SOCHI, Russia — All the gloom and grim talk leading to the Sochi Olympics at last gave way to more uplifting things.
IOC President Thomas Bach had said it’s “time that it finally starts.” And so it did Saturday — the first competition since the cauldron was lit.
In all, 98 gold medals will be awarded over the next 16 days, and five were settled on Day 2.
Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjoerndalen became the oldest individual gold medalist at the Winter Olympics, winning the 10-kilometer sprint — his seventh career gold. Cross-country skier Marit Bjoergen, also from Norway, captured the women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon for her fourth Olympic title. And American snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg, his blonde hair flapping from his helmet, won the first gold medal of the games by taking men’s slopestyle.
BIATHLON: At age 40, Bjoerndalen became the oldest Winter Olympic gold medalist in an individual sport, bringing him within one gold of the all-time mark of eight held by Norwegian cross-country skiing great Bjorn Daehlie. He was followed by Dominik Landertinger of Austria and Jaroslav Soukup of Czech Republic.
“I am in super form,” Bjoerndalen said. “I prepared well for this and I am feeling strong.”
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: Bjoergen’s gold was tempered by grief. The brother of teammate Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen died “suddenly and unexpectedly” a day earlier, according to Norwegian Olympic officials. Bjoergen, joined by teammates, sobbed in an embrace after the race.
“We really did a good race for him today,” Bjoergen said. Bjoergen held off silver medalist Charlotte Kalla in the final straightaway to win in 38 minutes, 33.6 seconds, successfully defending her title from Vancouver. Norway’s Heidi Weng won the bronze.
“One gold was my goal, so now I can relax a little bit,” Bjoergen said.
SNOWBOARDING: Kotsenburg won the first gold of the games. The 20-year-old from Idaho mastered a perilous course in Krasnaya Polyana in slopestyle’s Olympic debut. He was king of a 12-man field and a slope that features a large nesting doll — a course Shaun White wanted no part of.