Germany's domination of luge events at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi is complete. They have added the team relay gold medal to earlier triumphs in the other three luge disciplines in Sochi.
Germany was favorite after claiming gold in men's and women's singles and doubles and lived up to that status in the team relay event on Thursday. Natalie Geisenberger (women's champion), Felix Loch (men's) and the pairing of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt (doubles) combined to win Germany's seventh gold medal of the Games, finishing ahead of hosts Russia by 1.03 seconds. Latvia took bronze.
"All of us need a few days to realize what we did here," Loch said after. "It was a perfect luge week for the Germans."
Earlier on Thursday, the United States claimed a clean sweep of the men's slopestyle skiing in Sochi. The feat - in the event's Winter Olympics debut - brightened a somewhat underwhelming Games for the US thus far.
Utah-born Joss Christensen, 22, led a US clean sweep of the podium to win the first ever Olympic gold medal in the men's freestyle skiing slopestyle, which is making its debut in Sochi, on Thursday.
Christensen posted a final score of 95.80 to defeat teammates Gus Kenworthy with 93.60 and Nick Goepper who bagged 92.40.
In each of Christensen's four runs he scored within the 90s - his final two runs alone good enough to place him first or second. Germany's Benedikt Mayr scored a personal best of 67.60, but it was not enough for him to reach the final round and he placed 20th overall.
Christensen's gold was the fourth for the US team in Russia - all have been won on the slopes at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Thursday's podium sweep is the third for the US in Winter Olympic history. They join men's figure skating in 1956 and the men's halfpipe snowboarding in 2002.
But the sweep could not hide what has been a disappointing Games so far for the US, with snowboarder Shaun White, speedskater Shani Davis and downhill skiers Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso underwhelming in the pet events in which they were expected to medal.
Group matches in both the men's and women's ice hockey events began on Thursday, with medal fancies Russia, Finland and the US both claiming impressive first-up wins in the former. Three third-period goals to Russia helped them see off Slovenia, while world No. 2 Finland overcame Austria 8-4 despite a hat trick for the losing side's right wing Michael Grabner.
The US thumped Slovakia 7-1. In the final match of the day, Canada beat Norway 3-1.
In the women's, Germany defeated Japan 4-0.
Gold for Poland, China and France
Also on Thursday, Poland won its second gold medal of the Games thanks to Justyna Kowalczyk's triumph in the women's 10 km cross-country. It is the second Olympic gold of her career, having won the 30 km classic in Vancouver in 2010. Stefanie Böhler was Germany's best finished, crossing the line 46.5 seconds after Kowalczyk.
China picked up their first two gold medals of the Games - both in women's skating. Jianrou Li won the 500 m short track event, while Hong Zhang edged Ireen Wust of the Netherlands by just .67 of a second to win the 1000 m event.
France's Martin Fourcade picked up his second gold medal of the games with victory in the men's individual 20 km biathlon. He overcame on shooting penalty to finish 12.2 seconds ahead of silver medallist Erik Lesser of Germany.
ph/hc (SID, afp, Reuters, dpa, AP)