SOCHI, February 14 (R-Sport) – Japan's Yuzuru Hanyu won the men's figure skating gold medal and there was British success for Lizzy Yarnold in the Olympic skeleton on Friday, the seventh day of action at the Sochi Winter Games.
Elsewhere, Switzerland’s Dario Cologna defied an injury-ravaged season for a second cross-country skiing gold and Belarus claimed historic second and third medals of the Games in the biathlon.
At the Iceberg Skating Palace on the Black Sea coast, Hanyu triumphed in a free program that saw big errors from all leading medal contenders.
After winning the team short program earlier in the Games and going on to smash the individual short program world record on Thursday, the 19-year-old Hanyu was primed to coast to the gold medal.
But in the free program Hanyu fell twice – once on his opening quadruple salchow and again on a more straightforward triple flip – to score a total of 280.09 points. World champion Patrick Chan, the hot medal favorite going into the Games, failed to make up the four-point overnight deficit with an equally shaky skate that forced him to settle for silver with 275.62.
"I was trying not to think about winning a gold medal, but I couldn't deflect the pressure, which was massive," Hanyu said.
"I'm so proud of this feat as a Japanese. The Olympics is so wild and unpredictable. I've never been this nervous for a competition in my entire life. I'm upset with the performance I had, but I left everything I had out there," he added.
Chan was dejected.
"Feeling the medal slip away was definitely a lingering thought. I'm disappointed, but life goes on," he said.
An unlikely bronze went to Kazakhstan's Denis Ten, who scored 255.10 for the 20-year-old's second major international medal after taking the silver in last year's world championships.
Up in the Caucasus mountains, Britain won its first gold medal of the Games as Yarnold sped to gold in the women’s skeleton by a commanding margin.
Yarnold’s win continues a British tradition of success in the skeleton – the country has won at least one medal at every Winter Olympics in which the sport has featured.
"It was a bit of a messy run but I'm just so thrilled," Yarnold said. "I've shown the world what I'm capable of."
The silver medal went to a concussion-affected Noelle Pikus-Pace of the United States, a full 0.97 seconds behind Yarnold.
The American admitted she had missed four of the six training runs this week in Sochi because of the concussion, rather than a back problem stated earlier. “I was pretty out of it, I couldn’t see clearly, my vision was blurred,” she said.
Elena Nikitina won bronze for Russia, 0.44 seconds further back, the first women's skeleton medal for the Sochi host nation.
Just across the valley, Cologna, who missed much of this season with an ankle injury, took victory in the men’s cross-country skiing 15km classical race. The crushing margin of victory was 28.5 seconds over Sweden’s Johan Olsson. He adds the gold medal to his skiathlon triumph Saturday and 2010 win in the Vancouver 15km freestyle.
"It's amazing. I couldn't believe the first gold medal, after being injured, and now the second," he said. "It was the perfect race. I knew it would be hard and I was prepared for it."
Olsson said he had been "close to giving up" on his dream of an Olympic medal as he also battled injury ahead of the Games, crediting his wife for inspiring him to carry on.
Another Swede, Daniel Richardsson, stole the bronze medal from under the nose of Iivo Niskanen, shaving 0.2 seconds off the Finn’s time.
In the biathlon, Darya Domracheva of Belarus added the individual gold to her pursuit title, destroying a high-octane field in the 15km race.
The 27-year-old from Minsk missed just once at the second shooting stop to record an overall time of 43 minutes, 19.6 seconds at the Laura biathlon course.
Domracheva won Tuesday's pursuit by the vast margin of 37.6 seconds to become the first Belarusian woman ever to win Winter Olympic gold, and now she goes down as the first person from her country to claim two winter golds.
"Oh my God, I think it means a lot for the whole country. I hope that I inspire other people," she said. "Yesterday there were a lot of questions about how I would feel. I tried to calm down and let the emotions of yesterday stay with yesterday."
So fast was Domracheva around the course that she beat her nearest two clean-shooting rivals, Selina Gasparin of Switzerland, who took the silver a minute and 15 seconds behind, and her compatriot Nadezhda Skardino, who claimed bronze another 22 seconds back.
Gasparin's silver was the first-ever Swiss biathlon medal.
In Alpine skiing, Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic cemented his reputation the sport's nearly man with a fourth Olympic silver medal, but said he had no regrets about never reaching the top step of the podium.
At 34, Kostelic is almost certainly at his last Olympics, and the Croatian became the second-oldest Alpine medalist of all time when he took second place behind Switzerland’s Sandro Viletta in the super combined.
Following on from Matthias Mayer’s gold medal in the downhill Sunday, it was the second men’s event running to have a winner who had never claimed even a World Cup podium in the discipline.
"This is amazing – it's perfect, it's more than a dream come true. It's also a big shock. I didn't think I would come first. I'm so happy," Viletta said.
The bronze medal went to Christof Innerhofer of Italy, 0.13 seconds further back, his second medal of the Sochi Games after silver in the downhill.
The night rounded off at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, where acrobatic skill and a healthy dose of good fortune brought Alla Tsuper of Belarus the gold medal in women’s aerials skiing as all of her rivals crashed.
Aged 34 and at her fifth Olympics, Tsuper won her first career medal by scoring 98.01 with the opening jump of the four-woman medal shootout at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. It was the second gold of the delay for Belarus, who earlier tasted victory in the biathlon with Darya Domracheva’s victory in the 15km individual race.
"I'm very happy to be Olympic champion," Tsuper said. "I was showing my fight and my power, that I could do everything and I put trust in myself. I was fortunate today, fortune was on my side."
The silver medal went to China’s Xu Mengtao, the reigning world champion, who slipped backwards on landing and scored 83.50.
Australia’s Lydia Lassila, who fell and slid across the ground on her back, added the bronze to her 2010 gold medal after scoring 72.12. She was debuting a new jump, the full-double-full-full.
The medal table sees Germany remain top on seven golds, with the Swiss in second on five. Canada, Norway, the Americans and Norway all have four golds, with Belarus a new entry in seventh place with three golds.
Saturday sees medals up for grabs in the women's super G, the women's cross-country relay, the women's and men's short track speedskating, the men's skeleton and the men's ski jump.