Winter Games: Hockey heartache for Russia, Norway lead medals tally
Russia fell to Finland in the big men's hockey clash at the Winter Olympics on Wednesday, robbing the hosts of a shot at the gold they covet most, while athletes and officials reacted with shock to the deaths of protesters in neighbouring Ukraine.
The roar of the home fans at the Bolshoy Ice Dome was not enough to inspire the team to victory over Finland, who have been on the podium in four of the last five Olympics.
Finland won 3-1 in a result that took some of the wind out of home sails at Russia's first Winter Games.
Hockey heavyweights Canada and the United States advanced to meet in one of Friday's semi-finals, beating Latvia and the Czech Republic respectively, while top seeds Sweden saw off Slovenia 5-0 and will meet Finland.
Image: A dejected Russian fan watches the Men's Ice Hockey Quarterfinal Playoff against Finland at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on Wednesday
Photographs: Martin Rose/Getty Images
On Wednesday eight gold medals were decided
At the adjacent IcebergSkatingPalace in Sochi, 15-year-old figure skater Julia Lipnitskaya, who mesmerised the Games with her performance in the team event, fell in the short programme to add to the host nation's heartache.
She looked devastated as she left the ice, and ahead of Thursday's free skating programme, she is placed fourth. Defending champion Kim Yuna leads.
On Wednesday eight gold medals were decided.
They included the men's giant slalom, which Ted Ligety won convincingly to claim the first U.S. Alpine skiing gold of the Games. Thick fog, rain and snow that made skiing so difficult over the last two days had lifted, and conditions were clear.
Image: Yulia Lipnitskaya of Russia competes in the Figure Skating Ladies' Short Program on Wednesday
Photographs: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
'Yes it's a distraction, everyone's talking about it'
But Ukraine's Olympic team struggled to come to terms with deadly clashes at home in which at least 26 people were killed.
Ukrainian athletes asked for permission to wear black arm bands to honour those killed, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which bans any sort of political or commemorative symbols during the Games, refused.
"Yes it's a distraction, everyone's talking about it, people are saying 'what's happened in your country, what's happened?'" said Dmytro Mytsak, a Ukrainian giant slalom skier from Kiev.
"We're getting support from the Russian spectators and I'm grateful for that," the 18-year-old added.
Former pole vault champion and Ukraine's Olympic chief Sergey Bubka, in Sochi for the Games, expressed bewilderment at how events in Kiev and elsewhere had spiralled out of control.
Image: Dmytro Mytsak of Ukraine in action during the Alpine Skiing Men's Giant Slalom on Wednesday
Photographs: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Norway went top of the overall medals table with 9 golds
In a rush of gold in the mountains, Ligety claimed the United States' first Alpine skiing title of the Games by beating two Frenchmen to the top of the podium.
Russia's Vic Wild won the Olympic men's snowboard parallel giant slalom gold medal minutes after his wife, Alena Zavarzina, had won bronze behind Swiss champion Patrizia Kummer in the women's event.
Norway, anchored by the indomitable Marit Bjoergen, won the women's team sprint classic gold medal, while in the men's, Finland prevailed after an appeal lodged by Germany following a crash in the final stages was rejected.
Norway triumphed again in the mixed relay biathlon, meaning that 40-year-old Ole Einar Bjoerndalen became the most decorated Winter Games athlete with his 13th Olympic medal and joined compatriot and former cross-country skier Bjorn Daehli on a record eight golds.
Norway went top of the overall medals table with nine golds, ahead of Germany's eight and the U.S. on seven.
Image: Gold medalists Marit Bjoergen (right) of Norway and teammate Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg celebrate during the flower ceremony for the Women's Team Sprint Classic Final on Wednesday
Photographs: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Sablikova, Czech Republic's most successful Olympian
There was a rare sight at the speed skating arena as the person on top of the podium was not Dutch -- Martina Sablikova retaining her 5,000 metres title to become the CzechRepublic's most successful Olympian.
It was business as usual behind her though as Ireen Wust's silver and Carien Kleibeuker's bronze kept the medals rolling in for the Netherlands, who have dominated speed skating in Sochi.
In the last event to be decided on Wednesday, Canada's Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse won a second successive Olympic women's bobsleigh gold after pipping the USA-1 sled of Elana Meyers by a tenth of a second.
The Americans had led going into the fourth and final run but hit the wall to lose by a tenth of a second and deny brakeman Lauryn Williams the honour of becoming the first woman to win gold in Summer and Winter Olympics following her sprint relay victory at London 2012.
Back down in Sochi, Britain upset world champions Sweden to claim a place in Friday's men's curling final, where they will face Canada. Canada will meet Sweden in Thursday's women's final, a re-run of the 2010 gold medal game from Vancouver.
Image: Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic celebrates winning the gold medal during the Women's 5000m Speed Skating event on Wednesday
Photographs: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images