Sochi Day 12: Ligety's Giant Slalom Gold Helps Team USA to Top Spot in Olympic Medal Race - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

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Sochi Day 12: Ligety's Giant Slalom Gold Helps Team USA to Top Spot in Olympic Medal Race

Ted Ligety became the first American to win two Alpine ski gold medals on Wednesday, while two U.S. women's boblsed teams made history on day 12 in Sochi.

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    The United States moved into the top spot in the Winter Olympics medal race on Wednesday.

    Team USA ended the day with 23 total medals, one more than the Russians and the Dutch, in a surge fueled by historic performances in Alpine skiing and bobsled events.

    At the same time, the U.S. men's hockey moved closer to a podium finish.

    Here are those highlights, and others, from day 12 in Sochi.

    Alpine gold, at last

    Ted Ligety ended America’s gold-medal drought in Alpine skiing on Wednesday, winning the giant slalom in commanding fashion.

    That made Ligety, who won the giant slalom in 2006 but failed to medal in 2010, the first American male Alpine skier to win two Olympic gold medals.

    His giant slalom victory was widely expected, since he has dominated the event on the World Cup circuit.

    But it also offered him a sigh of relief.

    Ligety failed to medal in other events in which he was a favorite. And his other highly touted teammates have not lived up to expectations; Ligety’s gold was was the first for the U.S. Alpine squad in Sochi.

    One of those teammates, Bode Miller, whose bronze in the super-G won him a U.S. record sixth Alpine medal, hurt his knee in the giant slalom and said he would not race in the final Alpine event, the slalom.

    Two bobsled medals

    Americans made bobsled history on Wednesday.

    A pair of two-woman teams — Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams, plus Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans — finished second and third, respectively, on Wednesday.

    Their two-three finish marked the first time two U.S. women’s teams had won medals at the Olympics.

    Williams, a brakeman and erstwhile track and field athlete, also became the fifth Olympian to win medals in different events in the Summer and Winter Games. She has a gold medal from the 4x100m relay in London two years ago and a silver from the 100m in Athens in 2004.

    A Canadian bobsled team won Wednesday’s gold.

    A third American team, of Jazmine Fenlator and former track-and-field Olympian Lolo Jones, finished in 11th place.

    Another step toward hockey gold

    The U.S. men’s hockey team took a big step toward the podium on Wednesday with a 5-2 quarterfinal win over the Czech Republic.

    They also had help from the Russians, who lost to Finland and were knocked out of medal contention.

    But the Americans don’t have an easy path ahead of them. Their next opponent is Canada, who beat them in overtime for the gold in Vancouver.

    If the U.S. wins on Friday, they'll win a berth in the championship game. If they lose, they’ll play for bronze.

    Strong skating from American women

    The short-skate portion of Wednesday’s ladies’ figure skating competition was dominated by South Korea’s Yuna Kim, Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova and Italy’s Carolina Kostner.

    But just behind them are three Americans, all in the top seven heading into Thursday’s free skate program.

    They are led by Gracie Gold, in fourth place, followed by Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds, in sixth and seventh, respectively.

    All but Gold are long shots for the podium.

    A new king of winter

    Norwegian cross-country skiier Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won his 13th career Olympic medal on Wednesday, making him the most decorated winter Olympian ever.

    The record-setting medal came in the inaugural mixed biathlon relay.

    Bjoerndalen, 40, also won gold in Sochi in the men's sprint biathlon.

    His total career haul is now eight golds, four silvers and one bronze.

    And he has a shot at another medal on Saturday, in the 4x7.5k relay.