Russia crash out of ice hockey, Kim glides towards gold

In the mountains above Sochi, four-time world champion skier Ted Ligety won the men's giant slalom; Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen takes record 13th medal; and a married couple both get medals

RUSSIA DOWN AND OUT. Teemu Selanne (L) of Finland scores a goal against goalie Semyon Varlamov (R) of Russia in the quarter final match between Finland and Russia at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games, Sochi, Russia, 19 February 2014. Larry W. Smith/EPA

SOCHI, Russia – Russia crashed out of the Olympic ice hockey event to a chorus of jeers and recriminations Wednesday, February 19, while Kim Yu-Na swept majestically closer to a successful defense of her figure skating crown.

With many fans believing the Olympics begin and end with Russia’s vaunted hockey team, things looked good when the hosts took the lead in their quarter-final against Finland.

But a lackluster performance saw them slump to a 3-1 defeat, their second successive Olympic Games quarter-final exit.

Russian coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov knows the reaction from the Russian media and fans to another embarrassment will be swift and scathing.

“Well, eat me now. You’ll eat me and I’ll be gone,” said Bilyaletdinov.

Russia’s highest profile star Alex Ovechkin, one of the faces of the Sochi Games, moaned: “It sucks.”

Finland go on to face Sweden, 5-0 winners over Slovenia, in the semi-finals.

Defending champions Canada edged Latvia 2-1 and will face old rivals United States who reached the semi-finals with a 5-2 win over the Czech Republic.

South Korean superstar Kim Yuna opened up a fractional 0.28 lead on Russian teenager Adelina Sotnikova in the short program of the women’s figure skating.

Fifteen-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia had been expected to challenge Kim after helping Russia to the new team gold just over a week ago but instead she is struggling in fifth after a fall on a triple flip.

It was national champion Sotnikova, 17, who lifted Russian spirits with a rousing skate to “Carmen” which brought the 17,000-capacity crowd at Iceberg Skating Palace to their feet.

Kim, 23, had earlier scored 74.92 points for her skate to “Send In The Clowns” with Sotnikova just marginally behind with 74.64.

Italy’s Carolina Kostner is sitting third with 74.12 with less than a point separating the top three skaters.

‘My legs were trembling and shaking’

“I was really nervous, my legs started trembling and shaking,” said Kim, who opened with a triple lutz-triple toeloop combination and also included a triple flip and double axel.

“The jumps didn’t go well in the warm-up. I tried to remember the good practices I had. I just told myself: ‘believe in yourself’.”

Japanese star Mao Asada’s Olympic challenge is however over as the Vancouver silver medallist slumped to 16th leaving her facing mission impossible when the free skate takes place on Thursday, February 20.

In the mountains above Sochi, four-time world champion skier Ted Ligety won the men’s giant slalom.

The 29-year-old, who won combined gold at the 2006 Turin Games, did enough on his second ski to beat Frenchman Steve Missillier by nearly half a second in an overall time of 2min 45.29sec. French tyro Alexis Pinturault took bronze.

“This is the event I wanted the most,” Ligety said. “This is the event I have been putting so much pressure on myself to win, so to pull through is an awesome feeling.”

Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen finally sealed his reputation as the greatest Winter Olympian in history by taking a record 13th medal with gold in the mixed relay.

Bjoerndalen, 40, now holds the record outright for the most medals at Winter Games after overtaking his compatriot, the cross country ski legend Bjoern Daehlie, who won 12 medals.

Bjoerndalen has now also won eight gold medals at Winter Olympics, equalling Daehlie’s own record.

“It’s cool. It’s a big thing for me,” he said.

Russia’s Vic Wild captured the men’s snowboarding parallel giant slalom title just minutes after his wife Alena Zavarzina took bronze in the women’s event behind winner Patrizia Kummer of Switzerland.

Cross country skiing superstar Marit Bjoergen took Norway to victory in the women’s team sprint race, the fifth Olympic gold of her career, while Finland won the men’s race.

Czech speed skater Martina Sablikova defended her Olympic crown in the women’s 5,000m while Ireen Wust of the Netherlands took silver – her fourth medal of the Games. – Rappler.com

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