Rosa Khutor provided a spectacular backdrop for the 10 Alpine skiing events, which offered no shortage of thrills, and a number of Olympic firsts.
At 18 years and 345 days, Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) became the youngest ever woman to win an Alpine skiing gold. And 24 hours later, Mario Matt (AUT) became, at 34 years and 10 months, the oldest skier of either gender to win an Alpine event at the Winter Games. Earlier, 36-year-old Bode Miller became the oldest ever skier to feature on an Alpine podium at the Games, when he won bronze – his sixth Olympic medal in total – in the men’s super-G. Kjetil Jansrud took gold to ensure that with defending champion and favourite Aksel Lund Svindal failing to shine, the title stayed in Norway, while Anna Fenninger (AUT) clinched gold in the women’s event.
There were other firsts, too. Tina Maze (SLO) and Dominique Gisin (SUI) had made headlines by becoming the first Alpine skiers in history to share gold, having both clocked 1 minute 41.57 seconds in the women’s downhill. Maze then became the only Alpine skier to win two golds in Sochi, as she won the women’s giant. Maria Höfl-Riesch (GER) completed a successful defence of her super combined title, while in the men’s event Sandro Vileta (SUI) surprised all the favourites to take the gold. Matthias Mayer further contributed to a successful Alpine campaign for the Austrians, by landing the men’s downhill, while Ted Ligety (USA) showed just why he is the undisputed king of the giant slalom, adding Olympic gold to his world title.
In the men’s biathlon, Norway’s Ole Einar Bjørndalen signalled his intentions in the first event at the Laura Cross-Country Ski & Biathlon Centre, winning gold in the sprint. Ten days later he helped the Norwegian quartet take the first ever mixed relay title, and in doing so the 40-year-old – a fixture at the Games since Lillehammer 1994– became the most successful Winter Olympian of all time, taking his overall medal tally to 13. While Bjørndalen confirmed his status as the king of the biathlon, and indeed the Winter Games, the Belarusian Darya Domracheva laid strong claim to the woman’s crown, with three gold medals in the pursuit, 15km individual and mass start.
Back in the men’s events, there were golden doubles for Martin Fourcade (FRA), who won the 20km individual and the pursuit, before adding silver in the mass start, and for Emil Hegle Svendsen (NOR), who won the mass start, before helping Norway to victory in the mixed relay, alongside Bjørndalen, Tora Berger and Tiril Eckhoff.
Anastasiya Kuzmina (SVK) made it back-to-back Olympic titles in the women’s sprint, while there was an emotional gold medal for the Ukrainian women’s quartet (Valj and Vita Semerenko, Juliya Dzhyma, Olena Pidhrushna ) in the 4x6km relay. On the penultimate day of competition Russia’s men (Alexey Volkov, Anton Shipulin, Dmitry Malyshko, Evgeny Ustyugov) brought the curtain down on the biathlon programme, delighting local fans with a dramatic triumph in their 4x7.5km relay.
Russia’s flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony, Alexander Zubkov, also led from the front when he swapped ceremonial garb for lycra, as the focus at the Sanki Sliding Centre shifted to the bobsleigh. The 39-year-old became only the sixth athlete in history to complete an Olympic double in the discipline. First, he piloted the Russian two-man sled to gold with brakesman Alexey Voevoda, finishing ahead of Beat Hefti’s Switzerland-1 and Steven Holcombe’s USA-1. Then on the final day of competition in Sochi, the Russian duo teamed up with Alexey Negodaylo and Dmitry Trunenkov to capture the four-man title just 0.9 seconds ahead of Latvia-1, while reigning champions USA-1, again piloted by Holcombe, were relegated to another bronze.
The women’s two-man bob the competition was every bit as close, as Canada-1 pilot Kaillie Humphries became the first competitor to retain the Olympic title in the event. Riding with brakewoman Heather Moyes, Humphries had to withstand a nail-biting challenge from the USA-1 bob, manned by Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams, who last to race in the final run. The Canadians clung on to push the Americans into silver medal position by just one tenth of a second after four runs. That represented a notable achievement for Williams, who had previously won Olympic gold on the track with the US 4x100m relay team at London 2012, and thus became just the sixth athlete in history to finish on a podium at both Summer and Winter Games.
Cross country skiing
Just as at Vancouver 2010, Marit Bjørgen (NOR) was the dominant force in the women’s cross country events, adding another three gold medals to her collection. In between taking gold in the skiathlon and topping a Norwegian clean sweep in the 30km freestyle, she teamed up with Ingvild Fliugstad Østberg to win the team pursuit. Her return now stands at six golds and 10 medals overall from just three editions of the Games, making her the most successful female athlete in Olympic Winter Games history.
Meanwhile, in the men’s events Dario Cologna (SUI) proved himself the man to beat, taking gold in the skiathlon before completing a successful defence of his 15km title. When it came to the relays, Sweden were unstoppable, winning the women’s 4x5km (Anna Haag, Ida Ingemarsdotter, Charlotte Kalla, Emma Wiken) before adding the men’s 4x10km (Marcus Hellner, Lars Nelson, Johan Olsson, Daniel Richardsson).
There Norwegian neighbours showed yet again that when it comes to speed, they are hard to match, as Maiken Caspersen Falla took the women’s sprint title, and Ola Vigen Hatestad claimed gold in the men’s event. Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) once again showed herself to be a force to be reckoned with in the classical events, adding 10km gold to the 30km title she won in Vancouver. Finally, there was unbridled joy for the hosts on the last day of competition, as Russian athletes completed an impressive podium 1-2-3 in the men’s 50km mass start, courtesy of Alexander Legkov, Maxim Vyleghzhanin and Ilia Chenousov.
Canada won their third successive Olympic men's curling title with a powerhouse 9-3 victory over Great Britain in the final at Sochi’s Ice Cube, seeing off their opponents within just eight ends.
Canada, who have featured in every final since curling was re-introduced to the Olympic programme back in 1998, went into the gold medal match as firm favourites, having topped the rankings in the round robin stage.
Winning silver represented landmark moment for Great Britain’s men, who claimed their first curling medal since winning gold at the inaugural Olympic Winter Games at Chamonix 1924.
World champions Sweden took the bronze edging the third-place match against China 6-4 after an extra end.
Their men’s team victory completed an unprecedented curling double for Canada, coming just 24 hours after their female counterparts had taken gold. The Canadian women made history by winning every single one of their 11 matches at the tournament. In the gold medal match they saw off defending champions Sweden 6-3, to end the European team’s hopes of their third title in a row.
Meanwhile, Great Britain clinched the bronze, seeing off Switzerland 6-5 after a tense climax to become the youngest ever curling rink to win an Olympic medal.
The Iceberg Skating Palace was the scene of a Russian renaissance in the figure skating, with the hosts accounting for three out of the five gold medals on offer at Sochi 2014. They began by topping the podium in the first ever team figure skating event, which combined singles, pairs and ice dance, and threw the spotlight on a familiar face, Evgeny Plushenko, who was appearing at his fourth Olympic Games, and a new star, 15-year-old Julia Liptinskaia.
In the pairs Maxim Trankov and Tatiana Volosozhar edged gold ahead of their compatriots Fedor Klimov and Ksenia Stolbova, while another teenage sensation, Adelina Sotnikova, who had risen to prominence at the Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck two years earlier, dethroned the reigning champion Yuna Kim of the Republic of Korea. In the men’s competition, it was another teenager who rose to the fore, as Japan’s 19-year old Yuzuru Hanyu outperformed favourite Patrick Chan of Canada. Meanwhile, Chan’s compatriots Scott Moir and Tessa Virtue yielded their Olympic crown in the ice dance competition, losing out to US couple Meryl Davis and Charlie White in a reverse of the top two podium positions at Vancouver 2010.
Freestyle skiing enjoyed its most varied and vibrant Winter Games yet at Sochi 2014, with two new events added to the menu, as both men and women were given the chance to throw down their best moves in slopestyle and halfpipe at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
However, the freestyle programme kicked off with an established favourite, the moguls, where the women’s competition produced an emotional family one-two for Canadian sisters Justine and Chloé Dufour-Lapointe, who took gold and silver. In the men’s event, there was further joy for Canada, as Alexandre Bilodeau retained his title, and headed another podium 1-2, as compatriot Mikael Kingsbury took silver.
The debut events were dominated by American men and women. First Dara Howell and Joss Christensen took men’s and women’s gold in the slopestyle, and then Maddy Brown and David Wise repeated the trick in the halfpipe.
However, competitors from the ‘Old World’ showed they too know a thing or two about freestyle, as the French pulled off an unprecedented sweep of the podium in the men’s ski cross, headed up by Jean-Frédéric Chapuis. In the women’s event, there was another 1-2 for Canada, as Marielle Thompson and Kelsey Serwa occupied the top two ranks on the podium.
And there was a particularly emotional climax to the women’s aerials, where 34-year-old Alla Tsuper of Belarus, looking for a first medal at her fourth Games, opened her account with gold, relegating defending champion Lydia Lassila to bronze in a thrilling contest that saw the Australian become the first woman to pull off a quad-twisting triple somersault. In the men’s event, Tsuper’s compatriot Anton Kushner also ended his long quest for an Olympic title to complete a Belarusian double.
Canada’s men completed the defence of their Olympic ice hockey title, defeating Sweden 3-0 in the gold medal match at the Bolshoi Ice Dome. It was a record ninth gold for the Canadians, who also became the first team to win back-to-back Olympic titles since the Soviet Union at Calgary 1988.
Canada’s goals in the final came from Jonathan Toews, Chris Kunitz and captain Sidney Crosby – who had scored a dramatic overtime winner in the final against USA at Vancouver 2010. The Americans were once again dispatched in the semi-finals, as the Canadians won all six of their matches in Sochi.
In the bronze medal match, Finland routed USA 5-0 to claim their second bronze medal in as many Games and provide the record Olympic point scorer Teemu Selanne with a fitting swansong.
In taking gold, Canada’s men completed a famous double, after their female counterparts claimed their fourth straight title Olympic title, taking their unbeaten run at the Games to 20 games stretching back to Salt Lake City 2002. Just as in the group stage, the Canadians defeated the USA by a scoreline of 3-2 in the final, but this time it took a dramatic overtime winner from Marie-Philip Poulin to decide the destiny of the gold.
Switzerland claimed the bronze after overcoming a two-goal deficit against Sweden to win 4-3 thriller.
The Sanki Sliding Centre played host to an unprecedented grand slam for German athletes in the luge events, spearheaded by the seemingly indomitable Felix Loch.
The 24-year-old got the clean sweep rolling with a successful defence of his men’s singles title, in a competition that was also notable for a podium featuring two men almost twice his age. Russia’s 42-year-old Albert Demchenko, competing at his seventh edition of the Winter Games – an appearance record matched only by Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai – claimed the silver, while Italy’s Armin Zöggeler, 40, took bronze, to become the only athlete in Olympic history to win medals in six consecutive editions of the Winter Games (including golds in 2002 and 2006).
Natalie Geisenberger followed Loch’s lead in the women’s singles, topping the podium ahead of compatriot Tatjana Hüfner and Erin Halmin, who won the USA’s first ever medal in the luge. Next up Tobias Arlt and Tobias Wendl won gold in the men’s doubles to dethrone the Austrian Linger twins.
Then came the coup de grace, as all four athletes joined forces in the first ever mixed relay, and duly demonstrated that their collective powers were at least equal to the sum of their individual parts, by clinching a memorable gold to cap an exhilarating week of competition. There was a further silver lining for Demchenko, who was bidding farewell to the Olympic stage in front of a home crowd, as he led the Russian relay team to second.
World number one Eric Frenzel (GER) arrived in Sochi as hot favourite for the three Nordic combined events. And he lived up to his billing in the first event, winning in the individual normal hill event (Gundersen HS106 + 10km) in considerable style, ahead of Akito Watabe (JPN) and Magnus Krog (NOR).
However, it was young a Norwegian, Jörgen Graabak, who emerged as the surprise star of the Nordic combined programme at RusSki Gorki. First, he took gold in the individual large hill event (HS140 + 10km), ahead of his compatriot Magnus Moan and Germany’s Fabian Riessle – Norway’s first title in the discipline since Nagano 1998. And the 22-year-old was then drafted in as a last-minute substitute to team up with Moan, Haavard Klemesten and Krog for the HS140 + 4x5km relay, helping Norway win gold ahead of a German quartet spearheaded by Frenzel.
Victor An (RUS) was the undoubted star of the short track, winning three gold medals in the men’s 500m, 1,000m and 5,000m relay, along with a bronze in the 1,500m - a tally that made him the most successful male athlete of Sochi 2014. The 1,500m was won by Charles Hamelin (CAN), who had an otherwise subdued Games compared to Vancouver 2010, where he had triumphed in both 500m and relay.
In the women’s short track events at the Iceberg Skating Palace, 17-year-old Suk-Hee Shim (KOR), a gold medallist in the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck two years earlier, enjoyed an impressive senior Olympic debut, winning a medal of each colour: silver in the 1,500m (behind Yang Zhou of China), bronze in the 1,000m (which was won be her compatriot Seung-Hi Park) and then gold in the women’s 3,000m relay, racing alongside Ha-Ri Cho, Alang Kim and Seung-Hi Park.
That win represented a fifth relay gold for the Koreans in seven editions of the Winter Games. Meanwhile, Jianrou Li (CHN) took gold in the women’s 500m ahead of Arianna Fontana (ITA), who also won bronze medals in the 1,500m and as part of the Italian quartet in the 3,000m relay.
Alexander Tretiakov (RUS) delighted the host contingent at the Sanki Sliding Centre by winning Russia’s first ever gold in the men's skeleton, setting a new course record in the process. The Russian, who won bronze at Vancouver 2010, completed his four runs in 3 minutes 44.29 seconds, to consign the pre-competition favourite Martin Dukurs to a second successive silver, after the Latvian finished 0.81 seconds off the pace.
There was also a new track record in the women’s event, where the gold medal went to Team GB’s Lizzie Yarnold. The 25-year-old justified her billing as favourite, by dominating all four runs, and finishing with a 0.76 second advantage over second placed Noelle Pikus-Place of the USA and Russia’s Elena Nikitina. Yarnold’s win maintained Great Britain’s record of winning a medal in all six editions of the Winter Games at which skeleton has featured.
Poland’s Kamil Stoch emulated the achievements of Matti Nykänen (FIN) in 1988, and Simon Ammann (SUI) in 2002 and 2010, when he completed a fabulous ski jumping double on the normal and large hills at RusSki Gorki. The latter event was also marked by the incredible feats of Japanese ski jumper Noriaki Kasai, who at 41 was attempting to become the oldest gold medallist in history. He fell just 1.3 points short of that achievement, but his bronze medal did mean he set a different Olympic record, for the longest gap (20 years) between two Olympic medals, following on from the silver he won with Japan in the team competition at Lillehammer 1994!
There was another Japanese headline waiting to be written in the first ever women’s ski jumping competition, where the World Cup leader and 2012 Winter YOG champion Sara Takanashi – just 24 years Kasai’s junior - was hot favourite to take the gold. In the end there was heartbreak for the Japanese teenager as she finished in fourth place, but the competition itself did not disappoint, as Karina Voigt (GER) saw off the challenge of Daniela Iraschko-Stolz (AUT) and Coline Mattel (FRA) to top the inaugural women’s ski jump podium.
There was further success on the large hill for Germany in the team event, where Andreas Wank, Marinus Kraus, Andreas Wellinger and Severin Freund edged out reigning champions Austria into second place. And there was more joy for Kasai, too, as he spearheaded the Japanese team to bronze.
As in the freestyle skiing, snowboard gave an Olympic debut to two new events in Sochi, with slopestyle and parallel slalom, supplementing the existing events of snowboard cross, halfpipe and parallel giant slalom. Again, it was the US athletes who grabbed centre stage, with Sage Kotsenburg and Jamie Anderson prevailing in slopestyle, which was also notable for giving Team GB its first ever Olympic medal on snow, as Jenny Jones claimed bronze to join Anderson on the podium.
In the halfpipe, Kaitlyn Farrington continued the US golden streak in the women’s competition, before Switzerland’s Iouri Podlatchikov caused a sensation in the men’s, throwing down his trademark “YOLO flip” to dethrone two-time reigning champion Shaun White of the USA, who didn’t even make the podium. Heading higher up the slopes at Rosa Khutor, in the men’s and women’s snowboard cross there was joy for Pierre Vaultier (FRA) and Eva Samkova (CZE) respectively.
Meanwhile, there was a unique double for Russia’s Vic Wild, who took gold in both the parallel giant slalom and the inaugural parallel slalom, becoming the first snowboarder to top two podiums at the same Games. Wild’s cause for celebration was further compounded as his wife, Alena Zavarzina, took bronze in the women’s giant parallel slalom, which was won by Patrizia Kummer (SUI). There was a surprise in the women’s parallel slalom, where Julia Dujmovits of Austria, crept through the rounds, to clinch gold in a dramatic final just 0.12 seconds ahead of Germany’s Anke Karstens.
Dutch skaters turned Sochi’s Adler Arena orange, winning 23 out of 36 medals on offer – including eight golds - and featuring on every single podium. The Dutch also completed clean sweeps of the podium on four occasions: in the men’s 5,000m (Sven Kramer, Jan Blokhujsen, Jorrit Bergsma), 500m (Michel Mulder, Jan Smeekens, Ronald Mulder) and 10,000m (Bergsma, Kramer, Bob de Jong) and the women’s 1,500m (Jorien Ter Mors, Ireen Wüst, Lotte Van Beek). Elsewhere in the individual events, Stefan Groothuis won the men’s 1,000m.
The Dutch men’s and women’s pursuit teams both set new Olympic records on the way to gold. And the Games were a particular personal triumph for Wüst, whose five medals (including gold in the team pursuit and the 3,000m) were the most won by any athlete in Sochi, and also for Kramer, whose two golds and a silver took his overall Olympic medal tally to seven, making him the most successful Dutch male athlete in Winter Games history.
The Dutch didn’t have it all their own way. Zbigniew Brodka (POL) won the men’s 1,500m, Martina Sablikova (CZE) completed a successful defence of her 5,000m title, Sang-Hwa Lee (KOR) maintained her status as the queen of the 500m, while Hong Zhang (CHN) took the men’s 1,000m.