SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Spectators trudged through the snow Monday to see Olympic history as it happened. They turned out to be at the wrong spot.
It was almost a foregone conclusion Monday that Norway's Ole Einar Bjorndalen would become the most decorated athlete in the history of the Winter Olympics. He needed only a medal of any kind in the biathlon pursuit race to reach 13 for his career, which would have broken a tie with countryman and cross-country skiing legend Bjorn Daehlie.
Not only is Bjorndalen still the best at what he does at age 40, he was able to start in front of everybody else Monday thanks to his win in the biathlon sprint on Saturday. So a medal seemed very likely.
History, however, was at least delayed when Bjorndalen missed three of the 20 targets that make up the shooting phase of the event.
Even then, he narrowly missed out on a bronze medal -- beaten by a skier 15 years his junior who had to travel 300 fewer yards than did Bjorndalen because of the penalty laps brought about by the missed shots. Further chances will await Bjorndalen at these Olympics, but he missed a great chance at the record Monday.
The hearty crowd that turned out to watch biathlon under the lights on a frigid evening was thus disappointed, especially since those fans could have been watching a unique piece of Olympic lore in relative comfort at the speed skating oval.
It was there that the Netherlands once again asserted its superiority in a sport that has been contested since the very first Winter Olympics in 1924.
Although Dutch skaters have never been a major factor in the shortest of speed skating races, they have dominated the longer distances and over the last four Olympics athletes from the Netherlands have won 14 more medals in the sport than any other nation.
That trend continued Monday and it did so with a few major twists.
For the first time in the history of the Games, a skater from the Netherlands won the shortest of the speed skating competitions -- the 500-meter race. Not only that, the Netherlands swept the medals. And on top of everything, twin brothers took home two of the three medals.
Michel and Ronald Mulder won the gold and bronze medals with Jan Smeekens finishing between them -- winding up 0.012 of a second behind Michel for the silver.
That showing allowed the Netherlands to challenge Canada at the top of the medal table with three golds and seven medals overall -- each and every one of them having been acquired in speed skating.
The Netherlands also swept the medals in the men's 5,000-meter race on Saturday and Irene Wust won the 3,000-meter event on Sunday.
Canada and Norway also have seven medals with three of Canada's and two of Norway's being gold. The Norwegians failed to win a medal on Monday.
Instead of going to Norway, the golds awarded Monday went to Martin Fourcade of France in the biathlon pursuit where Bjoerndalen failed to medal, to Germany's Maria Hoefl-Reisch in the alpine combined, Charles Hamelin of Canada in the 1,500-meter short-track race and Canadian Alex Bilodeau in freestyle skiing moguls.
Hoefl-Reisch and Bilodeau were repeat Olympic champions with Bilodeau becoming the first freestyle skier in any discipline to win two gold medals in a row.
Germans Natalie Geisenberger and Tatjana Huefner were first and second in the luge event after the first of two runs and American Erin Hamlin held down third place.
Racers from Germany are used to winning in the luge since that country has produced the last four Olympic women's champions. But no woman from the United States has ever won a luge medal.
Among those falling short Monday were American J.R. Celski (who came in fourth in the short-track final), defending champion Mo Tae Bum of South Korea (who finished fourth in the 500-meter speed skating race) and Shani Davis of the United States (who was a distant 24th in the 500).
Davis, however, is far better at the longer races and on Wednesday will try to win his third consecutive gold medal in the 1,000-meter event.
In team sports, the United States women's hockey team rolled to a 9-0 victory over Switzerland and Canada had to wait until the third period before scoring in a 3-0 decision over Finland. Canada and the United States will meet on Wednesday with the winner of that one automatically moving into the semifinals.
Curling also opened its tournament with two-time defending women's champion Sweden starting out by downing Britain 6-4. The Canadian men, who have won the last two Olympic gold medals, began with an 11-8 win over Germany and then lost to Switzerland 5-4. Sweden emerged from the day as the only men's team with a 2-0 record.