KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — 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
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.
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.
CHINA’S LI WINS 500-METER SHORT TRACK GOLD
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.
FOURCADE WINS ANOTHER BIATHLON GOLD
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.
GERMANS WIN LUGE RELAY FOR GOLDEN SWEEP
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.
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
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.
HANYU TOPS FIELD AFTER SHORT PROGRAM; PLUSHENKO WITHDRAWS
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.
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.
U.S. USES BIG SECOND PERIOD TO ROLL PAST SLOVAKIA
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.”
AMERICAN PIKUS-PACE 2ND AFTER FIRST TWO SKELETON RUNS
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.”
CANADIAN WOMEN REMAIN UNBEATEN IN CURLING
Team Canada picked up a pair of victories in women’s curling on Thursday, remaining unbeaten so far in the 2014 Sochi Games.
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., meanwhile, won its lone matchup of Thursday, 8-6 to Japan. That improved the Americans to a mere 1-4, ahead of only 0-5 Denmark, who they face on Friday.