SOCHI, Russia: It was Belarus day Monday at the Sochi Olympics.
A Belarussian woman made Olympic history by becoming the first female ever to win three biathlon titles at the same games, and one of her teammates captured the men’s freestyle skiing aerials competition to complete a gold-medal sweep on the event.
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.
“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.
Domracheva is also expected to compete in the mixed and the women’s team relays, but Belarus is not among the favorites for gold in either race.
High on confidence after wins in the pursuit and individual races last week, Domracheva took the lead after four minutes in Monday’s race and stayed ahead of the field after the first shooting. She missed one target before finishing in 35 minutes, 25.6 seconds.
Gabriela Soukalova of Czech Republic was 20.2 seconds behind for silver and Tiril Eckhoff of Norway finished 27.3 behind for bronze.
“She is amazing,” Eckhoff said of Domracheva.
“She skis like a dancer. It’s really deserved, these three golds. She has been amazing here.”
Kati Wilhelm is the only other woman to win three biathlon golds, but the German collected hers over two Olympics — the sprint and the relay in 2002 and the pursuit in ’06.
Domracheva formed the shape of a heart with her hands after the race, and later explained: “I did that for all the spectators. They started to support me during the Olympics and I heard ‘Darya! Darya!’ from the stands.”
And she needed the support at certain stages. She faulted on the fourth target in her final shooting, but as her nearest rival, Soukalova, also missed, Domracheva could still carry a 14.7-second lead into her final 2.5K lap.
She stretched that lead and crossed the finish line while waving her right pole above her head in celebration.
Anton Kushnir nailed a near-perfect landing after a “back double full-full-double full” jump — five twists packed into three head-over-heels flips while soaring 50 feet off the ramp and into the night sky.
“It was the best jump I’ve ever witnessed in person,” said 18-year-old American Mac Bohonnon, who finished fifth.
He earned a score of 134.5 for the trick to beat David Morris of Australia by more than 24 points.
A pair of Chinese jumpers, Qi Guangpu and Jia Zongyang, had a chance to better those scores but both fell on the landings of their five-twist jumps.
Jia wound up with the bronze but this was another disappointment for the country that regularly brings a handful of top-10 athletes into the Olympics, yet has walked away only with two bronze medals since Han Xiaopeng took gold in 2006.
“It was quite sad that we didn’t get more medals than we actually did,” Jia said. “Probably we could have done better. We lost some good opportunities.”
Russia’s winning two-man bobsled had Alexander Zubkov driving and Alexey Voevoda as the brakeman. The Swiss team of Beat Hefti and Alex Baumann took silver, and the U.S. bronze, with Steven Holcomb driving and Steven Langton as brakeman. It was the first two-man bobsled medal for the U.S. in more than a half century.
Alexei Grishin won Belarus’ first ever gold medal in Vancouver four years ago — also in the men’s aerials. Afterwards, he got his picture on a stamp back home. On Monday, he failed to qualify in the aerials. Belarus now has five golds in Sochi. Australia’s David Morris finished 24 points behind Kushnir to win silver; China’s Jia Zongyang took the bronze.
Germany’s win in the team event ended Austria’s winning streak. It had won gold in the last two Olympics and hasn’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.
Megan Bozek and Brianna Decker each had a goal and two assists to help the United States beat Sweden 6-1. The U.S. has medaled in every Winter Games since women’s hockey was added in 1998. Canada, the three-time defending gold medalist, beat Switzerland 3-1 to advance to the final for the fifth consecutive Olympics. The two North American powers have met for three of the previous four championships.
China beat Britain 6-5 to qualify for the Olympic 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. Canada is the first women’s curling team to go through the round-robin matches without a loss.