Olympic Roundup: Different types of skating succeed for USA

Feb. 17, 2014 at 3:16 PM
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SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Two very different types of skating earned the United States an Olympic gold medal Monday as well as a chance for another.

Belarus, meanwhile, added to its unexpectedly large haul of first-place finishes at the Sochi Games, Americans stood on the two-man bobsled podium for the first time in 62 years and Germany, with more gold medals than any other country, won its first one in four days.

The weather even improved as the day went on, but not before postponing finals in both the men's biathlon mass start race and the men's snowboarding cross.

Only one of Monday's finals took place indoors and in that one Meryl Davis and Charlie White were awarded the first Olympic ice dancing gold medal for an American couple.

Ice dancing, with its grace, agility and costuming, comes as close as any Olympic sport to being a theatrical production. Davis and White have consistently been the best in the world over last three seasons, but they needed an Olympic gold to confirm that.

They earned that gold Monday and replaced their rivals from Canada, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, as Olympic champions. Davis and White defeated Virtue and Moir by less than five points.

There was very little grace displayed at the hockey rink, but there was plenty of attitude and effort put into what turned out to be a 6-1 win for the United States' women's team over Sweden.

That victory put the Americans into Thursday's gold medal game against Canada.

The United States got off 70 shots on a pair of Swedish goaltenders with Alex Carpenter and Kacey Bellamy scoring 66 seconds apart in the first period to get things going. Jessie Vetter had to make only eight saves to get the victory, although she gave up a goal late in the game on a deflection.

The Canadians had to work harder for its semifinal victory, but the 3-1 decision over Switzerland gave them a chance for their fourth straight Olympic title. Canada defeated the Americans 3-2 when they met in group play earlier in these Games.

With six days of Olympic competition to go, the United States moved into a tie for first place with Russia in overall medals at 18.

The Americans not only came up with the ice dancing gold, but Steven Holcombe drove his two-man bobsled to a bronze medal. It was the first medal for a United States sled in the two-man event since the St. Moritz Olympics of 1948.

Former taxi driver Alexander Zubkov won the bobsled event for Russia and a Russian couple finished third in ice dancing.

Germany stayed out front in gold medals with eighth. The Germans victory in team ski jumping brought them their first gold in four days and yet they still have three more than any other nation.

Those with five golds include Russia, the Netherlands, the United States, Norway, Switzerland and, in one of the biggest surprises of the Olympics, Belarus.

Darya Domracheva is chiefly responsible for that since she is the only athlete at these Games to have won three gold medals. Her latest came in the 12.5-kilometer mass start biathlon race, which was held during the evening after the fog that had plagued the mountain events finally rolled away.

Belarus also came up with its second gold in freestyle skiing aerials when Anton Kushnir saved his best performance for last. He turned in by far the day's best score of 134.50 in the finals.

Canada has hopes of sweeping all four gold medals in the team events -- men's and women's hockey and men's and women's curling.

The curling semifinals were all but set after the final day of the round-robin tournament.

Canada will play China in the men's semifinals while Sweden will take on the winner of a tiebreak game between Norway and Britain that will be contested on Tuesday.

In the women's semifinals, Britain will face Canada and Sweden will take on Switzerland. The Canadian women finished unbeaten in the nine-game round-robin portion of the tournament while the Canadian men concluded that part of the Olympics on a seven-game winning streak.

Officials will try for the third day in a row Tuesday to conduct the men's biathlon mass start race. It was originally scheduled for Sunday night, but fog prevented that and the fog was still there when they tried to run the race on Monday morning.

Ole Einar Bjorndalen will make another attempt to win what would be an Olympic record 13th medal. France's Martin Fourcade will also try to win his third individual gold medal of the Olympics.

The playoff stage of men's hockey will also begin Tuesday, the schedule including Russia vs. Norway, Switzerland vs. Latvia, the Czech Republic vs. Slovakia and Slovenia vs. Austria. The winners will move on to the quarterfinals, where Sweden, the United States, Canada and Finland await.

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