Unfancied Swiss wins alpine gold in balmy Sochi
Sochi: Swiss outsider Sandro Viletta won men`s super combined Olympic gold Friday as the big Alpine ski stars failed to fire while soaring temperatures sent organisers scrambling to re-jig training schedules.
World champion Ted Ligety could only finish 12th while French tyro Alexis Pinturault crashed out of the afternoon slalom when well-placed on the mountain course at Rosa Khutor.
As temperatures nudged 14 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit), Viletta, 14th after the morning downhill, swept down the increasingly slushy course to post a winning time of 2min 45.20sec.
Croatian veteran Ivica Kostelic (2:45.54) won his third consecutive Olympic silver in the event while Italy`s Christof Innerhofer won bronze to add to his silver in the downhill.
Victory for Viletta -- who has not had a single World Cup podium finish in the event -- came just two days after compatriot Dominique Gisin won a shock gold in the women`s downhill.
"This is amazing. It`s perfect. It`s also a big shock. I didn`t think I would come first. I`m so happy," said the 28-year-old Swiss.
The spring-like weather was so warm that cross-country skiers had to strip down to stay cool -- some wearing short-sleeves and even shorts.
Organisers brought forward the start time of the morning downhill element of the super-combined while a series of freestyle skiing training sessions were later cancelled.
Officials have expressed confidence that there is more than enough snow in place and the warm weather should not impact the race timetable at the Sochi Games.
Down in the Olympic Park on the Black Sea coast, the men`s figure skating competition gold will be decided on Friday -- without Russian veteran Yevgeny Plushenko, who withdrew injured on Thursday before calling time on his illustrious career.
Japanese star Yuzuru Hanyu put himself in pole position for gold after setting a new world record score in the men`s short programme on Thursday to open up a 3.93-point lead over three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada.
Skating to "Parisian Walkways" by Gary Moore, the 19-year-old hit a quad toeloop, triple axel and triple lutz-triple toeloop combination to score 101.45.
But his breathtaking performance was overshadowed by the dramatic retirement of Plushenko, who took to the ice but injured his back in the warm-up.
Russian media and officials were unanimous in expressing sympathy for the 31-year-old two-time Olympic gold medallist.
But there was also more than a hint of frustration that the fragile veteran had not pulled out of the Olympics after winning gold in the team competition, which would have allowed Russia to field a replacement in the men`s competition.
"The great career of our skater ended in a genuine human tragedy," said the Sovietsky Sport daily on its front page. It quoted a tearful Plushenko as saying: "I ask forgiveness from my fans."
In other medal action on Friday, Switzerland`s Dario Cologna won his second gold of the Games with a dominant performance in the men`s 15km Nordic skiing classic.
A strong Chinese team headed by Li Nina could dominate the women`s freestyle aerials, although defending champion Lydia Lassila of Australia will have her sights set on a second triumph.
Britain`s Lizzy Yarnold is the hot favourite to succeed retired compatriot Amy Williams as women`s skeleton champion and medals are also up for grabs in the women`s 15km biathlon.
Sochi Games organisers said a bobsleigh track worker injured when a sled smashed into him on Thursday is in a stable condition after an operation, emphasising that the track was not to blame.
The Russian icemaker was hit by the forerunner bob which is used to clear and test the track.
The accident came four years after the death of 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili in a crash during a training descent at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.