Bloomberg News

Bjoerndalen Sets Biathlon Marks, U.S. Snowboarder Soars for Gold

February 08, 2014

U.S. Snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg

Sage Kotsenburg of the U.S. takes the first gold medal after the men's slopestyle event at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 08, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. Photographer: Christophe Pallot/Agence Zoom via Getty Images

Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen tied a Winter Olympics record with his 12th medal by taking gold in the biathlon 10-kilometer sprint, and an American half his age spun more than four times in the air to win in snowboarding.

Canadian sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe won gold and silver in women’s moguls freestyle skiing, becoming the first siblings to finish 1-2 in an Olympic event since Phil and Steve Mahre of the U.S. in the 1984 men’s slalom. American Hannah Kearney, the defending champion, took bronze in moguls.

Bjoerndalen, 40, set a biathlon record with his seventh gold and tied the overall mark for winter medals held by another Norwegian, cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie, on the first full day of action at the Sochi Games. He also became the oldest Winter Games gold medalist in an individual event.

“Life is too short to give up, you always need to keep going on,” Bjoerndalen said in a news conference. “I had some bad years with a lot of problems, but my motivation was never an issue.”

Sage Kotsenburg, 20, of the U.S. captured the first gold medal of the games by winning the men’s slopestyle event. Sven Kramer broke his own Olympic record while leading a Dutch sweep of the men’s 5000-meter speedskating event.

Bjoerndalen, who also won the 10-kilometer event at the 1998 Nagano Olympics and the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, finished in 24 minutes, 33.5 seconds. Dominik Landertinger of Austria was 1.3 seconds behind to win silver and Jaroslav Soukup of the Czech Republic took bronze.

‘Almost Perfect’

“I think I’m in the best shape this year for me,” Bjoerndalen told reporters. “It was the goal for me to be prepared for the race, this championship. My shooting was almost perfect and the skiing was fantastic.”

The record for oldest individual Winter Games gold medalist had been held by Canada’s Duff Gibson, who was 39 when he won the men’s skeleton in 2006. Bjoerndalen also matched a record, held by three others, with a gold medal in four Winter Olympics.

Kotsenburg won the slopestyle gold three days after U.S. teammate Shaun White -- the most celebrated snowboarder in history -- dropped out of the event.

Kotsenburg had a score of 93.50 points on the first of two runs and nobody could match that mark. Staale Sandbech of Norway won silver with a score of 91.75 on his second run and Canada’s Mark McMorris took bronze with 88.75 on his second attempt at the hill.

“It feels like I’m living in a dream, it feels so random,” Kotsenburg said in a news conference. “That was the best run of my life, hands down.”

King Watching

Dutch King Willem-Alexander was in the crowd at the speedskating, where the 27-year-old Kramer finished in 6 minutes, 10.76 seconds to break the mark of 6:14.6 he set while winning gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Jan Blokhuijsen took the silver medal, 4.95 seconds behind Kramer, and Jorrit Bergsma won bronze.

“I have won so many 5000 meters, everyone expected me to win this race,” Kramer said in a news conference. “But it felt good when I crossed the finish line, I felt like I skated the best race of my life.”

The first women’s gold medal of the games went to Norway’s Marit Bjoergen, 33, in the skiathlon, a cross-country skiing event that was swept by Scandinavians. Charlotte Kalla of Sweden won silver and Heidi Weng of Norway took the bronze medal in the race, which features 7.5 kilometers of classic cross-country skiing and another 7.5 kilometers of freestyle.

Kotsenburg’s gold came in the first of 98 medal events to be contested in the Sochi Games that began two nights ago with an opening ceremony extravaganza and that run through Feb. 23.

Slopestyle is a new event at these games. The course included three rail features near the top and three jumps that got progressively bigger, so the most dramatic jumps came in front of spectators at the finish area.

Flying Pretzel

Kotsenburg saved his best for last. He pulled off a “1620 Japan” jump -- which means spinning 4 1/2 times in the air while grabbing the board and then pulling it behind -- that he had never tried before.

“I can’t believe I landed that,” he said. “You’re like a pretzel in the air.”

White, a two-time defending champion in the halfpipe event, dropped out of the slopestyle to focus on the halfpipe.

Hilary Knight, Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter scored goals as the U.S. women’s hockey team won 3-1 against Finland in a preliminary round game. Knight’s goal came just 53 seconds into the contest.

The Canadian women also won their opening hockey game, defeating Switzerland 5-0. The Canadians outshot the Swiss 69-14.

Bode’s Bid

American Bode Miller, who today in the downhill will try to become the oldest man to medal in an Olympic Alpine event, was fastest in yesterday morning’s final training run. Miller also was quickest in the first training run three days ago, and was sixth two days ago.

The 36-year-old has a U.S.-record five Alpine skiing medals. Another in Sochi would make him the oldest man to stand on the Olympic podium in an Alpine event. Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway now holds that mark, having won the super-giant slalom at the 2006 Turin Games at the age of 34.

“If you are not totally focused this course can kill you,” Miller said after the final training run. “It is one of those courses where I don’t think you are safe going easy.”

Women’s Downhill

Switzerland’s Dominique Gisin was fastest in yesterday’s training run for the women’s downhill, which is set for Feb. 12. A trio of Americans, Jacqueline Wiles, Laurenne Ross and Stacey Cook, finished fourth, fifth and sixth. Their teammate, 2010 silver medalist Julia Mancuso, was eighth.

The U.S. is third behind Russia and Canada in the team figure skating event. Only the top five teams advanced to tonight’s finals, and a first-place finish by Meryl Davis and Charlie White in ice dancing helped push the Americans up from seventh place.

French magazine L’Equipe yesterday reported that judges from the U.S. and Russia would work together to allow the hosts to win in the pairs and team events and the American team of Davis and White to win ice dancing. The magazine story cited an unidentified Russian coach.

“Comments made in a L’Equipe story are categorically false,” U.S. Figure Skating said in an e-mailed response. “There is no ‘help’ between countries. We have no further response to rumors, anonymous sources or conjecture.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Rob Gloster in Sochi at rgloster@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net


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