Olympic Roundup: Tradition hard to beat

Feb. 9, 2014 at 2:58 PM
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SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 9 (UPI) -- The newest of the Olympic extreme sports have clearly found a home in the United States. Among more vintage winter competitions, however, tradition remains.

American Jamie Anderson emerged as the winner Sunday in the women's snowboarding slopestyle event -- giving the United States its second gold medal in as many days in a competition making its debut in the Winter Games.

There will be 20 gold medals given out in snowboarding and freestyle skiing during these Olympics and countries that have not always been at the forefront of winter sports hope to take full advantage of these new forms of athletic expression.

But Austria is still where great alpine skiers are produced, the Dutch still love their speed skating and Germany remains the king of the luge.

All of that was made clear once more Sunday as the opening weekend of the Olympics came to an end.

Although veteran Bode Miller of the United States was the favorite going into the downhill, the race was won by an Austrian -- second-generation alpine skier Matthias Mayer.

Mayer's father won an alpine medal in Calgary 26 years ago and an Austrian won the downhill for the fifth time in the last 11 Olympics. Only five times in the 18 stagings of the Olympic downhill has an Austrian not won a medal.

Irene Wust, meanwhile, gave the Netherlands its second speed skating gold medal of these Games in a duel of former Olympic champions and Felix Loch won the luge singles to give Germany its 10th such title in 14 tries.

Loch walked away with his second straight Olympic gold medal, as did Slovakia's Anastasiya Kuzmina in the women's biathlon sprint.

Two other gold medal winners from Vancouver finished second in the same event on Sunday -- Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic coming up short against 2006 gold medalist Wust in the 3,000-meter speed skating race and Markus Hellner of Sweden settling for silver in the cross-country skiathlon.

Hellmer was defeated by Switzerland's Dario Cologna, who won despite undergoing ankle surgery only three months ago.

Anderson has had no opportunity to become an Olympic champion prior to this year since the slopestyle competition was a newcomer to the Games, but she was among the favorites to win the gold. She finished second at last year's world championships and four times has won slopestyle at the X-Games.

Nevertheless, she found herself in need of a high-quality display of twists and flips in the second of her two runs to win a medal.

She came through with a score of 95.26, which put her in front of silver medalist Enni Rukajarvi of Finland (92.50).

"It just feels out of control," Anderson said. "I can't even explain what I'm processing now. I don't know how it happened. I was so impressed with all the girls' riding.

"I really was just trying to focus on the run I chose to do, really visualizing that and seeing it to the end and knowing that I was going to land everything perfect and try to do it with as much style as possible."

One other event concluded Sunday that was making its first Olympic appearance and that one brought the host nation its first gold medal of the Games.

Team figure skating wrapped up three days of competition that began the evening prior to the opening ceremonies and Russia dominated the event to the extent it had clinched the gold medal before the last round of skating took place.

There were eight separate routines performed by skaters from the five countries that made it to the finals and Russians finished first in five of them.

The team figure skating gold was one of four medals won by the home nation Sunday, more than any other country could manage. The 24 medals handed out were divided among 27 countries and no nation won more than one gold.

Norway picked up three bronze medals and was atop the list with seven medals overall -- two of them being gold. The Netherlands and the United States also had two gold medals.

Five medal events will be contested on Monday, including the women's alpine combined -- in which the times from a downhill run and two slalom runs will be added together to determine the champion.

The first of the short-track speed skating sessions will also be held with the gold medal being handed out in the men's 1,500-meter race.

Curling will also begin its Olympic tournament. Most of the men's teams will play two matches Monday, although the United States will be in action just once in a meeting with Norway.

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