SOCHI: Tina Maze struck double Olympic ski gold on Tuesday while the stark political realities of the Sochi Games were exposed by the arrests of members of the high-profile Pussy Riot punk group.
Maze bagged her second title after sharing the downhill gold by edging Austrian arch-rival Anna Fenninger by a hairsbreadth seven-hundredths of a second in the giant slalom.
In tricky weather conditions that included heavy snow, torrential rain and fog, the 30-year-old Slovenian clocked a combined total of 2min 36.87sec over the two runs in Rosa Khutor.
“This season’s plan was to show my best here. My focus in training was on the Olympic Games,” said Maze, who won two silvers, in super-G and giant slalom, at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Defending champion Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany took bronze, a further 0.20sec adrift while famed violin virtuoso Vanessa Mae marked her Olympics debut with a 67th place finish, a massive 50.10sec behind Maze.
Down on the Black Sea coast, the political controversies that had once threatened to consume the showpiece event nudged back into the spotlight.
Two members of Russian group Pussy Riot who were released from prison late last year said they had both been arrested in downtown Sochi on charges of theft.
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were arrested in the centre of the host city over accusations of stealing from a local hotel but were freed later in the day.
The pair had been in Sochi for two days on a visit aimed at recording a new performance opposing Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tolokonnikova wrote on her Twitter account that she and Alyokhina had been arrested, with several other people, and piled into a police van.
“When we were arrested, we were not performing any kind of action, we were just walking around Sochi,” she tweeted.
Away from the political tit-for-tat, it was business as usual at the Games with seven gold medals in total being decided.
Torn knee ligaments
On the slopes of Rosa Khotur, Frenchman Pierre Vaultier emerged from the fog to win a thrilling men’s snowboard cross race, just two months after tearing ligaments in his knee.
Norway took gold and silver in the large hill Nordic combined, dealing best with rainy conditions in the 10km ski phase.
South Korea regained the women’s short track 3,000m relay gold, four years after their Vancouver medal hopes were dashed by disqualification.
Shim Suk-Lee passed Li Jianrou heading into the final turn to give the Koreans Olympic gold for the fifth time in the past six Olympics. Defending champions China were disqualified.
Norway’s Emil Hegle Svendsen held off a desperate late charge from the fast-finishing Martin Fourcade of France to take gold in the men’s 15km biathlon mass start in a photo finish.
Norway’s Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, seeking a record 13th medal at Winter Olympic Games, will now have to wait until the relays after coming in 22nd place.
Dutch speed skater Jorrit Bergsma took gold in the men’s 10,000m as the Netherlands swept the podium at Sochi for the fourth time.
Bergsma crossed the line in a new Olympic record time of 12min 44.45sec, ahead of Sven Kramer and Bob de Jong.
The Dutch have now won 19 of 27 medals up for grabs, with six gold medals out of nine events so far.
World champion David Wise of the United States added Olympic gold to his trophy collection with victory in the men’s freestyle ski halfpipe ahead of Canadian Mike Riddle and Kevin Rolland of France. AFP