Political climate heats up in Sochi while Tina Maze rules slopes in snow and rain
SOCHI, Russia – The politics got a little hotter. The slopes got a lot slushier.
On a day when the mountain courses seemed better suited for the crawl or butterfly but posed no obstacle to Tina Maze, the Sochi Olympics took a more overt political turn.
Two members of the punk group Pussy Riot — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina — were among nine people detained Tuesday while walking in downtown Sochi. All were later released and no charges were filed.
The two group members burst from the police station wearing trademark ski masks — one pink, one blue. Police said they were questioned about a theft at the hotel where they were staying.
Pussy Riot has become an international flashpoint for those who contend Vladimir Putin's government has exceeded its authority in dealing with an array of issues, notably human and gay rights.
"We are constantly surrounded by people ... who are shadowing us, following our every move and looking for any excuse to detain us," Tolokonnikova said after her release.
At the Olympic Park, the Russian hockey team looked plenty vulnerable in its opening hockey game in the elimination round, defeating Norway 4-0 in a game whose scoreline suggested this was anything but a rout.
No questions, however, about the Dutch speedskaters. Jorrit Bergsma won the men's 10,000 meters to lead another Dutch sweep.
Seven gold medals were on offer on Day 12 and among the winners were Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway in biathlon, Pierre Vaultier of France in snowboardcross, South Korea in short track relay and Joergen Graabak of Norway in Nordic combined.
SKIING: Neither rain nor snow could keep Maze from her appointed rounds. The Slovenian skier captured her second gold medal of these games by winning the giant slalom. Maze was in full command, leading all the way and finishing 0.07 seconds ahead of Anna Fenninger of Austria. Defending champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany was the bronze medalist and teen sensation Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. was fifth in her Olympic debut. Last week, Maze tied for the gold medal in the downhill in glorious sunshine. On Tuesday, the sun seemed lost in the hills. Maze marked the moment in the spirit of Michael Phelps, simulating a breaststroke in the icy slop. "We are all wet, so I said, 'Why not?'" Maze said. "It's been a great day for me."
HOCKEY: Russia is playing under immense pressure in Sochi. It did not look strong in the preliminary round, and that was the case against Norway, which hasn't won an Olympic hockey game since its home Lillehammer Games in 1994. The game was scoreless after one period and 2-0 after two. Russia got two goals from Alexander Radulov and advanced to the quarterfinals against Finland on Wednesday.
SPEEDSKATING: The podium has become a second home for the Dutch, with the walls painted orange. Bergsma set an Olympic record with his time of 12 minutes, 44.45 seconds. He was followed by Sven Kramer and Bob de Jong, sending the Dutch to their fourth podium sweep at this venue and giving them a total of 19 speedskating medals. Kramer had to settle for silver after botching certain victory in this race in Vancouver four years ago with a baffling mistake in a lane change.
BIATHLON: Svendsen edged Martin Fourcade of France to win gold in the men's 15-kilometer mass start biathlon. They both finished in 42 minutes, 29.1 seconds, with Svendsen's ski crossing the line a fraction ahead. This was Svendsen's fourth career Olympic medal but first in Sochi. Ondrej Moravec of Czech Republic won bronze for his second medal of the games.
SNOWBOARD: Vaultier held off Nikolay Olyunin of Russia to win the gold medal in men's snowboardcross on a chopped-up course slowed by drizzle. Alex Deibold of the U.S., a wax technician for the Americans in Vancouver four years ago, took the bronze. Italy's Omar Visintin was removed by a stretcher after crashing in the semifinals. The event was pushed back a day because of heavy fog.
SHORT TRACK: South Korea won the 3,000-meter relay, passing China on the last lap to take the lead. Four years ago in Vancouver, the South Koreans finished first, but were disqualified and China got the gold. Italy took the bronze, giving Arianna Fontana her third medal in Sochi.
NORDIC COMBINED: Norway delivered a one-two finish in the Nordic combined large hill. Graabak broke away from a five-man group with about 100 meters left in the cross-country race, finishing six-tenths of a second ahead of Magnus Moan. Fabian Riessle of Germany won the bronze.
CURLING: Britain reached the semifinals in men's curling by beating Norway 6-5 in a tiebreaker. The game came down to the final shot, and British skip David Murdoch delivered. The British will face Sweden in the semifinals Wednesday while Canada plays China.