Russia claims gold, Mayer takes downhill

Veteran Yevgeny Plushenko and precocious Julia Lipnitskaia lifted Russia to its first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics while Austrian skier Matthias Mayer stormed to the blue riband men’s downhill title.

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Under the watchful eye of Russian President Vladimir Putin, 31-year-old Plushenko and slender 15-year-old sensation Lipnitskaia ensured a much welcome home triumph in team figure skating on Sunday.

Plushenko took the men’s free skate final and Lipnitskaia then sealed victory with a stunning performance to a standing ovation at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Plushenko scored 168.20 for the free skate to The Best of Plushenko with Canada’s Kevin Reynold achieving 167.92 and Japan’s Tatsuki Machida 165.85.

Lipnitskaia then outshone her more experienced teammate who won his first world medal before she was born.

To the music of Schindler’s List she skated sublimely to score a personal best 141.51 and to seal the title ahead of America’s Gracie Gold and Italy’s Valentina Marchei 112.51.

Earlier Sunday, Mayer, the 23-year-old Austrian, defied a host of headline acts to win the men’s downhill in 2min 06.23sec on the 3.5km-long course at Rosa Khutor, high above the Black Sea.

It was the first Austrian downhill gold since Fritz Strobl at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

“Of course it means a lot to me,” an emotional Mayer said. “It’s really difficult to go down the track without mistakes.”

Italian Christof Innerhofer took silver at just six-hundredths of a second behind while Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud claimed bronze a further 0.04sec adrift.

World downhill champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway was fourth while another strong favourite, Bode Miller of the US, was a disappointing eighth.

Russia had got on the medals table earlier when Olga Graf took bronze in the 3,000 metres women’s speed skating behind winner Ireen Wust of the Netherlands and silver medallist Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic, the defending champion.

Jamie Anderson gave the US a slopestyle snowboarding double following Sage Kotsenburg’s victory in the men’s competition.

Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi was second while Jenny Jones took third to give Britain its first ever Olympic medal on snow.

Defending champion Anastasiya Kuzmina of Slovakia became the first woman to win two Olympic titles in the same individual biathlon when she claimed the 7.5km sprint.

The Russian-born Kuzmina won in a time of 21min 06min 8sec to see off Russia’s Olga Vilukhina who was 19.9sec behind. Vita Semerenko of Ukraine took bronze, 21.7sec back from the champion.

Switzerland’s Dario Cologna took the men’s Nordic skiathlon, hanging on for the second Olympic gold of his career.

Cologna finished in 1hr 08min 15.4sec ahead of Marcus Hellner of Sweden, with Martin Johnsrud Sundby of Norway claiming bronze.

Poland’s World Cup leader Kamil Stoch won the ski jumping title on the normal hill with jumps of 105.5m and 103.5m for a total of 278 points.

Slovenia’s Peter Prevc was second and Norway’s Anders Bardal claimed bronze.

Switzerland’s Simon Ammann, 32, who came to Sochi as the reigning champion at both normal and large hills, which he won in 2002 at Salt Lake and in 2010 in Vancouver, failed to earn a record fifth Olympic gold, finishing in 17th.

Germany’s Felix Loch retained his luge singles title with the 24-year-old upsetting Russian Albert Demchenko’s hopes of becoming the oldest ever Winter Olympic individual champion at the age of 42.

Loch finished with a combined time of 3min 27.526sec after four runs.

Demchenko was 0.476sec behind with double Olympic champion Armin Zoeggeler of Italy third at 1.271sec.

Zoeggeler set a new Winter Olympics record with a sixth medal at consecutive Games

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