POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 13, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 2:17 a.m. HST, Feb 13, 2014
SOCHI, Russia >> Maxim Trankov let out a scream and slid on his knees on the ice in a moment of triumph and renewal.
Skating to “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Trankov, 30, and his partner Tatiana Volosozhar, 27, won the gold medal in pairs skating on Wednesday and returned Russia to its familiar position atop the Olympic medal podium.
Facing the pressure and expectations of a boisterous home crowd at Iceberg Skating Palace, and bearing the burden of history, the Russian pair skated defensively and nervously in the long program but avoided any major mistakes and won decisively with 236.86 overall points.
Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov gave Russia the silver medal as well with 218.68 points, skating a performance to “The Addams Family” that was both heartfelt and playful.
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany, the 2010 bronze medalists, were considered the chief challengers to Trankov and Volosozhar, but they settled again for bronze with 215.78 points.
On hand to congratulate Trankov and Volosozhar were Oleg and Lyudmila Protopopov, who in 1964 and 1968 earned the first two of 12 consecutive Olympic gold medals won by Soviet and Russian pairs over 42 years — the longest winning streak of any sport in the Winter Olympics.
“It shows the world Russia is back on its feet and we are ready to produce special pairs skaters as it used to be in the Soviet era,” said Oleg Vasiliev, who won the 1984 Olympic pairs gold medal with partner Elena Valova.
“We were very nervous today,” Volosozhar said. “It’s a hard competition because we’re at home. We feel this pressure. Everybody cheers for us. It’s very hard, but we did a very good job. We bring back the medal to Russia. We’re absolutely happy.”
Tina Maze of Slovenia and Dominique Gisin of Switzerland were declared co-gold medalists.
The two friends covered the 1.69-mile (2.7-kilometer) Rosa Khutor course in 1 minute, 41.57 seconds. A tearful Lara Gut of Switzerland won the bronze, 0.10 seconds back.
The favorites, Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany and Julia Mancuso of the U.S., were afterthoughts. Hoefl-Riesch, eyeing a record-equaling fourth Olympic Alpine gold, finished 13th while Mancuso was eighth.
The Dutch ruled at the oval again, with Stefan Groothuis taking the gold in the 1,000 meters and upsetting two-time Olympic champion Shani Davis of the U.S. Groothuis won in 1 minute, 8.39 seconds and was followed by Denny Morrison of Canada and 500 champion Michel Mulder of the Netherlands. The Dutch have won 10 of 15 medals through the first five events. Davis was eighth, denied in his bid to become the first man to win the same speedskating event at three straight Olympics.
Sweden showed off its deep offensive talent in its Olympic opener, getting two goals from Erik Karlsson and one from Henrik Zetterberg in a 4-2 win over the Czech Republic. Switzerland also won, but needed a late deflection to beat Latvia 1-0. The Swiss scored with 7.9 seconds left, and Simon Moser was credited with the goal that appeared to carom off a Latvian player in front of the net.
Canada defeated the U.S. in women’s hockey 3-2 in a preview of the expected gold medal match. Meghan Agosta scored twice for Canada and assisted on Hayley Wickenheiser’s goal. This was the fifth time these teams have met in the Olympics, but the first since women’s hockey was added to the Winter Games in 1998 that they have played in the preliminary round. In the day’s other game, Finland beat Switzerland 4-3.
Eric Frenzel, who served two years in the German army, won the individual normal hill. He led after ski jumping and powered home on the cross-country course. “I can’t describe this feeling, it’s so perfect,” he said. Frenzel, the runaway World Cup leader, was followed by Akito Watabe of Japan and Magnus Krog of Norway.
China’s curlers kept up their surprise run by beating Switzerland and Germany, leaving the team at the top of the standings with four straight wins. With Sweden (3-1) losing to Denmark 8-5 in the evening session, Norway (3-0) is the only other unbeaten team in the competition after defeating Germany 8-5 in the morning. On the women’s side, undefeated Canada downed Britain 9-6 in a game that went down to the final stone and sent the U.S. to the edge of elimination. The Canadians joined Switzerland in first place at 3-0.