Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

Follow All The Winter Olympics Action Feb. 6-24 on NBC

Sochi Day 13: U.S. Leads Medal Race Despite Heartbreak on Ice

Russia won its first ladies' figure skating gold medal, and Canada beat the U.S. in overtime for the gold medal in women's hockey Thursday.

By Jon Schuppe
|  Thursday, Feb 20, 2014  |  Updated 10:55 PM EDT
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    Despite losses in two high-profile Olympic events — women's figure skating and hockey — the U.S. Olympic team had a good day Thursday, taking two medals and hanging onto the lead in the overall medal race.

    But the margin is slim, and there are still three days of competition left.

    Host Russia is celebrating the most Thursday, thanks to a stunning skating victory. And Canada's women hockey team proved that it is as close to unbeatable as any team can be.

    Here are the day's highlights.

    Russia's relief

    A 17-year-old Russian gave her country its first-ever gold medal in women’s individual figure skating on Thursday.

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    The victory by Adelina Sotnikova quelled a sense a panic in the host country, whose vaunted men’s hockey team was knocked out of medal contention a day earlier.

    Figure skating, like hockey, is one of Russia’s signature sports, and losing two events in succession on home ice would have prompted a period of deep soul-searching.

    While the hockey defeat still stings, the Russians can legitimately claim that its proud figure skating tradition is healthy. Russia has also won gold in the pairs competition, and in the inaugural Olympic team event.

    The U.S., while shut out of the podium in the men's and women's figure skating competitions, won gold in ice dancing and bronze in the team event.

    Hockey heartbreaker

    What is it with Canada? The U.S. women’s hockey team just can’t seem to beat its North American rival.

    They haven't done it in 16 years.

    They fell short again on Thursday.

    The Americans gave up two goals in the final five minutes of regulation, then gave up another in sudden-death overtime, squandering what had seemed earlier in the gold-medal game like a sure win.

    The U.S. women's hockey team hasn’t beaten Canada in the Olympics since the 1998 gold-medal match in Nagano. Thursday’s win marked Canada’s 20th straight victory in Olympic competition since then.

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    And the Americans, once again, are taking home silver.

    U.S. wins ski halfpipe

    American Maddie Bowman won the first-ever women’s halfpipe ski competition on Thursday with a performance dedicated to Sarah Burke, a Canadian freestyler who died in a 2012 training accident after lobbying for the halfpipe to be included in the Winter Games.

    Bowman, 20, delivered the two highest-scoring runs of the final round with a soaring series of spins and flips.

    While Bowman shined, there were many hard spills in the inaugural event. One competitor was taken off on a stretcher after briefly losing consciousness.

    Marie Martinod of France won silver, and Ayana Onozuka of Japan took bronze.

    Burke’s parents attended the competition, which athletes said they hoped would serve as a reminder of her influence on the sport.

    Crazy photo finish

    The new Olympic sport of skicross can seem at times like a chaotic tangle of athletes who might crash at any moment.

    That’s not too far from the truth.

    That was painfully apparent in the men’s quarterfinals on Thursday, when three rivals wiped out on the course’s final jump, crossing the finish line on their backsides.

    The only man to finish the race upright, Switzerland's Armin Niederer, advanced to the next round, along with Russia’s Egor Koroktov, who slid into second place.

    In the end, three Frenchmen swept the finals, winning gold, silver and bronze.

    U.S. still in first

    Thanks to its gold in ladies’ ski halfpipe and silver in women’s hockey, the U.S. sits atop the Sochi medal race.

    The Americans have 25 total medals, eight of them gold.

    Russia is in second with 23, and the Dutch are in third with 22.

    That sets up a race for the finish, as the Winter Games enter their final weekend. There are more than a dozen events up for grabs from Thursday to Sunday.

    With reporting by the Associated Press

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