The 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, are beginning to wind down, but Day 13 was perhaps the best to date thanks to stellar performances from some of the biggest names in attendance.
France was the biggest winner of the day, with a clean sweep in the men's ski cross, but outside of a Nordic combined medal from Norway, not much changed at the top of the standings by the day's conclusion:
For the most part, the podium spots were evenly distributed between countries:
|Curling||Women's Finals||Canada||Sweden||Great Britain|
|Figure Skating||Ladies Free Skating||Adelina Sotnikova (RUS)||Yuna Kim (KOR)||Carolina Kostner (ITA)|
|Freestyle Skiing||Men's Ski Cross Finals||Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA)||Arnaud Bovolenta (FRA)||Jonathan Midol (FRA)|
|Freestyle Skiing||Ladies' Ski Halfpipe Final||Maddie Bowman (USA)||Marie Martinod (FRA)||Avana Onozuka (JPN)|
|Ice Hockey||Women's Finals||Canada||USA||Switzerland|
|Nordic Combined||Team Gundersen LH / 4x5 km, Cross-Country||Norway||Germany||Austria|
France Dominates Ski Cross
Anything but the expected happened in the men's ski cross final on Thursday.
Victor Oehling Norberg of Sweden, the No. 1 skier in the World Cup, failed to make it past the quarterfinals. The same was true of the two men behind him, David Duncan of Canada and Andreas Matt of Austria.
In the wake of disappointing showings, France rose above the rest of the field to sweep the podium. Jean Frederic Chapuis crossed the finish line first but was closely followed by silver medalist Arnaud Bovolenta and bronze medalist Jonathan Midol.
Afterward, Midol spoke about the stellar finish for his friends and his country, according to the Associated Press, via Fox Sports.com. "Two good friends. I can't explain how it feels," Midol said. "We had a dream to make the podium with friends. The Olympic Games, three French on the podium is incredible."
The victory marked an epic end to the men's portion of freestyle skiing in Sochi. France had not swept a podium since the 1924 Summer Games in Paris. All that remains in the discipline at the 2014 Games is the ladies' ski cross event.
Norway Rules Nordic Combined
There was a lack of surprises in the team Gundersen large hill 4x5-kilometer round of the Nordic combined on Day 13.
At the end of the day, Norway came out ahead after the jump and race portions with a total time of 47 minutes, 13.5 seconds, which led to quite the celebration, as captured by Joe Fleming of USA Today:
Joergen Graabak put together an epic final 100 meters to cap off the impressive comeback for his country, which was a distant third, behind Germany and Austria, after the ski jump portion of the event.
The comeback saw Norway win gold by just 0.3 seconds, while Germany grabbed the silver. Austria failed to defend its gold medal from Vancouver and finished 3.4 seconds out of the lead, settling for bronze.
It caps off quite the showing at the Games for Graabak, who also won gold in the long hill 10-kilometer event on Tuesday. While that was a great performance, Graabak told Douglas Gelevan of CBC that the team medal is more important:
That will do it for the Nordic combined in Sochi, which saw Norway claim four of the nine possible medals in one of the Games' stronger showings by a country in a given discipline.
Top Curling Stars Shine on Podium Path
Curling's biggest names rose above the rest in the medal round on the women's side in Sochi.
In the bronze-medal showdown between Great Britain and Switzerland, it was the former's Eve Muirhead who stepped up to the plate with one stone left in the competition and the medal on the line.
Muirhead delivered a perfect shot to win 6-5, gave a bronze to Britain in the process and topped it all off with a touching interview after the fact, as captured by James Toney of Sportsbeat:
Eve Muirhead to media after bronze medal curling victory - "to win with four of my best friends feels so special." pic.twitter.com/R2AQcKTkwv— James Toney (@jtoneysbeat) February 20, 2014
But the top performance of the day went to 39-year-old Canadian phenom Jennifer Jones. The skip led her country to a pristine 11-of-11 mark in matches in Sochi, a perfect showing that had never been achieved before.
Jones and Canada were able to capitalize on mistakes by Sweden in the gold-medal final to finish atop the podium after a 6-3 outcome. Richard Lautens of The Toronto Sun captured the moment Jones realized gold was a reality for her rink:
Canadian skip Jennifer Jones jumps for joy as she realizes she has thrown a gold medal stone. pic.twitter.com/CL28wCVkfi— Richard Lautens (@rlautens) February 20, 2014
On a day that featured plenty of noteworthy highlights and performances, Muirhead and Jones stand out thanks to some clutch skills on the biggest stage of all.