Drama in Russian mountains as Winter Games get first downhill tie

Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:35pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - In a finish even a Hollywood scriptwriter would struggle to match, the women's downhill at Russia's Winter Olympics produced a tie for gold for the first time on Wednesday, on a thrilling fifth full day of competition.

The host nation got its second gold of the Games when Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov triumphed in the figure skating pairs competition at the Iceberg Skating Palace.

Russia won the first Olympic figure skating team event three days earlier.

Adding to the feel-good factor, complaints about slushy snow conditions in the Caucasus mountains melted away despite clear skies and mild temperatures, and down in the Olympic park on the Black Sea coast, the men's ice hockey tournament got underway.

A few days of stunning sporting action on the snow and ice has drawn the sting out of criticism leveled at Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, who has staked his legacy on staging a successful Games.

However, supporters of an environmentalist who campaigned against ecological damage from Olympics construction work, and who lost an appeal against his sentence on Wednesday, said he was being punished for publicizing problems caused by the Games.

Yevgeny Vitishko, who was convicted of damaging the regional governor's property, will spend three years in a prison colony.

The Kremlin denies using courts for political purposes and says there are no political prisoners in Russia.   Continued...

Slovenia's Tina Maze (front) hugs Switzerland's Dominique Gisin after they jointly won the women's alpine skiing downhill race at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach