Britain claimed its first individual Winter Olympic gold in 30 years overnight as Aksel Lund Svindal landed the super-G title and figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko's failure to defend his crown sparked a furious backlash. Amy Williams rocketed to victory in the women's skeleton in a combined time of three mins 35.64sec to achieve what no Briton has managed since Robin Cousins won the men's ice-skating title at Lake Placid in 1980.
Germany's Kerstin Szymkowiak finished second at 0.56sec with compatriot Anja Huber taking the bronze. "Amazing. I'm not quite sure if it's real or not, I feel like I'm in a little bubble, I'm still not quite sure what is happening," said Williams. "Half the track is a blur, I can't even remember what I really did." Williams's gold came despite protests by the United States and Canada over the legality of her helmet, both of which were dismissed by the International Federation of Bobsleigh and Tobogganing.
Canada won its fourth gold of the Games with Jon Montgomery hurtling down the men's skeleton track to pip Latvia's Martin Dukurs by just 0.07sec, with Russia's Alexander Tretyakov settling for bronze. Norway's Svindal blasted down a technically testing run in the Whistler mountains in 1:30.34 to win the super-G gold and leave downhill champion Didier Defago languishing in his wake in 15th spot. On a glorious day for the Scandinavian nation, Marit Bjoergen joined teammate Svindal on top of the world by winning the women's 15km cross-country pursuit to go with the sprint crown she captured on Wednesday.
While Defago flopped, it was another day to remember on the pistes for America with Bode Miller winning silver behind Svindal and Andrew Weibrecht claiming bronze in a speed event where no pre-race training on the course is permitted. "It was good but it's hard to talk about perfect," said Svindal, who crossed the line 0.28sec ahead of Miller on an icy and rutted course. "I knew I was going to take risks. At the start I thought, 'Put a smile on your face you already have a silver. Go for the gold and see what happens.'
"I prepared well. I'm in top form and am just enjoying it." Bjoergen was another one on fire, taking her title by 8.9sec from Sweden's Anna Haag and Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk. Meanwhile, Plushenko's failure to win the figure skating title on Thursday evening saw accusing fingers being pointed at the judging system. Even Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin weighed in, saying Plushenko's silver medal finish "was worth a gold medal", while others decried injustice.
Plushenko's wife demanded that Russian authorities publicly defend her husband who was relegated into second by world champion Evan Lysacek despite the American's more conservative performance. "This is a gross mistake by the judges," Plushenko's wife, Yana Rudkovskaya, told the Russia-24 television network. "We need to defend our sportsmen and protect their honour." Plushenko too slammed Olympic judges and threatened to quit.
"I am not prepared to skate well and lose," he complained. Lysacek insisted on Friday that he deserved his gold and called the Russian, his idol, a bad loser. "It was perfect. I felt that the way I was skating was a winning performance," he said. "I'm disappointed that someone who was a role model for me would take a hit at me at the greatest moment of my life." In men's ice hockey, defending champions Sweden beat Belarus 4-2, Czech Republic cruised to a 5-2 win over Latvia while Finland crushed Germany 5-0.
The Finns' Teemu Selanne became the all-time Olympic ice hockey scoring leader when he assisted on his team's third goal, scored by Kimmo Timonen, to reach 37 career points in the Olympics. *AFP