Norway are early medal trailblazers

Hampshire Chronicle: Ole Einar Bjoerndalen took gold in the 10km Sprint Biathlon Ole Einar Bjoerndalen took gold in the 10km Sprint Biathlon

Norway blazed to the top of the medal table on day one of the Winter Olympics with a haul of four in Sochi, including golds for star turns Ole Einar Bjoerndalen and Marit Bjoergen.

Biathlete Bjoerndalen claimed a record-equalling 12th Winter Olympic medal by winning the men's 10km sprint at the Laura Biathlon Center above Rosa Khutor.

Bjoerndalen, who celebrated his 40th birthday last month, matched the total mark set by his compatriot, former cross country skier Bjoern Daehlie.

In holding off Austrian silver medallist Dominik Langertinger by less than a second, Bjoerndalen also claimed the eighth Olympic gold medal of his career.

Bjoerndalen said: ''I think this is one of my most important victories. When I missed a target on the last loop I thought I had no chance to win, but I believed I could make the podium if I continued with my speed."

Bjoergen's quest to win six medals, meanwhile, began with victory in the women's cross country skiathlon.

Bjoergen, who won five medals in Vancouver four years ago, also has designs on eclipsing the medal record held by her compatriots.

And that challenge began in superb fashion with the successful defence of her 7.5km + 7.5km skiathlon title at the dramatic Laura Endurance Center.

Bjoergen, 33, completed the gruelling race in 38 minutes 33.6 seconds to finish 1.8 secs ahead of Sweden's Charlotte Kalla.

Norway finished with three racers in the top four, with Heidi Weng (38:46.8) claiming the final podium spot ahead of Therese Johaug.

The Scandinavian nation also secured silver in the inaugural snowboard slopestyle event, which was won by Sage Kotsenburg of the United States - the first gold medal of the Games.

A nigh-flawless first run saw Kotsenburg register a score of 93.50, and that proved too tough to beat for his fellow competitors, with Norway's Staale Sandbech winning silver and pre-tournament favourite Mark McMorris of Canada bronze.

Holland also enjoyed a flying start to the Games with a one-two-three placing in the men's 5000 metre speed skating.

Sven Kramer broke his own Olympic record to retain his title, taking gold in six minutes 10.76 seconds and beating the time he set in Vancouver four years ago by almost four seconds.

The 27-year-old finished 4.95 seconds clear of compatriot Jan Blokhuijsen, while Jorrit Bergsma rounded off a perfect display from the Dutch trio.

The women's ice hockey also got under way on Saturday, with defending champions Canada routing Switzerland 5-0 in the qualifiers and world champions United States beating Finland 3-1 in Shayba Arena.

Jocelyne Larocque, Tara Watchorn, Hayley Wickenheiser, Marie-Philip Poulin and Rebecca Johnston were on target for Canada, with netminder Charline Labonte making 14 saves for her third career Olympic shut-out in only her fifth game.

Hilary Knight opened the scoring for USA after just 53 seconds, with goals from Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter building a solid lead in the second period. Finland's late reply came from Susanna Tapani.

Slovenia's ski jumping medal hopeful Robert Kranjec fell during the men's normal hill qualification round and limped away to give his team a major cause for concern on the eve of the finals.

As one of the top 10 seeds for the event, Kranjec did not need to qualify but what should have been a low-pressure warm-up jump ended in drama as he lost balance and tumbled to the foot of the RusSki Gorki Center.

The 32-year-old, world champion in 2012, won bronze at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Germany's Severin Freund and Austria's Gregor Schlierenzauer shrugged off any concerns to leap 104 metres - the longest distance on the night. No points were awarded to the top seeds as their jumps were not part of the qualification process.

Defending champion Simon Ammann of Switzerland recorded a distance of 100m.

Russia remained on course for gold after day two of the figure skating team competition at the Ice Skating Palace.

The short programmes, and thus the qualifying round, concluded with the ice dance and women's sections, then the free skating final - into which the top five nations had progressed - commenced with the pairs.

The Russians finished proceedings with 47 points, ahead of second-placed Canada (41) and the United States (34) in third.

The pick of the ice dancing duos was American world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who were last on in the section and scored 75.98.

Canada's reigning Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Muir came second, while Russians Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev took third spot.

In the women's section, the star of the show was teenage home favourite Yulia Lipnitskaya, recently crowned European champion and given a winning mark here of 72.90.

Just behind Lipnitskaya was Italian Carolina Kostner in second and Japan's Vancouver 2010 silver-medallist Mao Asada in third.

Russia, Canada and the United States advanced to the free skating in the first to third positions and were joined in the final by Japan and Italy.

In the pairs section that followed, the home nation once again claimed the highest mark as Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, European silver-medallists last month, posted 135.09 - much to the crowd's approval.

The luge men's singles also began on Saturday, with Germany's Felix Loch leading the way after the first two runs at Sanki Sliding Center.

Loch produced a combined time of one minute 44.149 seconds to hold the edge over home hope Albert Demchenko and veteran luger Armin Zoeggler of Italy.

The third and fourth runs to decide who will win the gold medal take place on Sunday.

There was delight for Canadian sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe as they claimed gold and silver medals In the freestyle skiing women's moguls at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

Justine, 19, went through a technically precise final run to score 22.44 points with her 22-year-old sister Chloe following with a solid run but coming up .78 points short of the winning score.

Justine and Chloe's 24-year-old sister Maxime failed to qualify for the final phase.

Justine, overwhelmed by the her gold medal and her sister joining her on the podium, said: "It just totally rocks. It's just really amazing.

"Today I gave everything I had inside. I haven't eaten since 12 this morning.

"I felt the pressure, but I tried to just put that away and I said, 'You know what, I'm going to roar and people will see me and remember who the real Justine is'.

"All the work I have done in the past summers and winters have paid off. I'm more mature, it's working and I made it. Even me, I don't believe it."

On the gold-silver sister double act, Justine added: "It feels amazing. It happened at the World Cup, but now it's at the Olympics. We had to do three runs and we did it together. We're just really happy."

Defending champion Hannah Kearney of the USA took the bronze medal after a disappointing final run and dismissed suggestions that nerves had cost her the gold.

"It wasn't the nerves, it was a simple kick out.

"I did everything I could. I fought back from a not very good run but that one turn got the best of me today.

"It's really unfortunate it's at the Olympics, but I'm sure something good will come of it. I'm just not sure what it is yet."

Japan's Aiko Uemura was beaten into fourth for the second successive Games.

Kearney scored 21.49 in what is set to be her final Winter Olympics.

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