SOCHI, February 23, (ITAR-TASS) - Snowboarder Vic Wild and men’s biathlon team brought Russia on Saturday two more Winter Olympics gold medals, while women’s speed skating team raced to the bronze in Sochi.
Following 15 days of the Olympics competitions in Sochi, Russia boasts a total of 29 medals (11 gold, 10 silver and 8 bronze medals) and tops the list of medals rankings. The Russian team has repeated its Winter Olympics record of 11 gold medals, set at the 1994 Winter Games in Norway’s Lillehammer, and the Soviet Union’s total medals record set at the 1988 Winter Games in Canada’s Calgary.
Following Wild’s earlier Sochi Olympics victory in parallel giant slalom, Russian fans were expecting the same from him in parallel slalom. Medals in parallel slalom were also expected from Russian female snowboarders Alena Zavarzina, who is Vic Wild’s wife, and from Ekaterina Tudegesheva. Expectations were partly justified as the Russian women’s team did not take any medals, but Vic Wild’s second gold medal was no less surprising than the first one. It is easier to show off your level of skills just once, than to repeat the success and Vic Wild proved that his victories in Sochi were not incidental. Racing in the semifinal against titled Austrian snowboarder Benjamin Karl, Wild made a mistake and was losing to the Austrian 72 seconds after the first run. However, he eliminated the time gap in the second run and qualified for the final. Such charge of Wild left no doubts about his performance in the final, where in both runs he outraced Slovenia’s Zan Kosir. Austria’s Karl won the bronze medal.
Russian snowboarders competing in the event, Andrei Sobolev and Stanislav Detkov, finished in the 27th and 28th places respectively, while Valery Kolegov was disqualified.
Reigning World Champion in parallel slalom Tudegesheva spoilt her day by poor performance in the qualifiers and she was also subjected to pressure from Austria’s Marion Kreiner in 1/8 final and eventually lost falling down in both runs. Zavarzina raced in the same stage of 1/8 final against eventual gold medal winner Julia Dujmovits of Austria, thus failing to take a medal this time. Russia’s Natalia Soboleva was knocked out from the competition in the same stage of 1/8 final. The final results of the Russian women snowboarders are: Zavarzina - 13th, Soboleva - 15th, Tudegesheva - 16th. Ekaterina Ilyukhina remained in the 29th place as she failed to clear the qualifiers stage.
The gold medal in men’s team relay biathlon is the first in the history of Russian biathlon and the first since 1988 Olympics in Calgary, where Russian biathletes competed for the Soviet Union. Saturday’s gold medal erased at once all memories about unsuccessful performance of Russian biathletes in Sochi. Both Russian women and men biathlon teams managed to prove by the end of the Games that they do exist and showed good results. The last firing range in men’s 4x7.5 km relay on Saturday turned to be a decisive one, when Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen went for a penalty lap after missing a shot and ceding the lead of his team to competitors. Eventually Russian biathlete Anton Shipulin outraced Germany’s Simon Schempp before the finish line to win the gold, while the bronze went to the team of Austrian biathletes.
Before Shipulin’s final run, his teammates Alexei Volkov, Yevgeny Ustyugov and Dmitry Malyshko each showed the third result. The Russian biathletes were not very good at firing ranges having used eight extra shots comparing to Germany’s two shots, but were better at the skiing course. Their skiing combined with massive support of Russian fans led to the success and 11th overall gold medal for the Russian Olympic team in Sochi.
The bronze won by Russian female speed skaters in team pursuit was another achievement for the national Olympic team on Saturday. Having lost in the semifinal race to Poland, Russia’s Yekaterina Lobysheva, Olga Graf, Yekaterina Shikhova and Yulia Skokova were faster than Japan’s speed skaters in the race for the bronze. The Dutch speed skaters outraced Poland in the final to win the gold.
Dutch athletes won a total of eight Sochi gold medals in speed skating. The most recent gold was taken by the Dutch in men’s team pursuit on Saturday, when the South Korean and Polish teams finished in the second and third places respectively. Having lost to South Korea on Friday in the quarterfinals race, the Russian team was ranked in the sixth place.
Norwegian cross country skiers swept the podium on Saturday in women’s 15 km mass start. As one third of the distance was covered, Marit Bjoergen, Therese Johaug and Kristin Stoermer Steira left other contenders far behind leaving them no hopes for medals. Bjoergen eventually outraced her teammates winning her overall sixth Olympic gold and her third in Sochi, where she already won in team sprint and skiathlon.
Russian cross country skiers, Natalia Zhukova, Irina Khazova, Yulia Ivanova and Yulia Chekaleva finished in the 15th, 29th, 30th and 32nd places respectively.
Austria’s 34-year-old alpine skier Mario Matt won Sochi gold on Saturday in men’s slalom having left behind his teammate Marcel Hirscher with silver medal and Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen with the bronze. Russia’s Alexander Khoroshilov and Pavel Trikhichev finished in the 14th and 34th places respectively, while their teammates Sergei Maitakov and Stepan Zuev did not finish the distance.
The Finnish ice hockey squad won the bronze on Saturday for the second time in a row and the team grabbed a total of five Olympic medals over the past 20 years. In the bronze medal game on Saturday, the Finnish team creamed 5-0 the American team, which earlier lost to Canada in the semifinal match. Two goals for the Finnish team were scored by 43-year-old Teemu Selanne. He first participated in the Winter Games in 1992 and this was his fourth Olympic medal.
The Olympic day was concluded by two heats in bobsleigh four-man and the best result was shown by Russian crew captained by Alexander Zubkov. However, the Latvian crew captained by Oskars Melbardis took the second place after the Russians with only 0.04 seconds behind. Zubkov’s crew showed an outstanding result in the first heat, but only the fourth result in the second heat.
Two more Russian bobsleigh crews led by Alexander Kasyanov and Nikita Zakharov are in the 6th and 15th places respectively after the two heats.