SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Highlights from Thursday's action at the Winter Olympics:
-- Father Time caught up with two veteran Olympic performers. Russia's Yevgeny Plushenko, a three-time Olympic figure skating medalist and a three-time world champion, withdrew before skating his short program. He has recently complained of back problems and, after skipping his final practice session, he clutched at his back while performing a jump in warmups. At age 31, this was expected to be his final competition.
-- Norway's Ole Einar Bjorndalen, nine years older than Plushenko, finished a tired and dispirited 34th in the 20-kilometer biathlon race. Bjorndalen missed four targets and failed badly in his bid to establish a record for most Winter Olympics medals in a career. He needs one more medal to get to 13 and break a tie with Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Daehlie. Bjorndalen will have two excellent chances to do so in upcoming relays, where Norway will be a big favorite.
-- The third medal sweep of the Olympics was turned in by the United States in the inaugural freestyle skiing slopestope competition. Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nicholas Goepper won the gold, silver and bronze. The Americans won more medals than any other country Thursday, giving them a dozen for the Olympics. Norway leads the way with 13 and the Netherlands also has 12, all won in speed skating.
-- Germany is on top of the gold medal race with seven, three more than any other nation. Four of those golds have come in luge, which wrapped up its Olympic program with the first relay ever held in the event. Germany won that race, which was not surprising since every member of the team had already won a gold medal in these Olympics.
-- Although there have been six double gold medal winners thus far in Sochi, the only one to have won two individual events has been Martin Fourcade of France. He added the 20-kilometer biathlon gold on Thursday to the pursuit race he won earlier in the Olympics.
-- China's two gold medals Thursday both came from women who can skate very fast. Neither was expected. Li Jianrou made it to the finals of the 500-meter short-track race after a typical day of carnage had wiped out some of the favorites. And when three of the four skaters in the final became involved in a collision, Li coasted home with the win. In the 1,000-meter speed skating race, Zhang Hong interrupted the Dutch success by winning gold after having finished no better than sixth on the World Cup circuit this year.
-- Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland thought her chances for an Olympic appearance were over last month when she suffered a broken foot. She posted an X-ray of that foot last weekend on Facebook. Now she can post a picture of her gold medal on Facebook as well after winning the 10-kilometer cross-country race.