SOCHI, Russia – Four Ukrainian women gave their politically torn country some good news at the Sochi Games Friday.
As government and opposition leaders worked to end the months-long Ukrainian crisis that erupted in deadly violence this week, the Ukraine women’s 4x6-kilometer biathlon relay team won the nation’s first gold medal in two decades.
The four women celebrated with a Ukrainian flag as lawmakers back home paused to mark the occasion.
“Great proof of how sport can unite the nation,” Sergei Bubka, the pole vault great and leader of the Ukraine Olympic Committee, wrote on Twitter.
The first doping cases also hit the Winter Games Friday. Italian bobsledder William Frullani and German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle were kicked out of the games after positive doping tests. Frullani was in the four-man bobsled race, which begins Saturday. Sachenbacher-Stehle, a five-time Olympic medalist, participated in five events in Sochi but did not win any medals.
On Day 15 of the Sochi Olympics, 18-year-old American skier Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest ever gold medal winner in the women’s slalom; Marielle Thompson of Canada edged teammate Kelsey Serwa for the gold in women’s skicross; Canada routed Britain 9-3 to win its third straight gold medal in men’s curling; and short track speedskating gold medals went to Viktor Ahn of Russia in the men’s 500, to Park Seung-hi of South Korea in the women’s 1,000, and to Russia in the men’s 5,000-meter relay.
Biathlon: Ukraine’s team of twins Vita and Valj Semerenko, Juliya Dzhyma, and Olena Pidhrushna missed five targets but avoided penalty loops to finish in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 2.5 seconds. Russia was 26.4 seconds behind to take silver, and Norway trailed by 37.6 to win bronze.
Alpine Skiing: Shiffrin became the youngest Olympic slalom champion, male or female, with her win. That mark was previously held by Paoletta Magoni of Italy, who won gold at the 1984 Sarajevo Games when she was 19. Austrian teammates Marlies Schild and Kathrin Zettel took silver and bronze.
Freestyle skiing: Thompson and Serwa gave Canada its third 1-2 finish in freestyle skiing events in Sochi. The others came in men’s and women’s moguls. Canada also won gold and bronze in women’s slopestyle skiing, and picked up a silver in the men’s halfpipe, for a total of nine freestyle medals. In the skicross final, Ophelie David of France wiped out about two-thirds down the course, giving the bronze to Sweden’s Anna Holmlund.
Curling: Canada’s championship gave the country a sweep of the curling titles in Sochi. The Canadian women won their first-ever curling title on Thursday. Sweden won the bronze in men’s curling, taking an extra end to defeat China 6-4.
Speedskating: Ahn, who was born in South Korea and became a Russian citizen in 2011, now has a career record eight short track medals. In addition to winning the 500, he anchored the Russian 5,000 relay team. He also became the first skater to win all four individual short track events at the Olympics. The U.S. team won silver in the relay, ending a medal drought for the American speedskaters. The long track team failed to get on the podium in 12 events, and the U.S. had been shut out in the first seven events at short track.