|Switzerland and Japan are big winners at Olympics|
|Friday, February 14, 2014 9:09 PM|
SOCHI, Russia — A pair of skiers from Switzerland collected gold medals at the Sochi Games on Friday and a teenager from Japan overcame a pair of falls to become the first Asian man to win an Olympic title in men’s figure skating.
With competitors seeking relief from the unusually warm weather on the mountain trails, Swiss skiers earned gold in the men’s super-combined and the men’s classical-style 15-kilometer cross-country race. The haul gave the Swiss five golds, only two behind Germany.
Sandro Viletta stunned the favorites to win the super-combined. Two of the favorites, defending gold medalist Bode Miller and world champion Ted Ligety, failed to win a medal.
Dario Cologna added the other gold for Switzerland and his second of the games, winning the sweat-drenched 15K race. Cologna, who had ankle surgery in November, won the 30K skiathlon on Sunday.
In figure skating, 19-year-old Yuzuru Hanyu claimed the men’s title, one day after Russian great Evgeni Plushenko withdrew from the Olympics because of injury.
Hanyu made a bid to take Plushenko’s mantle when he became the first skater to score more than 100 points in the men’s short program on Thursday. On the final night of the men’s competition, however, all three medalists had flawed performances.
Plushenko, who won gold in the team competition at the start of the Sochi Games, came under criticism at home about his decision to drop out, leaving Russia without a contestant in the men’s finals. The outburst prompted President Vladimir Putin to come to his defense.
“He really does have a big problem with his health,” Putin said, according to Russian news agencies.
On Day 8 of the Sochi Games, three other sports awarded medals: biathlon, freestyle skiing and skeleton.
FIGURE SKATING: Hanyu won the gold despite two falls during his free skate routine, largely because of the lead he built up with his record-setting short program. Canadian Patrick Chan, skating after Hanyu, won the silver despite three errors. World silver medalist Denis Ten of Kazakhstan took bronze.
CROSS-COUNTRY: Sweden’s Johan Olsson captured the silver, finishing 28.5 seconds behind Cologna. Another Swede, Daniel Richardsson, took bronze.
ALPINE SKIING: Viletta finished the downhill and slalom runs in a combined time of 2 minutes, 45.20 seconds. Ivica Kostelic of Croatia earned the silver and Christof Innerhofer of Italy got bronze.
BIATHLON: Darya Domracheva of Belarus earned her second gold medal of the games by winning the women’s 15-kilometer individual race. Domracheva, who also won the 12.5K pursuit three days ago, missed one target before finishing in 43 minutes, 19.6 seconds. Selina Gasparin of Switzerland finished 1:15.7 behind to take silver. Nadezhda Skardino of Belarus got the bronze.
FREESTYLE SKIING: Alla Tsuper of Belarus pulled off a stunning upset to win gold in women’s aerials. Tsuper beat a field that included defending Olympic champion Lydia Lassila of Australia and two-time Olympic medalist Li Nina of China. The 34-year-old Tsuper had never finished higher than fifth in four previous Olympics. Xu Mengtao of China won silver while Lassila earned bronze.
SKELETON: Lizzy Yarnold of Britain won gold in women’s skeleton, beating rival Noelle Pikus-Pace of the United States by a full second. It was Britain’s first gold medal in Sochi. Winning the silver allowed Pikus-Pace to reach her goal of closing out her career with an Olympic medal. Elena Nikitina of Russia won the bronze.
CURLING: China and Britain won close games in the men’s tournament to move into a 3-way tie with Sweden atop the 10-country field. China beat Norway 7-5, while Britain topped Denmark 8-6. In the women’s tournament, China beat South Korea, Britain defeated Japan, Russia beat Switzerland and Denmark topped the U.S., all but eliminating the Americans from the playoffs.
ICE HOCKEY: Canada topped Austria 6-0 in the preliminary rounds of men’s hockey. Also, Sweden beat Switzerland 1-0, the Czech Republic downed Latvia 4-2 and Finland defeated Norway 6-1.
No chance Russia will look past the USA this time: As horror movies go, Dmitry Chernyshenko makes no claims to be a connoisseur or critic. Yet he had no problem editing the list of films that haunted his childhood down to three.
“Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th,” the head of the Sochi 2014 organizing committee said Friday.
And the third?
“Miracle on Ice,” Chernyshenko answered.
The film depicting the upset win by a team made up mostly of U.S. college hockey players over the Soviet Union’s dynastic “Big Red Machine” at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics is actually titled “Miracle.” But everyone old enough to remember the game — Chernyshenko was 11 at the time — knows exactly what he was talking about.
“We all grew up in the culture that hockey is a religion in our country,” Chernyshenko said, “and we were educated by this very dramatic story of the competition between our two great countries.”
That rivalry is renewed today inside the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, though this time it’s only a preliminary-round game instead of a semifinal. What’s also different is the diminished tension surrounding this encounter. The 1980 game was played against the backdrop of a still-simmering Cold War, portrayed as a surrogate battle of good vs. evil. Which side was which depended largely on where you viewed it from.
The young men on both sides who play one another today tend to see it only through the prism of hockey.
“We don’t refer to them as the big, bad Russians because we know a lot of them and play with a lot of them (in the National Hockey League),” said U.S. captain Zach Parise. “There just isn’t the political rivalry that there was back then. But it’s still special when you see the U.S.-Russia matchup.
“It’s still hockey rivals. It’s still sports rivals. But I guess,” he added, “you don’t have that political stuff going on in the background, too.”
A few of the old guys who played in the 1980 game have done their part to ratchet up the stakes.
Hall-of-Fame goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, now president of the Russian Hockey Federation, was pulled after two periods in what turned out to be a 4-3 win that paved the Americans path to the gold medal in 1980. He said earlier this week, “It was a good lesson that the Americans taught us.
“You have to respect your competitors and only after the game can you tell what you think about them. We did not have respect for the competitors at that time but we don’t have that during this Olympics.”
Mike Eruzione, who scored the game-winning goal in 1980, bristled after opening the paper and reading Tretiak’s remarks.
“I was a little disappointed, frankly. That game meant a chance to win the gold medal. So tell me how a team of professionals — and remember, the Soviets were 27- and 28-year-old career Army guys, whose ‘job’ was playing hockey — doesn’t respect an opponent.
“It’s almost like,” Eruzione said finally, “they still can’t give us credit for being a good team.”
That won’t be a problem this time around. The Russian team is under considerable pressure to deliver the gold medal. They can’t afford to overlook anyone.
“Everyone is expecting only one thing from us,” Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk said. “And we won’t have the right to make an error.”