Stars shined bright during Day 12 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
As the Winter Games reached closer to its conclusion, the world's top competitors proved why they are the best by piling up medals. While Ted Ligety cemented himself as one of the United States' premier performers, Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen stamped his legacy as the best Winter Olympian ever.
Meanwhile, the day doesn't count until the Netherlands wins some speedskating medals. Hey, at least someone else beat their top skaters out for the gold this time.
Here are the results and updated medal tally after a busy day of Olympic action.
|Alpine Skiing||Men's Giant Slalom||Ted Ligety (USA)||Steve Missillier (FRA)||Alexis Pinturault (FRA)|
|Biathlon||Mixed Relay||Norway||Czech Republic||Italy|
|Bobsleigh||Women's Heat||Kallie Humphries and Heather Moyse (CAN)||Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams (USA)||Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans (USA)|
|Cross-Country||Men's Team Sprint||Finland||Russia||Sweden|
|Cross-Country||Women's Team Sprint||Norway||Finland||Sweden|
|Snowboarding||Men's Parallel Giant Slalom||Vic Wild (RUS)||Nevin Galmarini (SUI)||Zan Kosir (SLO)|
|Snowboarding||Women's Parallel Giant Slalom||Patrizia Kummer (SUI)||Tomoka Takeuchi (JPN)||Alena Zavarzina (RUS)|
|Speedskating||Women's 5,000 meters||Martina Sablikova (CZE)||Ireen Wust (NED)||Carien Kleibeuker (NED)|
Ted Ligety Captures Gold
Ted Ligety stood tall on the podium for the first time in eight years.
The U.S. alpine skier finished first in the men's giant slalom with a time of 2 minutes, 45.29 seconds, placing him 0.48 of a second in front of France's Steve Missillier.
This is his first Olympic medal since winning the super combined at the 2006 Turin Games. ESPN's Paul Carr broke down the historic significance of Ligety's accomplishments:
Ted Ligety is 1st U.S. man to win gold in giant slalom; 2nd American & 1st U.S. man with 2 alpine skiing golds.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) February 19, 2014
After getting shut out from the podium four years ago, Ligety, now 29, realized he had to take more chances and play more aggressively to avoid another disappointing trip, as he told Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden:
I left a lot of speed on that hill in Vancouver by skiing a little too smart, in a way. And I had skied a lot of races that way in my career and had a lot of success. But what happened to me in Vancouver, it was really like flipping a switch. It made me realize I was going to have to do more, if I wanted to win more.
Entering Sochi as a top medal contender, he struggled mightily in his opening events, finishing 14th in the super-G and 12th in the combined. However, he weaved a completely different story on Wednesday.
One more skiing event remains in the slalom, which gives Ligety another chance to leave Sochi on a high note. Since that is not Bode Miller's strongest course, Ligety again represents the top U.S. hopeful to close off the alpine events.
Ole Einar Bjoerndalen Sets Winter Olympics Record
Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen broke an illustrious individual record with the help of his teammates.
Norway won the inaugural biathlon mixed relay, giving Bjoerndalen his record-setting 13th career Olympic medal as part of the four-person team. Sochi 2014's Twitter page captured the moment:
Finishing 32.6 seconds ahead of the Czech Republic, Norway boosted its medal count to 20, two of which the 40-year-old helped earn.
The biathlon legend inflicted most of his damage during the 2002 Games, winning four gold medals in Salt Lake City. In total, he now has eight gold medals to place on a crowded mantle.
With no more events on the slate, one has to wonder if the Norwegian star just concluded his Olympic career. He's already one of the older competitors and has little to prove after grabbing the Winter Olympics medal mark.
Then again, Mexican alpine skier Hubertus von Hohenlohe is competing at age 55, so let's not jump to conclusions just yet.
Netherlands Adds Two Speedskating Medals to Tally
In a disappointing finish, the Netherlands won only two medals in the speedskating women's 5,000-meter event.
The Dutch have swept the podium in four speedskating events, including the men's 10,000 meters on Tuesday. On Day 12, they had to settle for the silver and bronze, respectively earned by Ireen Wust and Carien Kleibeuker.
Despite the Dutch's dominance, their lack of gold should not come as a shock in this particular event. Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic won the 5,000 meters for the second straight time, earning a record time of 6 minutes, 51.54 seconds on this occasion.
Wust, who captured gold in the 3,000 meters and silver in the 1,000 and 1,500, collected her fourth Olympic medal from Sochi and seventh overall. She can add another to the count with the team pursuit serving as the final medal event.
It was Kleibeuker's first Olympic medal, but the 35-year-old still told the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com) that she could have done better.
It's unbelievable to win a medal here in front of my family. I've worked really, really hard for this. This wasn't my best race, and of course at the Olympic Games you hope to skate your best race, but luckily it was enough to win bronze.
That now gives the nation 21 speedskating medals, which is more than every country—except Russia and the U.S.—currently holds throughout every discipline.