Olympic Roundup: Bljorndalen gets his record

Feb. 19, 2014 at 3:28 PM
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SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- In the cauldron of the Olympics, the pressure bore down most of all Wednesday on Norway's Ole Einar Bjorndalen and the Russian hockey team.

Only one succeeded and the one that did not left the host country in a state of depression.

Midway through the concluding week of the Sochi Olympics, Bjorndalen ended the day with more medals than anyone else in the history of the Winter Games. He now has 13, thanks to a victory by the mixed relay biathlon team of which he was a member.

There will be no medal, however, for the Russian hockey players. And for a while Wednesday, there were concerns in the Canadian camp as well as their hockey team had its hands full with Latvia during a full day of quarterfinal action.

In the end, Canada advanced to a semifinal meeting with the United States and the Russians quietly went away in a 3-1 loss to Finland. There has been no gold for the Russian men's team since the breakup of the Soviet Union and no medal of any kind over the last three Olympics.

Bjorndalen won the 12th medal of his Olympic career early in these Olympics, tying him for the all-time mark with countryman Bjorn Daehlie. It seemed certain Bjorndalen would break the record at some point because he had five more events in which to compete.

His shooting turned sour, however, likely costing him at least two medals and probably three. His aim improved dramatically Wednesday in the team event and when he hit all five of his targets and gave way to teammate to teammate Emil Hegle Svendsen for the final leg, the victory in the inaugural biathlon mixed team relay was all but certain.

Bjorndalen's 13 medals have been earned over four Olympics with eight of the medals being gold. The only athlete with more medals in the Summer Games has been swimming superstar Michael Phelps, who in London two years ago ran his amazing total to 18 -- twice as many as any other person who has competed in the Summer Olympics.

Wednesday turned out to be family day at the Olympics with wins by a husband and wife as well as a brother and sister. American Ted Ligety also ended his Olympic frustration, the Dutch ran their speed skating medal total to 21 and Canadian Kaillie Humphries did something seldom seen at the Games. She brought her bobsled from behind in the final run to repeat as Olympic champion.

The hockey quarterfinals not only saw the dismissal of the Russians, they also included a major scare for Canada.

Canada's game against Latvia was getting deep into the third period and with things tied at 1-1 it would have taken only one odd bounce to send the defending champions packing.

Instead, Shea Weber wound up with a huge slap shot from just inside the blue line and scored with 6:54 remaining.

The United States had a much easier time of it in a 5-2 victory over the Czech Republic, a game that turned on a goal from David Backes with 2 seconds left in the opening period that gave the Americans a 3-1 lead. Sweden set up its semifinal meeting with Finland by defeating Slovenia 5-0.

Both the men's and women's snowboarding parallel giant slalom events were held under the sunny skies that returned to the Olympics and a pair of Russians featured in the medals. One of the Russians, however, was an American until three years ago.

Vic Wild, born in Washington state, became a Russian citizen when he married Alena Zavarzina. They met while both were competing on their snowboards and their romance turned into a dual medal performance Wednesday. Wild won gold in the men's parallel giant slalom event and Zavarzina was the bronze medalist in her competition.

The cross-country team sprint races, meanwhile, saw the Niskanen family celebrating twice.

Iivo Niskanen teamed with Sami Jauhojaervi to bring Finland gold in the men's race. Kerttu Niskanen picked up a silver along with Aino-Kaisa Saarinen when it came time for them to ski.

Ligety won the giant slalom event early in the day, turning in such a fast time in his opening run that all he had to do was avoid a major mistake in the second. That was what he did, skiing safely to finish in front of two Frenchmen for the second gold medal of his Olympic career. The second one came eight years after the first, although Ligety feels there should have been quite a few in between.

The United States also won silver and bronze in the two-woman bobsled, but American driver Elana Meyers was disappointed with her second-place finish. She had a lead of 0.11 of a second going into the fourth and final run, but an outstanding effort by Humphries allowed the Canadian sled to finish 0.10 of a second in front.

The three medals won by the United States Wednesday gave the Americans 23 with four days of competition remaining. That leads the overall medals race by one over both Russia and the Netherlands, which had to settle for silver and bronze in the final individual speed skating race of the Olympics. All but one of the 22 Dutch medals have come in speed skating, setting a Winter Olympics record for most medals won in one sport by one country.

Norway had victories Wednesday in the women's cross-country team sprint and the biathlon mixed relay in which Bjorndalen set his record. The Norwegians have nine golds, moving them one ahead of Germany and two ahead of the United States.

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