Zagitova, 15, smashes skate record

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Russia’s Alina Zagitova competes in the women’s single skating short program of the figure skating event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games Wednesday. — AFP

PYEONGCHANG — The 15-year-old Alina Zagitova stole the show in figure skating Wednesday as American skier Lindsey Vonn took bronze in her final Olympic downhill and Norway’s Marit Bjoergen became the most successful athlete in Winter Games history.

Zagitova was breathtaking in the Russian-dominated short program, breaking the world record set just minutes earlier by her teammate, 18-year-old Evgenia Medvedeva.

It put the Russian starlets top of the standings ahead of Friday’s free skate, where Zagitova will attempt to become the youngest women’s singles figure skating champion since Tara Lipinski in 1998.

They also look set to win the first gold of the Games for the Olympic Athletes from Russia, who are competing as neutrals after Russia’s national team was banned over a major doping scandal.

“We are friends, we are young girls, we can talk about anything with each other,” said Medvedeva, who like Zagitova is making her Olympic debut.

“But on the ice, we must fight, I feel like it’s a little war, when you skate you are alone,” added the double world champion.

America’s Vonn, 33, was aiming for a second downhill title in her final Olympics, but it was not to be as she finished third behind Italy’s Sofia Goggia and Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway.

But the 2010 winner was delighted to reach the podium, becoming alpine skiing’s oldest female medalist after a series of injuries which threatened to wreck her career and ruled her out of Sochi 2014.

“If you think what’s happened over the last eight years and what I’ve been through to get here, I gave it all and to come away with a medal is a dream come true,” said Vonn.

“You’ve got to put things into perspective. Of course, I would have loved a gold medal but, honestly, this is amazing and I’m so proud.”

Bjoergen reached 14 Olympic medals when she took bronze in cross-country skiing’s women’s team sprint free, outstripping compatriot Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, who has 13 in biathlon.

Bjoergen, 37, is also the second most successful woman at either the Summer or Winter Games, trailing only Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina with 18 medals.

“It’s hard to understand, actually,” Bjoergen said.

“I think I’ll need to have time to myself and look behind me and look how I’ve been able to do this. It’s still hard to understand it when I’m standing here.”

There was disappointment for the United States when their men’s ice hockey team, missing NHL players after a row over money, crashed out 3-2 in the quarterfinals against the Czech Republic.

In other action, Russian skier Sergey Ridzik recovered from a crash in the ski cross final to take bronze, behind Canada’s Bredy Leman and Marc Bischofberger of Switzerland.

Ridzik went down early in the race but he got up, clambered to the top of a slope and restarted his run, coming in behind the front two as Canada’s Kevin Drury failed to finish.

The competition, where four skiers race each other down a twisting track featuring a number of jumps, was marred by a series of heavy falls.

France’s Terence Tchiknavorian broke his leg and Canadian racer Chris Del Bosco was also taken to hospital after a sickening wipe-out.

Finland won the bronze in women’s hockey with a 3-2 victory over the Russian team. The gold-medal game between the United States and Canada is Thursday.

Germany’s Mariama Jamanka and Lisa Buckwitz stunned the USA by seven-hundredths of a second to win women’s bobsleigh gold.

The Germans, starting last in the final run, were behind America’s Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs in the upper sections before making up ground at the bottom to steal the title.

It means that Germany, with a cumulative winning time of 3min 22.45sec, pocket their fourth Olympic title in women’s bobsleigh to gain on the USA’s total of five.

Canada’s Kaillie Humphries and Phylicia George took the bronze medal, 0.44sec behind the winners.

Nigeria, making history as their country’s first Winter Olympians, bumped off several walls in their final run to finish last, more than seven seconds adrift.

And Jamaica, sending their first female athletes to a Winter Games, totaled 3:24.94 to place one spot higher than the Nigerians in second last. — Agencies


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