PLUSHENKO’S FINAL BOW
Evgeni Plushenko, the only modern-era figure skater to win medals in four Olympics, retired just after he withdrew from the men’s competition at the Sochi Games after falling on a triple axel and saying it felt “like a knife in my back.” The 31-year-old helped Russia win the team gold over the weekend, had won a gold in 2006 and got silvers in 2002 and 2010.
SWEEP IN SOCHI
Joss Christensen, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper swept the podium in men’s slopestyle skiing, putting on a spectacular show to breathe life into the lagging U.S. medal count. The sweep was only the third by the U.S. in Winter Olympic history, joining men’s figure skating in 1956 and men’s halfpipe snowboarding in 2002. All four U.S. golds in Sochi have come at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, and Thursday’s haul came 15 hours after Kaitlyn Farrington and Kelly Clark grabbed gold and bronze in women’s halfpipe snowboarding.
GERMANY’S SLIDE SHOW
Germany won the inaugural Olympic luge team relay, with three already-golden champions joining forces to celebrate one more time at the Sochi Games. Felix Loch, Natalie Geisenberger and the doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished their runs in 2 minutes, 45.649 seconds, good enough to beat Russia for the title by 1.030 seconds. Latvia won the bronze. It was the 31st luge gold medal for Germany.
An Olympic track worker was struck by a bobsled just before the start of training runs, injuring his legs and giving him a concussion. Games organizers said the unidentified man was taken by helicopter to a hospital. Officials said the crash took place just before the finish line, which would suggest that the sled likely had not yet started to brake.
The spring-like temperatures of 59 degrees (15 degrees C) that covered Sochi for a second straight day pose no threat to the Olympics, IOC President Thomas Bach said in an interview with The Associated Press. Games organizers have stored tons of snow from the previous winter, but Bach said there was no need to turn to the contingency plan yet.
SHORT TRACK CHAOS
China’s Li Jianrou stayed on her feet to get the gold when all of the other skaters fell in a wild final of the women’s short track 500 meters. Arianna Fontana of Italy recovered her footing to take the silver and Park Seung-hi of South Korea earned the bronze. Elise Christie of Britain, who caused the crash, was disqualified.
A FIRST FOR CHINA, A DOZEN FOR THE DUTCH
Zhang Hong gave China its first speedskating medal ever by winning the women’s 1,000, while the Neterlands picked up two more — a silver for Ireen Wust and a bronze for Margot Boer. The Dutch now have 12 speedskating medals in Sochi, just one away from tying the best Olympic performance ever on the big oval.
Martin Fourcade of France got his second biathlon gold medal of the Sochi Olympics, winning the men’s 20-kilometer individual race. He had won the 12.5K pursuit on Monday. He had also won silver in the mass start event in Vancouver.
GRIT AND GLORY
Justyna Kowalczyk, skiing with a fractured foot, won the gold medal in the women’s 10-kilometer classical-style cross-country race. Also in the race, Mathilde-Amivi Petitjean of Togo became that nation’s first competitor at the Winter Olympics, finishing 68th but saying: “It’s good for African countries that they see it’s possible to participate in the Winter Olympic Games.”
RUSSIA, U.S., CANADA WIN
Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin scored early to defeat Slovenia 5-2 in a closer-than-expected men’s hockey opener. The United States battered Slovakia for six consecutive goals in a 7-1 victory to prepare for its showdown Saturday with Russia. Canada shook off a sluggish start as the defending champions beat Norway 3-1.
Thanks to its success on the luge track, Germany has seven gold medals — the most of any country — and 10 overall. Norway has the most total medals, at 13, but only four of them are gold. The Netherlands and the United States each have 12 total medals, four of them gold. Host Russia has 11 total medals, two of them gold. And Canada has 10 overall and four gold.
Six gold medals are at stake, including in a men’s figure skating competition that is suddenly without Evgeni Plushenko, who withdrew and announced his retirement. Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu won the men’s short program and holds a nearly four-point lead over Patrick Chan of Canada heading into the free skate.