old veteran warmed up and was set to go seventh in the event, but did not skate and appeared to be holding his back. After talking to the judges, he gave the crowd a wave upon exiting, unable to compete due to injury.

Plushenko has undergone multiple surgeries during his decorated career, including a back procedure in January of last year. However, he still managed to help Russia win team gold last week to claim his fourth Olympic medal.

Plushenko claimed men's gold in 2006 and also took silver in 2002 and four years ago in Vancouver, where he finished second to American Evan Lysacek.

Lysacek was already unable to defend his gold in Sochi due to a torn labrum in his left hip.

Following his exit on Thursday, which leaves Russia without a skater now for this event, Plushenko indicated he will likely retire.

Later in the program, the 19-year-old Hanyu put together an incredible performance that gave him a total score of 101.45 going into Friday's free skate. He finished ahead of Canada's Patrick Chan, a three-time World Champion who is in second with a score of 97.52.

Spain's Javier Fernandez is third with a score of 86.98 as the top 24 skaters qualified for Friday's event.

American Jason Brown moved on with the sixth-best score, a mark of 86.00 that topped his previous personal best of 84.77.

Fellow U.S. skater Jeremy Abbott also advanced, but not without a scare. He hit his right hip hard on the ice due to a fall early in his routine and was down for a brief moment before getting back up and getting in his required seven elements for the program.

Abbott received a loud cheer from the crowd and netted a score of 72.58 for 15th place.

PLUSHENKO WITHDRAWS FROM MEN'S FIGURE SKATING

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Yevgeny Plushenko withdrew from the men's figure skating competition, unable to perform in Thursday's short program at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The 31-year-old Russian warmed up but did not skate and appeared to be holding his back. After talking to the judges, he gave the crowd a wave upon exiting.

Plushenko has undergone multiple surgeries during his decorated career, including a back procedure in January of last year. However, he still managed to help Russia win team gold last week to claim his fourth Olympic medal.

Plushenko claimed men's gold in 2006 and also took silver in 2002 and four years ago in Vancouver, where he finished second to American Evan Lysacek.

Following his exit on Thursday, Plushenko indicated he will likely retire.

U.S. USES BIG SECOND PERIOD TO ROLL PAST SLOVAKIA

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - The United States couldn't have asked for a better start to the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament.

Jonathan Quick made 22 saves and Paul Stastny led an offensive onslaught with a pair of goals, as the Americans used a six-goal second period in a 7-1 pounding of Slovakia on Thursday.

Phil Kessel scored a goal and assisted on two others for the United States, which won a silver medal four years ago in Vancouver and is in search of its first men's hockey gold since the "Miracle on Ice" squad at the Lake Placid Games in 1980.

John Carlson and Ryan Kesler each added a goal and an assist, while David Backes and Dustin Brown also found the net for the Americans in the rout.

"I really like the way we played," said Team USA coach Dan Bylsma. "We had a lot of guys contribute offensively and balanced scoring is important. It was a fun atmosphere here today and I couldn't be more impressed with the job done by everyone involved with all aspects of the Olympics so far. It's been fantastic."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for Slovakia. Jaroslav Halak got the start in net for the Slovaks and was pulled after yielding five goals on 25 shots. Peter Budaj made six saves in relief.

The Americans built a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes, but the scoring came fast and furious to start the second period as the teams combined for three goals in a span of just over two minutes.

Slovakia got it started a mere 24 seconds into the stanza. The Slovaks appeared to be offside, but play was allowed to continue and Tatar beat Quick with a shot from the left circle to tie it.

The Americans responded immediately with two goals just 66 seconds apart.

Kesler restored the lead at the 1:26 mark with a one-time blast from the right circle and Stastny scored on a rebound soon after to make it 3-1.

The Unites States kept buzzing around the Slovak net and Backes was credited with a goal at 8:16 just after an American power play expired. Stastny then netted his second of the game with 6:30 left in the period for a 5-1 cushion.

Budaj took over for Halak, but it didn't matter much as Kessel tapped in a James van Riemsdyk shot 50 seconds later and Dustin Brown scored on a shot from the slot less than a minute afterward to make it a laugher.

The Americans cruised in a scoreless third period and will have a day off before a big matchup Saturday with Russia.

Slovakia will return to the ice Saturday against Slovenia.

The Americans dominated most of the first period and came away with a 1-0 lead on Carlson's goal with 5:33 remaining. He took a drop pass from Kessel at the top of the right circle and rifled a shot over Halak's shoulder into the top left corner of the net.

Slovakia had a great chance moments later when Richard Panik came late on a rush and had room in the slot, but the puck slid off his backhand and went wide of the net with Quick out of position.

RUSSIANS TAKE CARE OF SLOVENIA IN HOCKEY OPENER

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Evgeni Malkin had a goal and two assists as Russia beat Slovenia by a 5-2 margin in the opening game of group play for both teams in the men's ice hockey tournament.

Alex Ovechkin added a goal and an assist for the home team in an electric atmosphere on Thursday. Ilya Kovalchuk, Valeri Nichushkin and Anton Belov also lit the lamp.

Semyon Varlamov made 12 saves for Russia, which plays the United States on Saturday in one of the most highly anticipated preliminary-round games. The winner will have a great chance to take first place in Group A.

Ziga Jeglic scored the first two goals for Slovenia in Olympic play. Robert Kristan stopped 30-of-35 shots.

Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar is the only NHL player on the roster for Slovenia, which will face Slovakia on Saturday.

The Russians took a 1-0 lead at 1:17 of the first period when Ovechkin scored from the left circle.

Just over two minutes later, Malkin took a pass from Ovechkin and beat Kristan to make it 2-0.

Jeglic got the Slovenians on the board 1:43 into the middle stanza when he lit the lamp from the high slot.

Kovalchuk gave the Russians a two-goal lead again with 2:12 remaining in the second. Malkin controlled the puck behind the net before sliding a pass to Kovalchuk in front.

Jeglic scored his second goal over a minute later as he took a pass from Robert Sabolic, got past a pair of Russian defenders and beat Varlamov.

Nichushkin gave the Russians some breathing room at 3:59 of the third. He carried the puck down the right side and fought off a defender before guiding the puck past Kristan.

Belov's blast from the left point made it a 5-2 game.

FINLAND BEATS AUSTRIA 8-4 AFTER EARLY DEFICIT

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Mikael Granlund had two goals and one assist, Jarkko Immonen also scored twice and Finland overcame a slow start to double up Austria 8-4 Thursday at the Sochi Olympics.

New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner had a hat trick for Austria, the first goal coming on a one-timer from the right circle just 36 seconds into the game to surprise Finland.

Austria had two one-goal leads in the first period, but Finland scored five in a row to pull away in the Group B opener.

Sami Lepisto, Olli Maatta, Jussi Jokinen and Petri Kontiola also scored for Finland, which has won five Olympic medals in men's hockey, but never gold.

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask gave up four goals on 20 shots in the win.

Thomas Hundertpfund had the other Austria goal and Bernhard Starkbaum allowed all eight Finland goals on 52 shots.

Granlund tied the score for Finland at 5:15 of the first period on a wrister from the left circle that beat Starkbaum under his right arm.

Hundertpfund's wraparound goal went off an opponent's skate for a 2-1 Austria lead but was followed by three Finland goals, the last two in an eight-second span.

After Lepisto tied it on a one-timer from the slot at 11:23, Maatta made it 3-2 on a slapshot just inside the blue line at 19:25 and Immonen's rebound went in eight seconds later.

Jokinen scored 1:43 into the middle period and Kontiola found the net just over 10 minutes later, both on rebounds, to make it 6-2.

The last four goals came in the third period, along with 10 minutes in penalties as a couple of scrums broke out.

Finland gets Norway next and Austria plays Canada, both on Friday.

RUSSIA TOPS SWEDEN TO EARN TOP SEED IN GROUP B

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Russia finished Group B play with a perfect record, besting Sweden 3-1 on Thursday to earn the top seed for the group at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Russia went 3-0 and will play Switzerland in the quarterfinals on Saturday. The Swiss went 0-3 in the superior grouping after losing in overtime to the Finns on Wednesday.

Sweden, which finished 2-1, takes on Finland in the quarterfinals.

Canada and the United States finished first and second, respectively, in the top-tier Group A to earn byes to the semifinals. The Canadians posted a 3-2 victory over the U.S. on Wednesday in what could be a preview of the gold medal game in Sochi.

Russia outshot Sweden 16-2 in the first period on Thursday and led 1-0 on Anna Shukina's goal 8:38 into the game. Alyona Khomich made it 2-0 near the midway mark of the second frame before Sweden answered with Pernilla Winberg's tally with 1:02 to go before the third period.

Russia, though, iced the game on Yekaterina Smolentseva's goal with 1:53 to play and Anna Purgova had 15 saves in the win.

Valentina Wallner posted 27 saves for Sweden in the loss.

Earlier in the day, Germany picked up its first win of the women's hockey tournament at the Sochi Games, beating Japan 4-0.

The Germans finished play in the bottom-tier Group B with a 1-2 record, while Japan fell to 0-3. Both countries were eliminated from medal contention after starting the tournament 0-2.

Franziska Busch scored twice on Thursday for Germany and Viona Harrer made 30 saves for the shutout. Nana Fujimoto stopped 21-of-24 shots for Japan.

AMERICAN PIKUS-PACE 2ND AFTER FIRST TWO SKELETON RUNS

Rzhanaya Polyana, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Great Britain's Elizabeth Yarnold leads the women's skeleton singles following the first two runs Thursday at the Sochi Olympics, while Americans Noelle Pikus-Pace and Katie Uhlaender are close behind.

Yarnold set a track record at the Sanki Sliding Center with a time of 58.43 seconds in her first run and was just .03 seconds behind that pace to also post the best split in Heat 2. She has a total time of 1 minute, 56.89 seconds heading into Friday's final two runs.

Pikus-Pace, the silver medalist at the 2013 World Championships, is .44 seconds behind Yarnold in second place. The 31-year-old American barely missed out on an Olympic medal four years ago in Vancouver, finishing fourth in this event.

Elena Nikitina of Russia is .55 seconds behind Yarnold in third position and Uhlaender is trailing the leader by .69 seconds.

"That would be a dream come true if Katie and I could both be up on that podium together, to have two U.S. flags flying and waving in the wind," Pikus- Pace said. "That would be absolutely incredible."

Uhlaender finished sixth at the 2006 Turin Games and was 11th four years ago in Vancouver.

Canada's Sarah Reid is currently eighth and trails Yarnold by 1.42 seconds.

CANADIAN WOMEN REMAIN UNBEATEN IN CURLING

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Canada picked up a pair of victories in women's Olympic curling on Thursday, remaining unbeaten so far in Sochi.

Canada opened the women's fifth round-robin session by downing Denmark 8-5, then bested Switzerland by the same score later in the day. That has Canada pacing the women's standings at 5-0, ahead of 4-1 Sweden and Switzerland, which is 3-2.

The U.S. beat Japan 8-6 for its first win, moving to 1-4 and ahead of only 0-5 Denmark, which it plays Friday.

In other women's matchups, Great Britain defeated China 8-7, and Sweden topped the Swiss 9-8 before later downing Denmark 7-6. South Korea came out on top versus Russia 8-4.

The men had one round robin session on Thursday, with Great Britain and Sweden both improving to 4-1 with wins. Great Britain bested the U.S. 5-3, dropping the Americans to 1-3, while Sweden edged Norway 5-4.

The men's team for Canada improved to 3-2 with a 7-6 decision over Denmark, while Russia edged Switzerland on the sheet 7-6.

BOBSLED TRACK WORKER SUFFERS BROKEN LEGS

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - An icemaker on the Olympic bobsled track suffered two broken legs Thursday when he was struck by a forerunner bobsled, the IOC said.

The icemaker was struck near the breaking zone at the Sanki Sliding Center after a warning signal was given to clear the track.

"It is unclear why he was in this zone or what exactly happened," IOC President Thomas Bach said. "The information we have so far is that he suffered two compound fractures in the legs, but arrived conscious at the hospital.

"We are continuing to monitor the situation. Our medical director is getting in touch with the medical services; we've been in touch with the (Sochi) organizing committee and the International (Bobsleigh and Skeleton) Federation, but so far we do not have any further information."

Photos online showed the man on a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance.

The accident happened during training. The first bobsled heats of the Sochi Olympics, for two-man, aren't until Sunday.

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