KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — American alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin won gold in the women’s slalom on Friday, becoming the youngest woman to accomplish the feat in the history of the Winter Games at just 18 years old.
Shiffrin posted the top first run time of 52.62 seconds at Rosa Khutor to take a .49-second lead over defending gold medalist Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany heading into the second run.
Shiffrin, the last of the top 30 skiers to take their final run, nearly lost control midway through her second run, but maintained her balance before flying down the remainder of the course to edge Austria’s Marlies Schild by .53 seconds for gold.
A native of Vail, Colo., Shiffrin recorded a total time of 1 minute, 44.54 seconds to become the first American woman to find the podium in Olympic slalom since Barbara Cochran won gold at the 1972 Sapporo Games.
Friday’s victory marked the culmination of a dominant past year in slalom for Shiffrin, who won gold at the 2013 world championships and also claimed the most recent World Cup season title in the discipline.
Schild’s second run of 51.11 seconds served as the top overall time, but her total time of 1:45.07 forced her to settle for silver. The 32-year-old Austrian collected her fourth Olympic medal and third in the slalom after taking bronze in 2006 and silver in Vancouver four years ago.
Fellow Austrian Kathrin Zettel secured bronze with a total time of 1:45.35, while Hoefl-Riesch, who won gold in the super-combined on Feb. 10 and silver in the Super-G five days later, finished just outside of medal contention in fourth.
Jamie Benn supplied the lone goal of the contest at 1:41 of the second period, and Canada earned the right to defend its gold medal thanks to a 1-0 decision over Team USA in Friday’s semifinal of the Sochi Olympics.
Carey Price turned aside all 31 shots he faced for the Canadians, who will take on Sweden in Sunday’s title contest. The Swedes advanced earlier Friday with a 2-1 victory over Finland.
Canada, which topped the U.S. in a memorable overtime contest four years ago in Vancouver to claim gold, reached the Olympic final for the fifth time since 1992.
Jonathan Quick made 36 saves for the Americans, who must regroup quickly for a matchup with the Finns in Saturday’s bronze medal tilt.
The United States, which has a checkered history on the international stage, suffered its first shutout loss in the Olympics since falling 5-0 to Czechoslovakia on Feb. 8, 1976.
Quick, the LA Kings’ starting goaltender, was beaten only once. Jay Bouwmeester unleashed a low, hard shot from the left point which skittered into the slot and was redirected home by Benn for the winning margin.
The Ukraine won its first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics on Friday, claiming the women’s 4x6-kilometer biathlon relay over host Russia.
It marked the second medal of these games for the Ukraine, with Vita Semerenko having claimed bronze in the women’s 7.5-kilometer sprint back on Feb. 9. Semerenko was the first of four skiers in Friday’s relay.
The gold medal comes on the same day reports surfaced out of Kiev that an agreement had been reached between Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych and protestors to end the deadly violence that has ravaged the country’s capital over the last few days.
Ukraine finished with a total time of 1 hour, 10 minutes and 2.5 seconds, putting it 26.4 seconds ahead of Russia.
Norway claimed bronze with a total time of 1:10:40.1, well ahead of the fourth-place Czech Republic.
Marielle Thompson captured the women’s Olympic skicross event Friday over teammate Kelsey Serwa to keep the gold medal in Canadian hands.
Thompson held off Serwa in the four-rider big final as the Canadians easily finished first and second.
Their medal path was made easier after 37-year-old Ophelie David of France — bidding to become the oldest woman to win a solo event at the Winter Olympics — fell.
Viktor Ahn’s decision to join Team Russia paid off again on Friday as the 28-year-old won the men’s 500-meter short track speedskating final.
It marked the fifth gold medal of Ahn’s Olympic career and second here in Sochi. He won a trio of golds in 2006 while a member of his native South Korea team, later joining the Russian squad after failing to qualify for the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Within an hour of winning individual gold, Ahn helped Russia take first place in the men’s 5,000-meter relay on Friday in short track speedskating at the Sochi Olympics.
Following a breather after winning the 500-meter short track final, Ahn suited up for the four-man Russian relay team and helped the unit post an Olympic record time of 6 minutes and 42.100 seconds. That was just .271 better than the United States. China finished third with a time of 6:48.341.
Russia and the U.S. were bunched together for most of the race with a comfortable lead over third place. The Americans moved ahead with 14 laps to go, but Russia brought the crowd to its feet by climbing back into first with seven laps remaining.
South Korea’s Park Seung-Hi won the women’s 1,000-meter short track speedskating event on Friday at the Sochi Olympics, while American Jessica Smith missed out on a medal.
China’s Fan Kexin made a late charge in the final to take silver, pushing South Korea’s Shim Suk Hee into the bronze spot. Smith finished just behind Shim in fourth.
Park won her third medal of the Sochi Olympics, adding to the gold she took in the women’s 3,000-meter relay and a bronze claimed in the shorter 500-meter event. The 21-year-old won two bronze medals in the 2010 Games in Vancouver.
The 30-year-old Smith was pushing for a medal after being on the verge of elimination in the semifinals. She was trailing in the race, won by Park, when Canada’s Valerie Maltais wiped out on the final turn despite no contact.
One day after its women’s team finished off a perfect run through the Sochi Olympics, Canada’s men’s team knocked off Great Britain 9-3 to claim curling gold on Friday.
It was a dominating effort by Canada, which took advantage of nearly every mistake made by Great Britain skip David Murdoch to hold an early lead. Great Britain eventually conceded following the eighth end to settle for silver.