Day 15 of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi not only provided plenty of drama for those watching the total medal count but set up for an exciting end to the Olympics on Day 16 on Sunday.
Highlighted by a gold-medal effort from Vic Wild in the men's parallel slalom and a stunning upset in the men's 4x7.5-kilometer biathlon, Russia pulled ahead of the USA in the total medal count and will carry a one-medal advantage into the final day of action.
Norway also stormed the podium scene with a big day that included a clean sweep of the women's cross-country 30-kilometer freestyle.
With just a few events left to make an impact on the medal table, here's a look back at what happened on Day 15.
|Alpine Skiing||Men's Slalom||Mario Matt (AUT)||Marcel Hirscher (AUT)||Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR)|
|Biathlon||Men's 4x7.5-kilometer Relay||Russia||Germany||Austria|
|Cross-Country||Women's Mass Start||Marit Bjoergen (NOR)||Therese Johaug (NOR)||Kristin Stoermer Steira (NOR)|
|Ice Hockey||Men's Bronze Final||Finland 5, U.S. 0|
|Snowboarding||Men's Parallel Slalom||Vic Wild (RUS)||Zan Kosir (SLO)||Benjamin Karl (AUT)|
|Snowboarding||Women's Parallel Slalom||Julia Dujmovits (AUT)||Anke Karstens (GER)||Amelie Kober (GER)|
|Speedskating||Men's Team Pursuit||Netherlands||South Korea||Poland|
|Speedskating||Women's Team Pursuit||Netherlands||Poland||Russia|
USA Hockey Falls Short of Podium
USA hockey has seen its fair share of dramatic moments throughout these Winter Games. Its bronze-medal game against Finland was not one of them.
The Americans were shut out by Teemu Selanne and Finland 5-0, which means that the team will come home empty-handed. As ESPN Stats & Info points out, the loss will go down as one of the worst in American Olympic hockey:
5-0 loss to Finland ties U.S. men's hockey's largest shutout loss in Olympics history— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 22, 2014
The 43-year-old Selanne scored two goals as Finland dominated from start to finish.
Canada, who beat Team USA 1-0, and Sweden will play in the gold-medal game on Sunday.
Russia Scores Crucial Gold in Men's Biathlon 4x7.5-Kilometer Relay
One reason for Russia's ascension up the medal leaderboard was its stunning victory in the men's biathlon 4x7.5-kilometer relay.
Norway came in as the defending champion and the favorite to repeat but fell out of the medal picture when anchor Emil Hegle Svendsen was forced to ski a penalty lap. The detour created a three-team race to determine the medal order between Russia, Germany and Austria.
In the end, it came down to a one-on-one race between Russia's Anton Shipulin and Germany's Simon Schempp. As Schemp told The Associated Press (h/t ABC News), it was about as close a finish as you can have in biathlon:
It was a really tough last lap. I came very quick off the shooting range and was running at maximum speed for the first half but I got tired in the end. Anton made a gap of three, four meters, then I knew it was all over. But silver is a great result.
The victory turned out to be a huge one for the Games' hosting nation, as Shipulin rode the home-field advantage to the hard-fought gold.
Norway Sweeps the Podium in Women's Cross-Country 30-Kilometer Freestyle
Norway turned out to be one of Day 15's biggest winners as it surged to No. 3 in the medal count on the strength of a clean sweep in women's cross-country 30-kilometer freestyle.
Marit Bjoergen spearheaded the effort for the Norwegians. Once the trio of Bjoergen, Therese Johaug and Kristin Stoermer Steira created a comfortable lead from the rest of the pack, they were able to duke it out with one another, and it was Bjoergen who came out on top with a staggering time of 1 hour, 11 minutes, 5.2 seconds.
The amazing run capped off an incredible performance for Bjoergen at the 2014 Games. This gold medal is her 10th overall in her Olympic career and her third gold. Paired with the three gold medals that she brought to Sochi, she made a bit of history, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Norway's Marit Bjørgen is the 2nd woman ever to win 3 golds at 2 different Olympiads, joining Russia's Lyubov Yegorova (1992 and 1994)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 22, 2014
With a track record like that, she has cemented her legacy as a legend of the Winter Games.
Looking Ahead to Day 16
What the final day of the games lacks in quantity—there are only three events—it more than makes up for in quality.
Headlining the day's events in Sochi will be the gold-medal hockey final between Sweden and Canada. After both teams have impressed on their way to the big game, it figures to be an exciting culmination of the Olympics before the closing ceremony takes place.
While that game probably won't factor into which nation will walk away with the most impressive medal count, it's possible that the other two events on the docket will.
Norway will have the opportunity to strike yet again, as it will hope the men can match the women's dominance in cross-country skiing in the men's 50-kilometer freestyle.
Meanwhile, both the USA and Russia have strong teams for the four-man bobsled final. Through two runs, the Russians hold the lead over Latvia, Germany and USA, but the gap between the Americans and Russia is only .17 seconds.
Combined with the hockey and cross-country skiing finals, fans should be prepared for an action-packed final day.