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OLYMPICS NOTEBOOK: Americans sweep medals in slopestyle skiing

by The Associated Press on February 13, 2014 10:55 AM

SOCHI, Russia — For only the third time in Winter Games history, the United States swept the podium, capturing the top three spots today in slopestyle skiing’s Olympic debut to revive the country’s showing in Sochi.

Joss Christensen, a 22-year-old making his first appearance on the Olympic stage, won the gold in a dominating performance that featured four near-perfect runs over the rails and jumps at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. The last skier selected for the U.S. slopestyle team, Christensen posted the top two scores in both the qualifying runs and the finals.

“I am shocked,” Christensen said. “I am stoked to be up here with my friends. America, we did it.”

Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper captured the silver and bronze, as the U.S. skiers matched the country’s previous sweeps in men’s figure skating in 1956 and men’s halfpipe snowboarding in 2002.

“It’s the kind of thing you don’t even let yourself think about,” U.S. coach Skogen Sprang said. “I still don’t believe it happened.”

The sweep provided a boost for an American team that had seen many of its biggest stars — from Shaun White to Bodie Miller to Shani Davis — wipe out in the first six days of the games.

The U.S. team now has won four golds, all on the slopes of the Extreme Park. The three medals pushed the U.S. total to 12, and put the Americans back in the running to repeat its 2010 performance as the games’ overall medal winner.

Five other sports awarded medals today, on Day 7 of the Olympics: cross-country skiing, biathlon, speedskating, short-track speedskating and luge. Preliminary rounds in men’s hockey also got underway today, with Finland topping Austria 8-4 in the opener.

 

CROSS-COUNTRY: Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland skied with a fractured foot but still captured the gold in the women’s cross-country 10-kilometer classical race. Leading virtually all the way, Kowalczyk finished in 28 minutes, 17.8 seconds, beating silver medalist Charlotte Kalla of Sweden by 18.4 seconds. Therese Johaug of Norway took bronze, 28.3 seconds behind.

 

SPEEDSKATING: Li Jianrou of China won the gold in 500-meter short-track speedskating after all three of her competitors in the finals fell. Li’s victory keeps the Olympic title in China’s hands. Injured countrywoman Wang Meng couldn’t defend the title she has won at every Winter Games since 2002. Arianna Fontana of Italy took the silver and Park Seung-hi of South Korea earned the bronze. Elise Christie of Britain caused the first crash of the wild final and was disqualified.

In Wednesday’s action, the Dutch ruled at the oval again, with Stefan Groothuis taking the gold in the 1,000 meters and upsetting two-time Olympic champion Shani Davis of the U.S. Groothuis won in 1 minute, 8.39 seconds and was followed by Denny Morrison of Canada and 500 champion Michel Mulder of the Netherlands. The Dutch have won 10 of 15 medals through the first five events. Davis was eighth.

 

FIGURE SKATING: Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov maintained Russia’s long tradition in pairs, winning gold in their home Olympics. Teammates Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov took silver. Russia or the Soviet Union had won gold in 12 straight Olympics in the event before the streak ended four years ago. “I think tonight all of the country will celebrate this beautiful victory,” Trankov said.

 

SNOWBOARDING: Kaitlyn Farrington posted a score of 91.75 during her second run, just good enough to beat Torah Bright’s 91.50. Kelly Clark, the 2002 Olympic champion, took bronze to give the United States another medal.

 

MEN’S HOCKEY: Sweden showed off its deep offensive talent in its Olympic opener, getting two goals from Erik Karlsson and one from Henrik Zetterberg in a 4-2 win over the Czech Republic. Switzerland also won, but needed a late deflection to beat Latvia 1-0. The Swiss scored with 7.9 seconds left, and Simon Moser was credited with the goal that appeared to carom off a Latvian player in front of the net.

 

WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Canada defeated the U.S. in women’s hockey 3-2 in a preview of the expected gold medal match. Meghan Agosta scored twice for Canada and assisted on Hayley Wickenheiser’s goal. This was the fifth time these teams have met in the Olympics, but the first since women’s hockey was added to the Winter Games in 1998 that they have played in the preliminary round. In the day’s other game, Finland beat Switzerland 4-3.

 

NORDIC COMBINED: Eric Frenzel, who served two years in the German army, won the individual normal hill. He led after ski jumping and powered home on the cross-country course. “I can’t describe this feeling, it’s so perfect,” he said. Frenzel, the runaway World Cup leader, was followed by Akito Watabe of Japan and Magnus Krog of Norway.

 

CURLING: China’s curlers kept up their surprise run by beating Switzerland and Germany, leaving the team at the top of the standings with four straight wins. With Sweden (3-1) losing to Denmark 8-5 in the evening session, Norway (3-0) is the only other unbeaten team in the competition after defeating Germany 8-5 in the morning. On the women’s side, undefeated Canada downed Britain 9-6 in a game that went down to the final stone and sent the U.S. to the edge of elimination. The Canadians joined Switzerland in first place at 3-0.

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