Skating Slip, Snowboard Gold For U.S.

Evgeni Plushenko posted his score, then watched the other Olympic contenders crash and burn.

The three-time world champion took few chances, yet still managed another personal best Thursday night to grab the fifth straight Olympic gold medal for a Russian or Soviet man. He pretty much owned it when he showed up in Turin, and the field couldn't come close to measuring up.

U.S. champion Johnny Weir, who fell out of medal contention with a cautious program filled with errors, stormed out of the rink when his mediocre marks were shown. He finished fifth.

"I missed the bus. They changed the schedule," Weir said. "It was every 10 minutes. Today it was every half-hour. I was late getting here and never caught up. I never felt comfortable in this building. I didn't feel my inner peace, I didn't feel my aura. Inside I was black."

Skating slowly and without any sign of emotion, Plushenko still was far too good for the rest of the field, finishing with a score of 167.67 points in the free skate — an incredible 27.12 points in front of Lambiel.

All of his main rivals skated after him in the final group and, one by one, they fell short. He opened with a quadruple toe loop-triple toe-double loop combination, followed with a triple axel-double toe. All he had to do after that was stay on his feet.

Meanwhile, the United States' only gold medal Thursday came from a brand new Olympic sport — and the Winter Olympics' most extreme sport, snowboardcross. And American veteran racer Seth Wescott had a final run that made the sport look good.

But the USA fell to fourth in medal rankings, behind Norway, Russia and Germany.

Check the schedule of upcoming events.
Track the current medal count here.
In related developments:
  • The U.S. men's hockey team jumped to an early lead and cruised past Kazakhstan 4-1. Brian Gionta, Bill Guerin and Brian Rolston scored first-period goals to get the United States rolling toward its first win.

    Canada beat Germany 5-1. Finland shut out Italy 6-0 for a second straight win. Teemu Selanne scored twice.

    Switzerland surprised the Czech Republic 3-2.

    Goals from Alex Kovalev and Alexander Ovechkin helped Russia skip past Sweden 5-0. Slovakia won its second straight, beating Latvia 6-3.

  • Figure skater Michelle Kwan, whose quest for Olympic gold ended because of a groin injury, has signed on with The Walt Disney Co. as a celebrity spokeswoman, the entertainment conglomerate said Thursday.

    Kwan, 25, will be featured in ads and other media promoting Disney's businesses. She'll also appear in the media company's original programming, the company said.

    Financial terms of the multiyear deal were not disclosed.

  • Russian biathlon star Olga Pyleva was thrown out of the Turin Games and stripped of her silver medal Thursday for doping, the first athlete caught in the tightest drug net in Winter Olympics history. Pyleva was favored heading into Thursday's 7.5km sprint to win her second medal of the games. As athletes were walking up to the starting line, an announcer told the crowd that Pyleva was scratched because she had fallen ill. But it didn't take long for news of the real reason to spread. A urine sample Pyleva submitted after winning the 15km event on Monday tested positive for the stimulant carphedon.
  • American Kristina Koznick of Eagan, Minn. took three runs today with a brace on her right knee, her first time on skis since injuring herself almost two weeks ago.

    The top-ranked U.S. women's slalom racer skied on a gentle slope.

    Koznick's coach and boyfriend, Dan Stripp, said the practice was "awesome" and said she didn't feel much pain. He says she'll practice again tomorrow if the knee doesn't swell up too much.

    The 30-year-old Koznick has only six days until the women's slalom February 22nd. Koznick partially tore ligaments in her knee last weekend while warming up for a World Cup race in Germany.

  • Switzerland's Maya Pedersen, back in competition after taking time off to have a baby, has earned her country's first gold medal of the Turin Olympics. She slid to a win of almost one and a-quarter seconds in the women's skeleton. Britain took the silver — its first medal of the games — and bronze went to Canada. Katie Uhlaender of the U.S. was sixth.
  • The U.S. men's curling team is still in medal contention. The Americans beat first-place Sweden 10-6 to improve to 3-2 in their pool.
  • Germany and Italy won the first Olympic gold medals in speedskating's team pursuit. Following the Germans in the women's competition were Canada and Russia. Canada also got the silver in the men's event, and bronze went to the Netherlands.
  • A man in a red-and-white ski suit called Lindsey Kildow aside Wednesday afternoon. "That was amazing," Herbert Mandl, the Austrian women's ski coach, told her. "Thanks," said Kildow, who tied for eighth in the women's downhill 48 hours after being hospitalized because of a horrific crash, that almost knocked her out of the Winter Games.

  • On the snowboard hills, suspended in midair, Seth Wescott's biggest worry was making sure he didn't land on top of his opponent and crush him. Not exactly a typical Olympic moment.

    Then again, snowboardcross isn't a typical Olympic sport.

    The American racer missed Slovakia's Radoslav Zidek on that tight landing Thursday, then passed him for the win in the Olympic debut of the wild sport of snowboardcross.

    For that, Wescott earned a gold medal. Everyone else got warm compresses and aspirin.

    "To have a great race like that in the finals, I think it just makes the sport look good," Wescott said.

    There was bumping, thrashing, wipeouts and worse during the 90-minutes of NASCAR on Ice, a series of four-man races down the mountain with everyone vying for space on the tight, high-banked, 1,000-yard course.

    In the final race, Wescott's winning move stood out for its pure finesse — a sly slip past Zidek with time running out.

    Paul-Henri Delerue of France won bronze.

    "I was screaming the entire time," said U.S. coach Peter Foley, who called it the best day of snowboardcross he's ever seen.

    Wescott is a native of Durham, N.C., whose father coached track and field at North Carolina State University, according to the U.S. Snowboard Team Web site. His mother taught modern dance at Peace College in Raleigh, N.C. He now lives in Farmington, Maine.

    The 29-year-old capped a decade-long quest to become an Olympic medalist, one that took him through the halfpipe and across the rough-and-tumble courses of snowboardcross, his sport's more violent — and maybe more exciting — cousin.

    "I think for a lot of people who just see snowboarding in the halfpipe, they might not see all the intricacies of it," Wescott said. "But with this, they love the racing aspect and for all of us, it's one of the things that makes it so exciting to do. I think that translates to the viewing public, too."

    On a made-for-TV day in Bardonecchia, Wescott won by being able to stay out of any messes during his four trips down the slope.

    In the final, he took the lead from Zidek first by avoiding him on a jump, then picking up speed on the high line of the course and zipping below him after a hard right turn. He led the rest of the way, and beat Zidek to the finish line by about half a board.

    "I almost landed on Rado," Wescott said. "I had a bunch of speed coming into that `hip jump.' I was a little worried in the air that that might be the end of the race right there. I was looking down on him and I wasn't sure exactly where the trajectory was going to put me."

    Wescott added this to his win at last year's World Championships, one that set him up as one of the riders to beat in the Turin Games. His career began with mediocre results in the halfpipe, then a switch to racing. He learned in 2003 that snowboardcross — also known as boardercross — would become an Olympic sport.