American Ted Ligety carved out a big lead with a masterful morning run Wednesday and held on to win the men’s giant slalom event at the Sochi Olympics.
Ligety took a lead of .93 seconds into the second run, then held on to beat France’s Steve Missillier by .48 seconds for his second Olympic gold medal but first in the event he’s dominated for years on the World Cup circuit. Ligety finished with a combined time of 2 minutes, 45.29 seconds, winning the first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics for the U.S. alpine skiing team. Alexis Pinturault earned the bronze behind his French teammate.
Widely considered the best giant slalom skier of his generation, Ligety skied out of the race in 2006 and finished ninth in 2010. Until he filled the biggest hole in his resume on Wednesday, Ligety’s greatest Olympic feat had been a surprising win in the men’s combined as a 21-year-old in 2006. Bode Miller finished 2.53 seconds behind Ligety in 20th place in what could be the 36-year-old’s final Olympic race.
American-born snowboarder Vic Wild captured a gold medal for Olympic host Russia in the men’s parallel giant slalom and Switzerland’s Patrizia Kummer won the women’s event.
Wild trailed Nevin Galmarini of Switzerland by .54 seconds after the first run of their two-race final but gained ground as Galmarini lost time in wide turns around the gates in the second run. Wild, 27, was born in White Salmon, Wash., and married Russian snowboarder Alena Zavarzina in 2011. He was granted Russian citizenship two years ago.
Galmarini settled for silver and Slovenia’s Zan Kosir beat Germany’s Patrick Bussler in the small final to win the bronze. In the women’s race, Kummer edged Japan’s Tomoka Takeuchi in the final and Zavarzina took bronze.
Czech Martina Sablikova successfully defended her gold medal in the women’s 5,000 meters on Wednesday, while the Netherlands grabbed two more speed skating medals to give it 21 total at the Sochi Olympics. The 26-year-old Sablikova finished the event with a time of 6 minutes and 51.54 seconds.
Ireen Wust and Carien Kleibeuker took silver and bronze, respectively, as the Dutch continued their dominating presence on the medal stand. The Netherlands has won a total of 21 speed skating medals in men’s and women’s events here in Sochi, including six golds.
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
Norway’s Marit Bjoergen and Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg combined to win gold in the women’s cross-country team sprint. The Norwegian duo crossed the line in 16 minutes, 4.05 seconds, while Finland followed just under 10 seconds behind the Norwegians to secure silver. Sweden, which won silver in the team sprint in Vancouver, outsprinted defending gold medalists Germany down the stretch to grab bronze.
On the men’s side, Finland’s Iivo Niskanen and Sami Jauhojaervi combined to win gold in the men’s cross-country team sprint on Wednesday at the Sochi Olympics. Finland, Russia and Germany entered the final hill at Laura Cross- country Ski and Biathlon Center locked in a virtual tie for first before Jauhojaervi cut in front of Germany’s Tim Tscharnke and sent him sprawling to the snow.
The United States advanced to the semifinals of the men’s hockey tournament on Wednesday, as James van Riemsdyk, Dustin Brown and David Backes tallied in a three-goal first period to help the Americans to a 5-2 decision over the Czech Republic. Zach Parise and Phil Kessel also lit the lamp for the Americans, who will play Canada on Friday.
The reigning gold medal winning Canadians survived a bit of a scare, but Shea Weber’s power-play goal in the third period helped them hold off a determined Latvia team, 2-1. Canada, though, will have to make play the remainder of the tournament without the services of center John Tavares, who left Wednesday’s win with a knee injury,
In the other quarterfinal games on tap today, Carl Hagelin scored twice to pad the lead in the third period and Henrik Lundqvist made 19 saves to lead Sweden to a 5-0 win over Slovenia. Daniel Sedin, Alexander Steen and Loui Eriksson also scored for the Swedes, who move on to face Finland after the Finns knocked Russia out of the tournament with a 3-1 victory.
South Korea’s Kim Yuna began her quest for a second straight Olympic gold medal by posting the top score on Wednesday in the women’s short program at the Sochi Olympics. But Kim’s advantage is slim. She scored a 74.92 as the 17th performer and her lead held solid until Italy’s Carolina Kostner put together a routine that netted her a score of 74.12. Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova then sent the home crowd into a frenzy with a routine that scored at 74.64, putting her a mere .28 behind Kim, known in her home country as Queen Yuna.
The U.S. saw its three skaters finish in the top seven, led by Gracie Gold’s score of 68.63 that landed her in fourth.
American track and field star Lauryn Williams may not have made history on Wednesday, but did walk away with a silver medal in the women’s bobsled event. Williams, a two-time medalist in the Summer Games, was trying to become just the second Olympian to win gold medals in both the Winter and Summer Games. And it looked as if she was going to get there after her and teammate Elana Meyers led the 19-team field after the third heat at the Sanki Sliding Center.
However, the tandem stumbled a bit in the fourth run after a nearly flawless heat from the Canadian team of Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse, who became the first women bobsledders to repeat as Olympic champions with a total time of 3 minutes and 50.61 seconds, .10 seconds ahead of the Americans. Another United States duo of Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans snuck in for the bronze medal.
Norway captured the first-ever gold medal in the biathlon mixed relay on Wednesday, giving Ole Einar Bjoerndalen the all-time record with his 13th medal in the Winter Olympics.
The medal round of the curling tournament got underway with the men’s and women’s semifinals. On the women’s side Canada remained unbeaten with a 6-4 win over Great Britain to make the gold medal match against Sweden, which topped the Swiss 7-5. On the men’s side Canada remained on track for a third consecutive gold medal, as it advanced to the final game with a win over China. Awaiting the Canadians in the gold medal matchup will be Great Britain, which pulled out a dramatic, 6-5, win over Sweden at the Ice Cube Curling Center.