The 2014 Olympics continued on Thursday, and the competition and intensity continue to grow in Sochi. Following the action on Day 6, we saw six different events reach their conclusions and medals awarded to top performers.
The overall medal standings shifted once again, as the top six countries are within three total medals of each other:
From a dramatic finish to the ladies' 1,000-meter speedskating event to plenty of action-packed ice hockey matches, Thursday was easily one of the most exciting days that we have witnessed so far in Sochi.
Let's take a closer look at all of the action that transpired during Day 6 of the Olympic Games, highlight the top performances and chart all of the medal winners from each event.
Biathlon: Men's Individual 20-Kilometer
France's Martin Fourcade has been on fire this year in Sochi. After earning the gold medal in the men's 12.5-kilometer pursuit on Day 3 of the Olympic Games, he was back at it again on Thursday.
Fourcade put together an astonishing performance, finishing the 20-kilometer event with a time of 49 minutes, 31.7 seconds, earning yet another gold medal. His dominating performance bested the field by a full 12.2 seconds.
After missing one target during the event, Fourcade remained confident, as he explained to the Los Angeles Times, "It was a tough race. I knew I could still win despite that mistake. It was a tight victory."
Fourcade was followed by the steady-shooting Erik Lesser of Germany, who took home the silver medal, and bronze medalist Evgeniy Garanichev of Russia.
Cross-Country Skiing: Ladies' 10-Kilometer Classic
This event featured a brilliant performance from Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland. She set a fantastic pace, constantly pushing herself through the treacherous course. Without ever letting up, she finished the track with a time of 28 minutes, 17.8 seconds—outdoing the field by over 18 seconds.
Per The Associated Press via The Denver Post, she explained that she was a little worse for the wear during the event, "It's something big for me because I broke my foot two weeks ago. I was fighting with myself with this injury."
Justyna Kowalczyk running with broken foot wins Olimpic Gold Medal for Poland in 10km Classic!!! What a HERO!!!— Marcin Horecki (@MarcinHorecki) February 13, 2014
In the same article, Charlotte Kalla, who earned her second silver medal in this year's Olympics spoke of the tough conditions on Thursday:
It's incredible. I didn't think I could get a medal at 10 kilometers because it was so tough, but it was tough for everyone. You have to fight for every meter (in the soft snow). You don't have the high speed on the downhills, as we had at the beginning of the championships.
The bronze medal was awarded to Therese Johaug of Norway, who posted a time of 28:46.1, finishing just 10 seconds behind Kalla.
Round-Robin Session 6
|Great Britain||5-3||United States|
Three of the four contests from Session 6 contained dramatic conclusions.
Which team was most impressive in Session 6?
The most thrilling matchup featured Russia against Switzerland. The score was all knotted up at three stones a piece through the sixth end. However, the Swiss were able to pull off three more points over the next two ends. After Russia managed one stone in the ninth, the match went into the final end with the Swiss leading 6-4.
Russia's skip Andrey Drozdov was brilliant in the 10th end, as he managed to come away with an improbable three stones while holding the hammer to earn a 7-6 victory.
Canada pulled off an impressive final-end win against Denmark, and Sweden continued to impress, beating Norway 5-4.
The United States continues to disappoint, losing once again. This time they were defeated at the hands of Great Britain by a score of 5-3, conceding the match after the ninth end.
Round-Robin Session 5
Of the three Session 5 matches that took place on Thursday, none was more exciting than Sweden against Switzerland. A plethora of points were scored during this contest, as each team's skip was on point.
After piling on the points, the match entered the final end with a score of 8-8. However, Sweden was holding the hammer and used it with precision. After a masterful shot, the Swedes scored one final stone to edge the Swiss and come out on top.
Canada continued its impressive run beating Denmark by a score of 8-5 after nine ends. Great Britain was able to come away with a win, scoring one stone in the final end to beat China, who was holding the hammer.
Round-Robin Session 6
Women's round-robin Session 6 featured four contests and a fine showing by the United States.
After losing their first four matches, Team USA was finally able to pull it together. Scoring at least one point in all but four ends, the precise shooting of skip Erika Brown propelled the United States to its first women's curling victory by a score of 8-6.
Sweden continued its dominance, coming from behind over the last two ends to beat Denmark by a score of 7-6. Russia continues to struggle, as the team lost to South Korea by a score of 8-4. Canada had an impressive showing against the Swiss winning the match 8-5 in nine ends.
Figure Skating: Men's Short Program
Full event results can be viewed on Sochi2014.com.
The men's short program went as expected. Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu continues to dazzle the audience and judges alike with his great lines and flawless spins. His score of 101.45 blew away the rest of the field, making him the skater to beat in the free program.
Canada's Patrick Chan put on a delightful show, as the 23-year-old phenom produced a virtually flawless performance and was awarded with a score of 97.52. Both Hanyu and Chan appear to be in a league of their own in the men's competition.
American Jason Brown delivered a fine performance and finished with a score of 86.00, effectively putting him in sixth place and in medal contention for the event.
The 19-year-old skater explained how precise his routine must be since he does not attempt a quad, according to an interview with Gary Mihoces of USA Today, "The quad is usually a point-getter, of course. Because I don't do one, I have to do everything else well and get as many points as possible with the elements I do."
He will certainly have to be flawless during the free program if he intends to reach the podium.
Teammate Jeremy Abbott did not have quite so much luck:
One devastating happening during the event was the unfortunate withdrawal from Russian skating powerhouse Evgeni Plushenko. During warmups, he landed awkwardly after attempting a jump, only to skate over to the judges to announce that he would withdraw from the competition.
During an interview with Jon Schuppe of NBC Bay Area afterward, Plushenko simply said, "This is end of my career but I try to make best, you know."
An unfortunate ending to an illustrious career.
Freestyle Skiing: Men's Slopestyle
|Gold||Joss Christensen||United States||95.80|
|Silver||Gus Kenworthy||United States||93.60|
|Bronze||Nicholas Goepper||United States||92.40|
The United States put on an impressive showing in the men's slopestyle. Sweeping the podium for just the third time in Team USA's Olympic history, the Americans dominated the field with ease.
Joss Christensen, the gold-medal winner, was on point throughout the duration of the event. His first run awarded him a 95.80 score—one that no other competitor could beat. His second run was more of a victory lap, but he still impressed with a score of 93.80.
After the event, he spoke with Alyssa Roenigk of ESPN.com about who he was skiing for on Thursday:
I hope I made my father proud today. He's been supporting me from day one through all the injuries, which I know scare parents a lot. He always supported me and he never said 'stop.' I wish he was here. But I hope he's looking down and smiling. I hope I made him proud. I did it for him.
Following up Christensen's performance were teammates Gus Kenworthy and Nicholas Goepper, who earned the silver and bronze medals, respectively. The American sweep of this event was certainly one of the most memorable moments from Day 6.
Ice Hockey: Women's Group B
|Team||Played||Wins||Losses||Goals For||Goals Against||Points|
Germany 4-0 Japan
This matchup featured two teams at the bottom of the standings. Neither Germany nor Japan has been able to gain any consistency against the tournament's stronger competitors. Germany was able to notch its first win against a lackluster Japanese group after coming out ahead by a score of 4-0.
Germany's offense remained in control of the game with precise shooting. Even though the team only managed 25 shots on goal, they were able to find the back of the net four times. Goaltending was beneficial to the team as well, as goalie Viona Harrer saved all of Japan's 30 shots.
Russia 3-1 Sweden
Russia remained unbeaten in the tournament, winning its third consecutive match. They got out in front early, scoring quickly in the first period and didn't look back. Two more goals in the second period sealed the match for the home country, as Sweden was able to find the back of the net once in the third period, but to no avail.
Ice Hockey: Men's Group A
|Team||Played||Wins||Losses||Goals For||Goals Against||Points|
Russia 5-2 Slovenia
Russia showed its dominance early in the tournament, as Alexander Ovechkin and Yevgeni Malkin each scored a goal within the first four minutes of the match. Slovenia briefly made it a game, as Ziga Jeglic scored to bring his team within one goal.
However, Russia and its band of superstars poured it on with three more goals to finish out the game with a score of 5-2. This win was expected and Russia continues to be one of the stronger teams in the 2014 Olympics.
United States 7-1 Slovakia
Is the United States the team to beat?
The final score of this game does not reflect the way that the match began. Even though the United States drew first blood in the first period, Slovakia came right back scoring the equalizer in the second period.
After that, however, it was all Team USA. Scoring six goals in the second period, the United States reminded each of the other countries why they are one of the teams to watch out for during this tournament.
During an interview with CBS News after the game, captain Zach Parise expressed his delight with the team's performance:
I guess you never really expect to beat a team like that 7-1, and you never do it in a tournament like this. We just capitalized on the chances we had, moved the puck well and used our speed.
After these matches from Group A, the buildup for the United States' matchup against Russia became even more highly anticipated.
Ice Hockey: Men's Group B
|Team||Played||Wins||Losses||Goals For||Goals Against||Points|
Finland 8-4 Austria
Finland's offense really turned it on against Austria, as six different players managed to combine for eight goals on Thursday. This team is jam-packed with talent on offense, and it showed in their opening match.
However, Finland does need to be slightly concerned about its goaltending. Austria managed to score four against the Finns, and they do not have the strongest of offenses. Finland may not be able to come out on top against teams with better goaltending.
Canada 3-1 Norway
The Canadians boast one of the most dynamic teams in the 2014 Olympics. In the beginning of the second period, Canada was able to find the back of the net twice against Norway. With stout goaltending, those two scores were all that Canada needed to come out on top.
Norway did pull within one goal in the third period, but Drew Doughty of Canada answered right back and put the game away for good. Canadian goaltender Carey Price was phenomenal, recording 19 saves over the course of the match.
Doughty told Larry Lage of The Sacramento Bee about his thoughts on his team's performance, "Kind of a bad first period, we knew we weren't going to be perfect. But the most important thing is we got better as each period went on and that's what we were looking for."
Luge: Team Relay Competition
Germany completed its gold-medal sweep of all luge events in the 2014 Olympics with the victory in the team relay competition on Thursday. This was the debut of the event in the Winter Games, and it did not disappoint.
The Germans ran a virtually flawless relay recording all sub-56 second runs. Led by Natalie Geisenberger, who recorded a run of 54.095 seconds, Germany came away with an impressive team time of 2 minutes, 45.649 seconds. That was good enough to beat the rest of the field by a full 1.030 seconds.
Russia took the silver medal and Latvia earned the bronze, rounding out the podium.
Team USA finished in a disappointing sixth place, and Erin Hamlin—who earned a bronze-medal finish in the singles event—expressed her love for this event during an interview with Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, "Getting this event in the Games is great for luge in general. The fans are really into it. I really like the team atmosphere. It's really fun to celebrate together."
|Bronze||Seung-Hi Park||South Korea||54.207|
This was arguably the most controversial event of the day. Elise Christie of Great Britain was penalized after trying to move into better position around a turn. She made a wrong move and caused a three-skater crash which shook up the final results.
Even though Christie finished second, the penalty resulted in a fourth-place finish rather than a silver medal.
Involved in the crash was event favorite Kexin Fan of China. She was not able to move on to the final race after colliding with Christie earlier in the competition.
It's not as though Li was not deserving of the gold medal. After all, she is a world-class skater and one of the best in the Olympic Games. One simply cannot help but wonder what may have been had the collision never happened.
Men's 1,000-Meter Heats
American J.R. Celski was on display in this event. The 1,000-meter discipline brings with it a great chance for the United States to earn a medal via the legs of Celski.
After a disappointing fourth-place finish in the 1,500-meter event, Celski will look for redemption here. Once Celski missed out on the podium during his first event, he explained his dissatisfaction during an interview with Philip Hersh of The Seattle Times:
I came out to win gold. Anything below that is tough. It was hard to recover the speed I lost. It's about timing in short track. If I was in front, that probably wouldn't have happened. I got a little unlucky. But last time I benefitted and won the bronze because of some falls. Sometimes you're on the good side of it, sometimes the bad.
Celski qualified with a time of 1 minute, 25.428 seconds—a decent time, but certainly not at the top of the class. Canada's Charle Cournoyer looks to be the competitor to beat, posting the fastest time of 1:24.787. The only other skater to post a sub-1:25 time was Dajing Wu of China with a 1:24.950.
A complete list of qualifying times can be found on Sochi2014.com.
Men's 5,000-Meter Relay Semifinals
It should come as no surprise that the Netherlands are leading the pack in this event heading into the finals. The Dutch have been spectacular both on the short track and long track during the 2014 Olympics. They continued to impress during the relay on Thursday.
With a time of 6 minutes, 45.385 seconds, they blew away the competition. The closest team to the dominant Netherlands was Kazakhstan, posting a time of 6:47.152. South Korea rounded out the top three, and the United States is still in the running, currently sitting in fourth position.
Why is the United States still in the running? Well, that is due to a crash that took place with only four laps to go in Thursday's competition. Members from South Korea and the United States collided, forcing the teams to scramble to finish in third place and fourth place, respectively.
Upon further review, the United States were awarded a spot in the finals due to the incident.
Update: An early crash knocks #TeamCanada out of medal contention in men's 5000m relay.— CDN Olympic Team (@CDNOlympicTeam) February 13, 2014
During an interview with Jared S. Hopkins of the Los Angeles Times, United States skaters weighed in on the controversy.
Said Eduardo Alvarez, "That was the race to get through. Now we've just got to let the tiger out of his cage."
Celski added, "The moments between the fall and the call, there was a lot of doubt and just disbelief that we didn't make it into the final."
Finally, Jordan Malone spoke, "The guys who won the relay the last 12 years are not in it. That's huge. We have to just make sure we're calm, cool, collected and prepared."
This happening will certainly make the finals all the more exciting.
Skeleton: Women's Heats 1 and 2
The skeleton continues to be one of the most adrenaline-filled events in the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. The high-octane, head-first plunges down an icy track is certainly a sight to behold. The women did not disappoint on Thursday, as more intense runs took place.
Elizabeth Yarnold of Great Britain had two solid runs on the day, recording a total time of 1 minute, 56.89 seconds. Right behind her is American Noelle Pikus-Pace, who posted a total time of 1:57.33—just .44 seconds shy of Yarnold.
Elena Nikitina of Russia rounds out the top three and American Katie Uhlaender sits in fourth.
Pikus-Pace spoke of her desire to share the podium with her teammate during an interview with Chris Estrada of NBC OlympicTalk, "That would be a dream come true if Katie and I could both be up on that podium together, to have two U.S. flags flying and waving in the wind. That would be absolutely incredible."
It was a tough day for Canada's Sarah Reid, who is one of the event's favorites. She had some hiccups along the way and finished with a total time of 1:58.31 which puts her 1.42 seconds off the pace.
Complete results of the first two heats of the women's skeleton can be found on Sochi2014.com.
Speedskating: Ladies' 1,000-Meter
This event was full of action, as the athletes who took the podium were only separated by a time of less than a second. China's Hong Zhang posted a blazing time of 1 minute, 14.02 seconds, besting the Netherlands duo of ladies' 3,000-meter gold-medal winner Ireen Wust and teammate Margot Boer.
All three of these women finished with times under 1:15—the only three to do so in the event, which makes their podium appearances well deserved.
Unfortunately, it was not a good day for the Americans, as Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe finished in seventh and eighth positions, respectively.
During an interview with Kevin Tresolini of USA Today (h/t Democrat and Chronicle), Bowe expressed her disappointment with her performance:
I was pretty disappointed but I have to take it all into perspective and the three girls on the podium deserved it. Unfortunately we have not had the results we would have wanted but it is hard to pinpoint one or two reasons.
This seems to be an ongoing trend in speedskating this year. The Netherlands continues to dominate while the United States continues to falter.