Zhang Hong put up an early time no one could beat.

Not the Dutch, though they are still flying high at the Sochi Olympics.

Certainly not the Americans, who can't get up to speed at Adler Arena.

While Heather Richardson and Brittany Bowe were the latest U.S. heavyweights to flame out, Zhang gave China its first speedskating gold medal ever with a stunning victory in the women's 1,000 meters Thursday.

The winning time of 1 minutes, 14.02 seconds was nearly seven-10ths faster than anyone else -- a huge margin in this event.

"I saw the time pop up and was thinking 'This is amazingly fast,' " said silver medalist Ireen Wust of the Netherlands. "I had never done a 1:15 at sea level."

Zhang, who had not done much on the World Cup circuit this season, skated in the seventh of 18 pairs based on her middling results. But her time broke the track record and just missed the Olympic mark set by Chris Witty at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

Wust took the silver in 1:14.69, and Dutch teammate Margot Boer earned bronze in 1:14.90.

While the Dutch ran their Sochi speedskating medal haul to 12, just one away from tying the best Olympic performance ever on the big oval, the Americans have yet to win even one.

Richardson came in ranked No. 1 in the World Cup standings, just ahead of her teammate Bowe, who set a world record in the 1,000 on the high-altitude ice at Salt Lake City just three months ago.


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Richardson was briefly in third place but knew her time was unlikely to hold up with three pairings left; she wound up seventh in 1:15.23. Bowe went in the next-to-last last group and faded badly over the final lap, winding up eighth in 1.15.47 -- nearly 1½ seconds off the winning time.

"I'm at a loss for words right now," U.S. sprint coach Ryan Shimabukro said. "For whatever reason right now, we are getting skunked."

  • Four-time Olympic medalist Martina Sablikova skipped the women's 1,500 meters to focus on defending her gold in the 5,000. The Czech skater took bronze in the 1,500 in the Vancouver Games but is best known as a long-distance specialist. She won Olympic gold in the 3,000 and 5,000 four years ago.

    Short track: Li Jianrou extended China's dominance in the women's 500 meters, winning its fourth consecutive title after she was the only skater who didn't fall in the wild final.

    Li and one of her coaches cried tears of joy after China joined South Korea as the only nations to win the same short track event four Olympics in a row. The Koreans won the 3,000 relay in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006.

    "I cried because I was so excited," Li said.

    Li's victory made up for the surprising fall of teammate Fan Kexin in the semifinals.

    Arianna Fontana of Italy took the silver, and Park Seung-hi of South Korea earned the bronze.

    Curling: Gold medal favorites Canada, Sweden and Britain posted wins in the men's tournament, keeping the pressure on undefeated China, which had a bye Thursday.

    In the women's competition, Canada swept away its fifth straight opponent, and Sweden knocked Switzerland from the ranks of the undefeated. Britain revived its chances of making the semifinals with a win over China.

    Luge: Germany scored a golden sweep of all four luge events by winning the inaugural team relay. Felix Loch, Natalie Geisenberger and the doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished their runs in 2 minutes, 45.649 seconds, beating Russia for the title by 1.030 seconds. Latvia won the bronze.

    It's the 31st luge gold medal for Germany, going back to the days of when the nation was split into east and west.

    All other nations have 13.

    Worker injured: Olympic officials are trying to determine why a worker on the track used for sliding sports was in the path of a speeding bobsled that crashed into him, causing leg injuries and a concussion.

    A forerunning sled sent down the track to make sure conditions were suitable for two-man training crashed into the worker at the Sanki Sliding Center.

    The unidentified worker broke both his legs and was airlifted to a nearby hospital where he underwent surgery and was said to be doing well, an Olympic official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because medical information on the worker has not been released.

    Ski jumping: Russian Mikhail Maksimochkin fractured two ribs in a dramatic training crash on the large hill at the Sochi Olympics and spent Wednesday night in hospital and won't attempt to qualify for the individual final.

    Biathlon: Martin Fourcade of France earned his second gold in four days, overcoming one penalty minute to win the men's 20-kilometer individual race. He won the 12.5k pursuit Monday.

    Cross-country: Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland, skiing with a fractured foot, won gold in the women's 10-kilometer classical race. Kowalczyk led virtually all the way, finishing in 28:17.8 and beating silver medalist Charlotte Kalla of Sweden by 18.4 seconds. Therese Johaug of Norway took bronze, 28.3 seconds behind.