Friday's Olympic Highlights

Feb. 14, 2014 at 4:18 PM
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SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Highlights from Friday's action at the Winter Olympics:

-- Switzerland and Belarus had by far the most success, collecting four gold medals and six overall. Belarus had only one Winter Olympics gold medal in its history prior to these Games and that country has three so far in and around Sochi. Britain and Japan won their first golds while Croatia and Kazakhstan collected their first medal. There are 26 countries with at least one medal at the 2014 Olympics, equaling the number of nations that pulled off that feat four years ago in Vancouver.

-- The Swiss golds came from Sandro Viletta in the alpine combined and Dario Cologna in the 15-kilometer cross-country race. It was Cologna's second victory of the Olympics.

-- Darya Domracheva came up with one of the wins for Belarus in the 15-kilometer biathlon and Alla Tsuper had the other in freestyle skiing aerials. Domracheva, like Cologna, has two individual gold medals at these Olympics.

-- Cologna skied his race in a tight fitting red jersey that had no sleeves. His bare arms, almost never seen in a Winter Olympics mountain venue, demonstrated how mild the temperatures have become. Temperatures were in the 50s at the cross-country, biathlon and alpine venues, creating soft snow conditions that were threatening to turn to slush.

-- The countries that began the day in the top five of the medal standings managed to win just two medals, neither of them gold. The United States picked up a silver from Noelle Pikus-Pace in the skeleton event, giving the Americans 13 medals. That lifted the United States into a tie with Norway for the overall medal lead. Germany did not win a medal Friday, but it is still out front of the gold list with seven -- two more than Switzerland.

-- Japan's first gold of the Games came from Yuzuru Hanyu. He became the first Japanese male to win an Olympic figure skating event and he did so at age 19. Hanyu would likely have been hard pressed to win the title if Russian Yevgeny Plushenko had been around to compete. Plushenko withdrew from the competition on Thursday with a bad back.

-- Like the weather, the men's Olympic hockey tournament warmed up. And it should get even warmer on Saturday. Canada rolled over Austria 6-0 with Jeff Carter recording a hat trick, and Finland disposed of Norway 6-1. Canada and Finland will meet on Sunday to determine their group winner. Sweden moved on top of its group with a 1-0 decision over Switzerland. The United States and Russia rested up for the most anticipated matchup in group play, one that will take place Saturday. Both the Americans and Russians have a 1-0 record.

-- Although the Americans came up with just one medal Friday, it was a popular one since it brought an end to a long quest by Pikus-Pace. She was deprived a chance to medal in 2006 because she suffered a broken leg when struck by a bobsled. She competed in the 2010 Olympics, but finished fourth. That led to her retirement, but she finally decided to come back for one more try and that resulted in the silver medal she won Friday. Her triumph led to her jumping out of her sled, climbing into the grandstands and giving a large hug to her husband and two children.

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