Men's gold medalist Vic Wild and women's bronze medalist Alena Zavarzina celebrate their accomplishments on Wednesday. (Lars Baron / Getty Images)
Call it “To Russia With Love.”
Vic loves Alena. Alena loves Vic.
And Russia loves them both.
The edgy world of snowboarding took on a softer side Wednesday, weaving a Hollywood-ready story about love and marriage, gold and bronze, lifelong goals fulfilled amid just a touch of political intrigue.
Vic Wild, an American native who now competes for Russia, captured the gold medal in parallel giant slalom about 15 minutes after his wife, Russia’s Alena Zavarzina, won the bronze.
“For both of us to have success on the same day, it’s truly incredible,” said Wild, who married Zavarzina in 2011. “I don’t know how this happened.”
It started five years ago while they were traveling in the same pack on the World Cup snowboard racing circuit. Vic, born and raised in White Salmon, Wash., competed for the United States. Alena, a native of Novosibirsk, rode for Russia.
Love bloomed. And with parallel giant slalom going nowhere in America, Wild headed for Russia.
“This is what he worked for,” Zavarzina said of her husband’s victory. “He’s so far from his hometown. He did an amazing job. He had to switch countries, switch nationalities, accept some things some people would never accept.”
Sami Jauhojaervi gave Finland its first Winter Olympic gold since 2002 — and first in cross-country since 1998 — by taking advantage of a fall that slowed his closest rivals in the men’s team sprint final.
It was the most unexpected gold medal in cross-country skiing at the Games — the 32-year-old Jauhojaervi has one World Cup victory in his career, and teammate Iivo Niskanen never has been on the podium.
With Finland, Russia and Germany together up front heading into the stadium on the last lap, Jauhojaervi pulled ahead when Germany’s Tim Tscharnke fell right behind him after the final downhill section and also tripped up Russia’s Nikita Kriukov, who stayed on his legs but lost touch with the Finn.
Finland had to wait an extra 35 minutes or so to be sure of the gold after the German team put in a protest, saying Jauhojaervi had cut in front of Tscharnke, but it was quickly dismissed by a race jury.
... Marit Bjoergen captured her fifth career Olympic gold medal when Norway won the women’s team sprint.
Not even the Dutch were going to keep Martina Sablikova off the top step of the podium.
Sablikova defended her Olympic title in the women’s 5,000 meters, chasing down Ireen Wust to deny the Dutch a seventh speedskating gold.
“My feet hurt,” Sablikova said. “But I’m very happy.”
The 26-year-old from the Czech Republic set a track record with a time of 6 minutes, 51.54 seconds.
But it’s not like the Dutch didn’t show up.
They added two more medals to their record haul, as Wust took the silver while 35-year-old mother Carien Kleibeuker grabbed the bronze.
Norway won the first Olympic mixed relay in biathlon, making Ole Einar Bjoerndalen the most decorated Winter Olympian with 13 medals.
Bjoerndalen passed cross-country skiing great Bjoern Daehlie with his medal, and matched his fellow Norwegian’s record of eight gold medals.
Cossack militia attacked Russian punk group Pussy Riot with horsewhips Wednesday as the artists — who have feuded with Vladimir Putin’s government for years — tried to perform under a sign advertising the Sochi Olympics.
The group has resurfaced as a thorn for Russian authorities this week for the first time in nearly two years, just as Putin had been using the Winter Games to burnish his image at home and charm critics abroad with the most expensive Olympics ever.
Six group members — five women and one man — donned their signature ski masks in Sochi and were pulling out a guitar and microphone as at least 10 Cossacks and other security officials moved in. One Cossack appeared to use pepper spray. Another whipped several group members while other Cossacks ripped off their masks and threw the guitar in a garbage can.
Police arrived, questioned witnesses, but arrested no one.
The incident lasted less than three minutes.
The group has become an international flashpoint for those who contend Putin’s government has exceeded its authority, particularly restricting human and gay rights. They have called for a boycott of the Sochi Olympics.
Wednesday's podium points
Gold: Every time David Wise travels for a halfpipe competition, he searches for a rock — typically in the shape of a heart — to bring home for his wife, Lexie. She returned the favor Tuesday. She smuggled in a rock from near their home in Reno, Nev., to the final, handing it to a friend who gave it to her husband. Wise posted a picture of the gray, vaguely heart-shaped gem on Instagram before the competition, then stuffed it in his pocket before soaring to gold.
Silver: Vic Wild might compete under the Russian flag, but the roots for the White Salmon, Wash., native run deep. After the snowboarder completed a career revival with a gold medal for his new home country in men’s parallel giant slalom Wednesday — minutes after his wife, Alena Zavarzina, won bronze — Wild wanted to celebrate in the most American way possible. “It would be nice to have a beer,” Wild said. “They won’t let us have beer.” How about Vodka? Nyet!
Bronze: It wouldn’t be an Olympic speedskating competition without Kleintje Pils. The Netherlands oompah band — the name translates to “Small Beer” — is carrying on its every-four-year Olympic tradition of entertaining crowds during the ice resurfacing breaks. They are introduced to fans as the “Dutch royal orchestra,” although there’s certainly nothing formal about the group, decked out in their orange-striped shirts, casual pants and wooden shoes.
How athletes with Michigan connection fared Wednesday:
* Daniel Alfredsson (Red Wings): A forward for Team Sweden, he had one point (assist) and one shot in a 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Slovenia.
* Mike Babcock (Red Wings): Coach for Team Canada, which defeated Latvia, 2-1, in the quarterfinals.
* Dan Bylsma (Grand Haven): Coach for Team USA, which defeated the Czech Republic, 5-2, in the quarterfinals.
* Pavel Datsyuk (Red Wings): A center for Team Russia, he had one point (assist) and two shots in a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Finland.
* Jonathan Ericsson (Red Wings): A defenseman for Team Sweden, he had two shots in a 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Slovenia.
* Cam Fowler (Farmington Hills): A defenseman for Team USA, who had one shot and was +1 in a 5-2 quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic.
* Jonas Gustavsson (Red Wings): A goaltender for Team Sweden, he did not play in a 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Slovenia.
* Jimmy Howard (Red Wings): A goaltender for Team USA, who did not play in a 5-2 quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic.
* Ryan Kesler (Livonia): A center for Team USA, who had two points (two assists) in a 5-2 quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic.
* Niklas Kronwall (Red Wings): A defenseman for Team Sweden, he had one point (assist), one shot and was +2 in a 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Slovenia.
* Valentina Marchei (Detroit Skating Club): Italian figure skater qualified 12th for the long program with a score of 57.02.
* Ryan Miller (East Lansing): A goaltender for Team USA, who did not play in a 5-2 quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic.
* Gustav Nyquist (Red Wings): A forward for Team Sweden, he had two shots and was +1 in a 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Slovenia.
* Max Pacioretty (University of Michigan): A forward for Team USA, who had one shot and was -1 in a 5-2 quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic.
* Lauryn Williams (Detroit): American and her teammate Elana Meyers won the silver medal in two-woman bobsled.