Sochi Winter Olympics: Biggest Surprises from Day 10
There was rain, there was fog.
But not even the quirky weather could keep everyone down on Day 10 of the Sochi Olympics, which still managed several surprises.
A 62-year medal drought ended for the United States in the two-man bobsled, but a 39-year-old upstart from Russia kept them from mining gold. Meanwhile, there were other surprises on a day when medals were distributed in only four other events. Two events—the men's biathlon 15-kilometer mass start and the men's snowboard cross—were postponed because of the dense fog that shrouded their venues.
Read on to see what other surprises Sochi had in store on Day 10 of these Winter Games.
Belarussian Grabs Another Biathlon Gold from Fading Favorite
Darya Domracheva of Belarus (pictured above) became the first athlete to not only win three gold medals in Sochi but the first woman to win three biathlon gold medals in the same Olympics.
The fact that she did so while Norway's Tora Berger disappeared again during Monday's 12.5-kilometer mass start was another stunner indeed.
Berger, the pre-Olympics favorite in virtually every women's biathlon event that Domracheva has won, fell and slid into the netting after crossing her skis just two minutes into the race. Berger later missed four shooting targets and finished 15th, continuing her disappointing Olympics.
Meanwhile, Domracheva continued to ski fast and shoot remarkably well, missing only one target while finishing the course in 35 minutes, 25.6 seconds to secure her historic gold medal.
Team USA Wins First Two-Man Bobsled Medal in 62 Years
It wasn't a gold medal, but you wouldn't have known it by the reaction of American bobsledders Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton (pictured above) after they secured a bronze in the two-man bobsled.
That's because it represented the first two-man bobsled medal of any kind for the U.S. in 62 years, dating back to the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.
For Holcomb, it marked the second consecutive Olympics that he has ended a 62-year bobsled drought for Team USA. He also was the driver for the USA-1 team that snapped a 62-year-old drought between gold medals in the four-man event at Vancouver in 2010.
"Overwhelming," Holcomb told The Associated Press via The Washington Times. "I guess 62's our number."
Three-Year Drought Ends in Gold-Medal Fashion
Russia's Alexander Zubkov (pictured above) hadn't driven to a victory in two-man bobsledding in three years—until he secured the gold medal in the event on Monday in Sochi.
And he did it by a wide margin.
Zubkov teamed with brakeman Alexey Voevoda to finish 0.66 seconds ahead of silver medalists Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann of Switzerland, with the American team of Steven Holcomb and Steven Langton taking the bronze.
For 39-year-old Zubkov, winning the gold comes as a major surprise. His last victory before Monday in a two-man competition came at the 2011 World Championships. He had gone 0-of-25 in events since then but led the Sochi competition from wire to wire, extending his lead over his closest competitors with each run.
U.S. Women's Curling Finishes Last
South Korea 11, Team USA 2.
That about sums up these Sochi Olympics for the U.S. women's curling team, which fell to South Korea on Monday to close out its tournament in last place for the second consecutive Winter Games.
Back-to-back horrendous Olympic performances are raising questions about whether the structure of how the American teams are funded, formed and trained is sufficient to keep them competitive in international circles, according to The Associated Press, via Fox Sports.
Current U.S. skip Erika Brown, for instance, is a 41-year-old mother of two and a physician's assistant who typically attempts to fit in her curling practice during her lunch breaks. Other teams, such as Great Britain, Russia and China, have elite teams that are funded well so they can train full time.
Anton Kushnir Breaks Up Chinese Party in Men's Aerials
The men's freestyle skiing aerials was supposed to produce an all-Chinese party on the medal podium.
Instead, Anton Kushnir of Belarus took the gold with a score of 134.50, which overtook the rest of the competition like an avalanche. David Morris of Australia was a surprise in scoring silver with a second-best total of 110.41, while the trio of Chinese contenders that were supposed to rake in all the medals were left with only the bronze scored by Jia Zongyang (95.06).
China's Qi Guangpu finished fourth, just one spot ahead of the surprising American Mac Bohonnon, while gold-medalist favorite Liu Zhongqing of China inexplicably faltered and finished last in the 21-man field.
Germany Edges Austria in Men's Team Ski Jump
In one of the most closely contested events involving judges in the Sochi Olympics, Germany edged Austria by a mere 2.6 points in men's team large-hill ski jumping.
The German foursome of Severin Freund, Marinus Kraus, Andreas Wank and Andreas Wellinger totaled 1041.1 points after two rounds of high-flying hijinks. That proved to be just enough to win the gold and relegate Austria's team of Thomas Diethart, Michael Hayboeck, Thomas Morgenstern and Gregor Schlierenzauer to the silver with its total of 1038.4.
Japan came away with the bronze, totaling 1024.9.
Back-to-Back World Records in Ice Dance
It wasn't surprising that U.S. figure skating pair Meryl Davis and Charlie White (pictured above) won the gold medal in ice dancing.
And it was expected that Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir would win silver.
But the predictable finish came in surprising fashion as first the Canadians and then the Americans set world records in their free skates.
Not 10 minutes after Virtue and Moir had thrown down the gauntlet with a world-record score of 114.66, shattering the record previously held by Davis and White, the American pair went out and did them nearly two points better. Their score of 116.63 is the best free-skate score in ice-dancing history.
It was not only historic in that regard but also in another: It gave the United States its first-ever Olympic gold medal in ice dancing.
Sochi Weather Strikes Again
The unexpected Sochi fog struck again.
It already had caused the men's 15-kilometer mass-start biathlon, which was originally scheduled to go off on Sunday, to be postponed until Monday. Then it had to be postponed again on Monday—this time until Tuesday.
Men's snowboard cross also had to be postponed from its original start time Monday to Tuesday, wiping out qualifying rounds. Instead, racers will be bracketed based on their world rankings.
"This fog, it's super dense up there," American Nate Holland told ESPN.com in reference to the snowboard-cross layout at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. "It's the Olympics. We want to have the best rider win and not have anything screwy."
Fog wasn't the only weather gremlin to screw up Sochi plans on Monday. During the women's 12-kilometer mass-start biathlon, several athletes slipped and fell because of difficult conditions brought on by a drizzle of freezing rain in the morning hours followed by fog in the afternoon, which softened a track that already had been weakened by mild weather last week, according to the AP (via NBC).