Norwegian equals medals record as golden oldies rule at Sochi

Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen made a mockery of his 40 years on Saturday when he won a record-equalling 12th Winter Olympic medal as Sochi's senior citizens nudged aside younger rivals.

Bjoerndalen went level with compatriot Bjorn Daehlie, who also gathered 12 medals in his cross country career.

He also became the oldest gold medallist in an individual event thanks to an astonishing display of raw power and technique which saw him romp to victory in the 10km sprint.

But the Norwegian, nicknamed 'The Cannibal', wasn't the only evergreen athlete chewing up the competition on the first full day of action on the edge of the Black Sea.

Outspoken ski star Bode Miller, 36, was headline-grabbing on and off the slopes at Rosa Khotur, dominating downhill training before lambasting the state of the course.

Meanwhile, 30-year-old Austrian veteran Daniela Iraschko-Stolz was the top performer as women made their ski jumping debut at the Olympics.

And 33-year-old Marit Bjoergen won her fourth Olympic title and became the most successful female Norwegian Olympian in history, after taking the first cross-country skiing gold of the Games in the women's skiathlon.

At least, snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg of the United States broke the magic spell of the senior performers when the 20-year-old claimed the first gold medal of the Sochi Olympics in men's slopestyle.

Bjoerndalen was the undoubted star of the day when he overcame a penalty lap to clock 24min 33.5sec to take his seventh Olympic gold in his sixth Games ahead of Austria's Dominik Landertinger, in 24:34.8sec, and Jaroslav Soukup of the Czech Republic, who clocked 24:39.2.

In the aftermath of the race, Daehlie told reporters that Bjoerndalen was comfortably the greatest ever Norwegian athlete.

"It is nice to hear that from Bjorn, but for me he still is the biggest star in Norway and in the world," said the champion.

"It is always difficult to compare results because he raced many years ago and it was a different time. Nowadays, we have many more competitions than he had back then. For me, he continues to be the best athlete."

Ski veteran Miller, who won gold, silver and bronze at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, was fastest in training for Sunday's blue riband medal race up in Rosa Khutor.

But he then unleashed a fierce critique of the challenges of the course.

"This course is very treacherous. It has teeth everywhere," he said.

This course can kill you

"If you're not totally focused and paying attention, this course can kill you."

In the spectacular slopestyle event, Kotsenburg, who only just squeezed into the final, claimed the inaugural title.

His first run scored 93.50 and although some of his rivals put in high scores on their second runs, the 20-year-old from Utah held on for victory.

"I'm really excited. It feels awesome. I don't know what to call it," said Kotsenburg.

Norway's Staale Sandbech (91.75) claimed silver while Mark McMorris of Canada took bronze with 88.75.

Bjoergen claimed her fourth career gold to become her country's most successful female Olympian, surpassing legendary figure skater Sonja Henie.

Under stunning blue skies at the Laura cross-country ski centre, Bjoergen won the combined 7.5km classic style/7.5km freestyle event.

Sweden's Charlotte Kalla was second with Heidi Weng of Norway taking the bronze.

Bjoergen won three golds in Vancouver four years ago.

In women's ski jumping, Iraschko-Stolz won two of the three training jumps, ahead of Japanese teen star Sara Takanashi.

"Weeds don't die away quickly!" said the Austrian with a laugh, having jumped 100 metres, the only woman to do so on Saturday.

Speed skater Sven Kramer retained his Olympic 5,000m title, destroying the field to win by nearly five seconds as the Netherlands swept the podium, 50 years after the last clean sweep.

Kramer's time of 6min 10.76sec was a new Olympic record. Jan Blokhuijsen took silver in 6:15.71 while Jorrit Bergsma (6:16.66) won bronze.

In the last medal event of the day, Justine Dufour-Lapointe edged out sister Chloe as the Canadians ended the reign of American Hannah Kearney in the women's moguls.

The youngest of three sisters in the freestyle skiing moguls final, 19-year-old Justine scored 74.80 percent in the final run to claim victory.

Middle sister Chloe, 22, scored 72.20 to take silver while Kearney, the champion in Vancouver four years ago, took bronze with 71.63.

AFP

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