The first official day of competition at the Winter Games in Sochi has seen several big performances. This included Ole Einar Bjoerndalen equaling the record for the most Olympic medals in a career.
Bjoerndalen, who is competing in his sixth Olympic Games, made up for missing the target with high speed in the closing stages to clinch victory with a time of 24 minutes 33.5 seconds.
Dominik Landertinger of Austria took silver and Jaroslav Soukup of the Czech Republic claimed the bronze medal.
The victory made Bjoerndalen, at the age of 40 years and 13 days, the oldest-ever athlete to win an individual Olympic event. The victory also saw Bjoerndalen equal the 12 medals won by compatriot Bjoern Daehlie in cross-country skiing. No athlete has won more medals at the Winter Olympics.
"In my eyes Bjoern is still the biggest athlete in Norway," Bjoerndalen said. "I am just looking from race to race now."
Dutch speedskating sweep
Earlier on Saturday, Sven Kramer led a Dutch sweep of the men's 5,000 m speedskating event.
Kramer raced around the oval at Sochi with extremely consistent laps - all falling within a range of eight tenths of a second - to win the gold medal with a time of 6 minutes, 10.76 seconds. This was almost four seconds faster than the previous Olympic record, which the 27-year-old Kramer (pictured above, middle) had set on his way to winning gold at the Vancouver Winter Olympics four years ago.
Kramer's result was also nearly five seconds better than that of countryman Jan Blokhuijsen (above left), who took the silver medal. Jorrit Bergsma (right) captured bronze to complete the Dutch sweep of the podium, with the country's king, queen and prime minister among the spectators in the stadium.
"What can you say? We could never have hoped for such a great result," Dutch King Willem-Alexander said afterwards. "That Sven was able to deliver despite such pressure, it leaves me speechless. What can you say, such a great Olympic record."
Kramer travelled to Sochi determined to take the two longest men's speedskating events after disappointments at past Olympics. In the 10,000 m in Vancouver, he was disqualified after switching into the wrong lane on the instructions of his coach. Four years earlier in Turin, he clipped a lane marker in the team pursuit, knocking out the heavily favored Dutch squad.
Earlier in the day, the first medals of the Sochi Games - which opened on Friday - were awarded, with US snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg claiming gold in slopestyle snowboarding, and Norway's Marit Bjoergen taking her country's first gold medal in the 15 km cross-country skiathlon.
Canadian sisters make their mark
As the day's action wound down, Canada, one of the powerhouses of the Winter Olympics, picked up its first gold medal. Justine Dufour-Lapointe, 19, and her 22-year-old sister Chloe won gold and silver respectively in the women's moguls. Hannah Kearney of the US, the defending champion from the Vancouver Games, had to settle for bronze.
The action continues on Sunday, with medals to be awarded in eight events, including the men's downhill on the difficult - and some say dangerous - Rosa Khutor course. American Bode Miller and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway are seen as the favorites.
pfd/ph (Reuters, AP)