Ukraine win gold, Canada beat US in hockey
By John Weaver, AFP Sunday, February 23, 2014, 12:06 am TWN
SOCHI, Russia--Ukrainian athletes won an emotional first gold of the Sochi Games for their violence-wracked nation on Friday as defending champions Canada saw off the United States in a tight ice hockey semifinal.
Ukraine's victorious women's biathlon team dedicated their triumph to a nation grieving over violence that has claimed dozens of lives.
The president of Ukraine's Olympic Committee, former pole vault great Sergey Bubka, said the gold medal could help unite his country and bring peace after days of clashes between security forces and protesters.
The team led from the start in the 4x6 km relay race, finishing in 1hr 10 minutes 2.5 seconds, defeating second-place Russia by 26.4 seconds. Norway took the bronze.
"We are proud of them. We supported from the stands with our ribbons of grief and our flags on which were written, 'For Peace! For Ukraine!'" said Bubka.
"We dedicate this victory to all the Ukrainian people. I believe that in this hard time for the country this medal can unite us and make peace, calm and prosperity reign in Ukraine," he added.
US Desperate to Avenge Defeat
In the crunch ice hockey semifinal at the Bolshoi Ice Dome, the U.S. was desperate to avenge their painful defeat at the hands of the Canadians in the final four years ago in Vancouver.
But a single goal was enough for Canada to advance to Sunday's title clash with Sweden, who earlier beat Finland 2-1.
Jamie Benn scored early in the second period and Carey Price stopped 31 shots for Canada, who are trying to win their first gold medal outside North America since 1952 in Oslo.
Under the floodlights on the mountains at Rosa Khutor, American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin showed nerves of steel to add Olympic slalom gold to her world title.
The 18-year-old, in pole position after the first run, clocked a combined total of 1min 44.54sec over two runs to finish 0.53sec ahead of Marlies Schild of Austria, who won her fourth Olympic medal over three different Games.
Another Austrian, Katrin Zettel, claimed bronze at 0.81sec, denying fourth-placed German Maria Hoefl-Riesch another podium finish in her Olympic swansong.
'A dream of mine'
"This has been a dream of mine for a very long time," said Shiffrin, who at the age of 18 years and 345 days became the youngest Olympic slalom champion.
"I'm so happy to be in this position, and I couldn't be happier than to be on the podium with Marlies and Kathrin."
Earlier, Russian coaches hit back at suggestions that figure skating judges had favored Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova.
The young Russian on Thursday dethroned South Korea's Vancouver 2010 champion Kim Yu-na on a night of drama and controversy at the Iceberg Skating Palace, with the 5.48-point gap between the pair raising eyebrows.
On Friday, Sotnikova's choreographer Pyotr Chernyshov insisted the 17-year-old — winner of Russia's first ever women's individual figure skating gold — was a worthy champion.
"We were following the rules that the modern game was offering and we won this game," the former Russian-American ice dancer told a packed press conference.
"You have to be an expert in figure skating to know the rules now. When you ask a professional figure skater there is no doubt who won on the night."
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