POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 18, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 1:31 a.m. HST, Feb 18, 2014
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia >> Winless in the past three years in two-man bobsledding, Alexander Zubkov picked the perfect time and place to put that streak to an emphatic end.
At the Olympics. On home ice.
No one was even close, either.
The 39-year-old Russian — who carried his nation’s flag into the opening ceremony to start the Sochi Games — found magic in all four of his runs, teaming with Alexey Voevoda to finish 0.66 seconds ahead of the Swiss team of Beat Hefti and brakeman Alex Baumann and win the gold medal Monday night.
“Long-awaited victory,” said Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Sochi organizing committee.
And it was a night 62 years in the making for the U.S., with the pairing of Steven Holcomb of Park City, Utah, and Steve Langton of Melrose, Mass., taking the bronze, the first two-man medal showing by a U.S. sled since 1952.
It wasn’t gold, but it was a medal savored by the Americans nonetheless. Holcomb wrapped U.S. coach Brian Shimer in a long embrace when he got out of his sled, as several teammates slapped each other on the back.
“Man, thank God,” said Holcomb, who raced through a strained left calf that required treatment Sunday and Monday. “There was a lot of pressure on me there.”
While the Americans finally didn’t leave a two-man race empty-handed, this competition was all about the Russian, who apparently knows how to coax more speed out of this track than any other bobsledder in the world.
The fact that Zubkov was competitive was no surprise. The fact that he won, maybe a little surprising. To win by such a wide margin, that was stunning.
“He had four perfect runs,” Hefti said. “He’s the winner and that’s OK.”
Darya Domracheva won her third biathlon title when she left a field of elite racers far behind to capture gold in the 12.5-kilometer mass start. As she neared the finish line, she waved her right pole above her head in celebration.
“Maybe it’s strange, but I don’t feel like I’ve done something special,” Domracheva said. “I just tried to enjoy myself and I did my race with a laugh. But for sure, it’s amazing.”
The race was in doubt earlier as dense fog forced postponement of the men’s mass start race and the men’s snowboardcross competition. It lifted just in time for the women’s race and Domracheva’s history-making performance.
Germany’s win in the team event ended Austria’s winning streak. It had won gold in the previous two Olympics and hadn’t lost a team large hill event since the 2005 world championships. Germany’s team included Andreas Wank, Marinus Kraus, Andres Wellinger and Severin Freund. Austria took silver and Japan won the bronze.
China beat Britain 6-5 to qualify for the semifinals in men’s curling. The loss forced Britain into a tiebreaker against Norway on Tuesday for the final spot in the playoffs. Canada and Sweden advanced on Sunday. In the women’s tournament, Switzerland and Britain advanced to the semifinals, joining Canada and Sweden.