Spoiler alert: Contenders for Olympic gold withdraw due to back injuries

The 2014 Sochi Olympics continued late Thursday night with events carrying into Friday morning, while most in the U.S. were sleeping. Sochi is nine hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
Here’s a list of what fans may have missed:

Viletta stuns favorites to win gold in super-combi
Sandro Viletta of Switzerland stunned the favorites and won the Olympic super-combined title Friday in a spring-like race.  Viletta finished in a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 45.20 seconds.  Ivica Kostelic of Croatia took the silver medal in this event for the third consecutive Olympics, 0.34 behind, and Christof Innerhofer of Italy took bronze, 0.47 behind, to add to his silver from downhill.  Viletta stood only 14th after the downhill portion but he put down the second-fastest slalom run and then waited as one skier after another failed to catch him. Downhill leader Kjetil Jansrud of Norway finished fourth.(Associated Press)

Cologna wins 15K classical race for 2nd Sochi gold
Dario Cologna, skiing in short sleeves on another warm and sunny day, won his second gold medal at the Sochi Olympics on Friday with a dominant performance in the 15-kilometer classical-style cross-country race. The Swiss led by just 0.7 seconds at the 8-kilometer mark of the interval-start race, but his advantage grew steadily and he finished 28.5 seconds ahead of Sweden's Johan Olsson. Another Swede, Daniel Richardsson, took bronze after his strong finish put him 0.2 seconds ahead of Finland's Iivo Niskanen. Cologna started 30 seconds behind Olsson but caught the Swede before coming into the stadium, and the two were side-by-side on the final straight. The two may have benefitted from early start numbers. Both went out ahead of the seeded group, and the warm weather softened the course for the later starters. Czech veteran Lukas Bauer, second in the seeded group, was the only other skier within a minute of Cologna, finishing 58.9 seconds back in fifth place. (Associated Press)

Russians have mixed reaction to Plushenko
Russia’s legendary figure skater Evgeni Plushenko, the favorite to win gold and the host country’s only men’s singles skater, was forced to pull out of the competition with a bad back Thursday.  While the announcement of the 31-year-old’s withdrawal and retirement from the sport drew a stunned applause inside the arena, later some Russians had a more negative view. Alexi Yagudin, a 2002 Olympic champion and Plushenko’s former rival, told R-Sport he “supports people who go to the end,” and said when he was competing skaters always thought through pain. Another former Russian gold medalist, 1994 winner Alexei Urmanov said Plushenko’s pride got in the way of Russia’s best interests.

Costly victory for Sweden
The Swedes, thought to be potential medal contenders, opened their men’s hockey tournament by beating the Czech Republic, but the win came at a high price. Detroit Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg was ruled out for the rest of the Olympics after injuring his back in the victory. Sweden was already dealing with several key injuries before Zetterberg’s herniated disk kept him out of practice Thursday and eventually led to the announcement he would miss the rest of the Games.

Czech’s bounce back 
The Czech Republic earned its first men’s hockey victory of the Games early Friday morning with a 4-2 triumph over Latvia in the Group C qualifier. New Jersey Devils defenseman Marek Zidlicky had a goal and an assist for the Czechs.

Medals spread out fairly evenly at these Games
The race for the most golds and overall medals at the Sochi games is one of the most balanced in recent memory. The United States, with 12 total medals and four gold, is one of six nations with a double-digit tally.  Norway moved back into the overall lead with 13 total, four of which are gold. The Netherlands extended its speedskating dominance and also has 12 medals, including four gold. The host Russians are climbing the list with 11 overall and two gold so far, while Canada and Germany each have 10 total medals. The Germans have topped the podium more than any other nation with seven gold. 

 

Norway                                    4  3  6    13

Netherlands                          4  3  5    12

United  States                      4  2  6    12

Russia                                    2  5  4    11

Germany                                  7  2  1    10

Canada                                    4  4  2    10

Sweden                                    0  5  2      7

Switzerland                          4  0  1      5

Austria                                  1  4  0      5

France                                    2  0  2      4

Slovenia                                1  1  2      4

China                                      2  1  0      3

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