SOCHI, Russia — The United States clinched the first gold medal of Sochi’s Winter Olympics Saturday, but the Dutch dominated on ice and a joint record was claimed by Norway.
An upset opened the day’s events in Russia when Team U.S.A’s Sage Kotsenburg, 20, scooped the first gold in men’s snowboard slopestyle. Kotsenburg tweeted his surprise at the win, saying: “WOW!! I just won the Olympics!! Bringing back the first Gold here to the USA! Love seeing all the support from everyone YOU RULE!!”
Kotsenburg’s winning score of 93.5 edged out silver medal winner Staale Sandbech, 20, while Canadian Mark McMorris, also 20, took bronze.
American Shaun White, the biggest name in snowboarding, withdrew from the competition before it began to focus on the men’s halfpipe next week. The double Olympic champion, who had been nursing a wrist injury, withdrew Wednesday just a day after admitting the course presented an “intimidating” challenge.
Saturday’s second gold was taken by Norway’s Marit Bjoergen in the women’s skiathlon. The 15km course is split between a classic style for the first 7.5 km, then a final leg in freestyle.
Bjoergen, a star of the 2010 Vancouver games, is expected to be a dominant force in the Sochi Winter Olympics.
Defending Olympic champion Sven Kramer of Netherlands then took gold in 5,000 meter speed skating, smashing the previous record. Compatriots Jan Blokhuijsen and Jorrit Bergsma came second and third.
The day’s fourth gold went to Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway, in the biathlon men’s 10km sprint. His efforts made him the joint most decorated Winter Olympian of all time, with compatriot Bjorn Dahlie. Dominik Landertinger of Austria took silver while Jaroslav Soukup from the Czech Republic got the bronze.
One more gold is due to be awarded Saturday, for the ladies mogul.
The Olympics kicked off with much fanfare at the opening ceremony Friday.
Billed as the most expensive Olympic Games in history, the opening ceremony kicked off with lights, floats and flying performers as the world turned its attention to Russia.
Despite anxiety about terror strikes, controversy over gay rights and ridicule for poor preparations, the nation’s officials have maintained that the sites in Sochi are secure.
It will be “the safest place on Earth during the Olympics,” said Dmitry Chernyshenko, head of the Games.
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