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Plushenko Quits, Hockey Powers Arrive on Day 6 at Sochi.

MOSKOVA (CyHAN)- Day six at the Sochi Winter Olympics marked the departure of one of the Games' biggest stars Thursday as two-time figure skating gold medalist Evgeny Plushenko retired in subdued style, while the top powers of men's hockey got their campaigns under way.

Elsewhere, there was a rare podium sweep for the United States, unrelenting German dominance of the luge and a farcical speedskating final.

Plushenko's glittering career ended with a whimper rather than a bang as he withdrew from the men's competition, having aggravated a back injury in the warm-up. He still leaves Sochi a champion, however, after helping Russia to gold in the new team event Sunday.

He promptly retired. "I'm ending my career," he said. Of further competition, he said: "My age allows it, but 12 operations are too much," a reference to the frequent surgery he has endured on his knee and back since Vancouver 2010.

At 31, Turin 2006 Olympic champion Plushenko was far older than any other top men's skaters, and the generation divide was put into stark contrast as 19-year-old Japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu took the lead in the short program with a 101-point skate that smashed the world record to smithereens.

The end of Plushenko's Olympic career came at the same time as Canada's gold medal favorite hockey team was starting its bid for gold.

The Canadians won 3-1 against Norway, a scoreline that belied their at-times crushing dominance, allowing the Norwegians to post just two shots in all of the second period, but there were some concerns about Canada's difficulties in breaking through a determined Scandinavian defense.

Earlier, host nation Russia stuttered to a 5-2 win over tiny Slovenia in its opening game. Despite having just one National Hockey League player, the Slovenians kept it a one-goal game into the third period before the Russians secured the result.

The Russian performance raises questions about how that star-studded lineup will fare in its next group game against the US, who demolished a solid Slovakian team in a 7-1 win.

There was more US success in the mountains as American athletes completed a first podium sweep since 2002 with gold, silver and bronze in the men's slopestyle. Winner Joss Christensen was something of an underdog, having not won a major event since 2011, but laid down two fearsomely strong runs to snatch first place.

Chaos marred the final of the women's 500-meter short-track speedskating, which was decided after just two corners when Britain's Elise Christie barreled into fellow medal contenders Park Seung-Hi and Arianna Fontana.

All three fell, allowing last-placed Li Jianrou of China to pick her way through her spreadeagled opponents and claim an easy victory. Fontana beat Park to silver, and Christie was disqualified.

Elsewhere, biathlon star Martin Fourcade confirmed he is the man to beat, winning his second gold of the games with victory in the men's 20km individual race. Fourcade becomes the first French athlete since 1968 to win more than one event at the same Winter Olympics.

A heatwave in the mountains meant many of the top contenders in women's cross-country skiing shed their usual thermal gear for light vests in the 10km classic race, where Jusztyna Kowalczyk prevailed, her victory meaning Poland is having its most successful Winter Games to date.

The final gold medal of the day was also the least surprising. Germany had won all three luge events before Thursday, making victory in the team event a foregone conclusion. The Germans, gold medalists all, glided to victory ahead of Russian and Latvian teams that seemed sluggish by contrast.

There were two renowned retirees at the Sanki Sliding Center, with six-time Olympic medalist Armin Zoeggeler and Russia's Albert Demchenko, the men's singles silver medalist in Sochi, both quitting the sport. Zoeggeler, 40, has been to six Olympics, while the 42-year-old Demchenko is at a record seventh Winter Games.

Another sliding gold is up for grabs Friday, when British medal hope Lizzy Yarnold looks to hold on to the sizeable lead she built Thursday in the women's skeleton.

The flagship competition of the day, however, is undoubtedly the men's figure skating free program, even without Plushenko. Leader Hanyu will be under heavy pressure from Canada's Patrick Chan, who has dominated the sport for the last four years, winning everything but an Olympic medal.

Also on offer are gold medals in the men's 15km classical cross-country skiing, men's Alpine super combined, the 15km women's biathlon individual and women's ski aerials.

At the close of play Thursday, Germany leads the medal table with seven gold medals, ahead of Canada, Norway, the Netherlands and the US. (Cihan/Ria Novosti)

CyHAN

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Publication:Cihan News Agency (CNA)
Date:Feb 14, 2014
Words:787
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