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Originally published Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 8:48 PM

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Russia celebrates big day with first gold

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SOCHI, Russia — Outside the Iceberg Skating Palace, urologist Andrei Severyukhin was as certain about the winner of the team skating competition as he was about the colors of the Russian flag he had just had painted on his face.

“It would be unreal if we don’t win gold tonight,” Severyukhin said.

The first one for the host country came just as predicted, much to the delight of Severyukhin and his daughter, who joined their countrymen in a celebration as raucous as it gets in figure skating as Russia won the gold in the inaugural event.

President Vladimir Putin was on hand to celebrate the first gold of the games he brought to Russia, hugging aging star Evgeni Plushenko and his teammates and posing with them for pictures. So were players of the Russian ice-hockey team and other Olympians.

They stood and cheered as Plushenko showed he still had enough left for one last run, setting a modern-day record by medaling in his fourth Olympics at the age of 31. They cheered more as a star in the making in 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia put on a dazzling display in the ladies free skating portion of the event.

And they stayed around to toast their new heroes one more time as they took a team victory lap around the arena.

“Ro-ssi-ya, Ro-ssi-ya,” fans chanted, as a country that flopped in figure skating four years ago in Vancouver flexed its muscles before an adoring crowd that provided the perfect home-ice advantage.

They were certain of victory, certain this would be the night Russia got the first payoff for the $51 billion Putin spent to put on the Olympics in this aging Black Sea resort town.

“I think it’s the resurrection of the old Soviet skate team,” Philip Shustov of Moscow had said a few hours earlier. “We must win.”

Russia also got two silver medals and a bronze earlier in the day.

Defending biathlon champ dedicates gold to brother

Less than 24 hours after her younger brother just missed out on an Olympic medal, Anastasiya Kuzmina succeeded — and then dedicated her gold medal to him.

Kuzmina became the first woman in biathlon to successfully defend an individual Olympic title by winning gold in the 7.5-kilometer sprint Sunday at the Sochi Games.

A day earlier, her brother Anton Shipulin faulted on the very last shot, squandered his lead and finished fourth in the men’s 10K race.

“I was feeling for Anton, I was rooting for him,” Kuzmina said. “This is my day, I will dedicate it to him. I hope I’ve made a difference in his feelings by my victory. I hope that it inspires him for (Monday’s) pursuit. He can win.”

In other events

Felix Loch of Germany won his second straight Olympic gold medal in men’s luge, easily defeating the world’s top sliders. The 24-year-old German joined Georg Hackl, his coach, and Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler, who won the bronze, as the only athletes to repeat as Olympic titlists.

Zoeggeler has a record six medals in six games.

Loch arrived at the Sochi Games expected to win. It seemed to be a mere formality that he would add another gold medal to Germany’s cache of Olympic hardware.

He dominated and delivered.

“Unbelievable. It’s so crazy for me,” Loch said. “I don’t have any words, but yeah, it’s so cool.”

• For the second day in a row, the Netherlands won a gold medal in speedskating. This time, it was Ireen Wust in the women’s 3,000, and it was the third straight Winter Games where she grabbed a gold. Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima were again in the crowd, just as they were the day before when Sven Kramer took gold in the men’s 5,000.

Kamil Stoch of Poland made his first Olympic medal a gold one, winning the men’s normal hill individual ski jump after a stunning first-round jump put him in control.

Down the hill last among 50 starters in the first round, this season’s World Cup leader had a jump of 105.5 meters, four meters better than Anders Bardal of Norway.

Peter Prevc of Slovenia, the 2013 world champion, overtook Bardal in the second round to take the silver. Bardal settled for the bronze.

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