December 14 - Russia confirmed its position as the dominant force at the Trentino 2013 Universiade here today as its athletes claimed five of the six medal spots in the cross-country sprint finals.
In the women's event it was a podium clean-sweep as Oxana Usatova, Olga Tsareva and Olga Repnitsyna occupied the top three places after a memorable race where they were neck-and-neck right up until the line.
A photo-finish had to decide the gold medal and it was Usatova who squeaked home first by a hundredth of a second 3min 24.27sec.
"It's wonderful to see an all-Russian podium," said 25-year-old Usatova.
"We hoped to realise such a result and we grabbed all the medals though it was a difficult accomplishment."
Maxim Kovalev did not need a photo to determine his first place finish although it was another close call as he seen off teammate Pavel Siulatov by just 00:64sec to finish in a time of 3:25:71.
Finland's Heikki Korpela was the odd one out on the podium as he held off the challenge of fellow Scandinavian Lars Suther of Sweden to take the bronze medal.
"I made a little mistake in the first part of the final and I had to chase Korpela and Siulatov," said a relieved Kovalev afterwards.
"At the end I broke away and now I'm very satisfied with my job".
There was further Russian success on the ice in Albi di Canazei as a 7-1 victory over the Czech Republic, led by two goals from Konstantin Turukin, saw them record their second win of the tournament and secure a place in the final stages.
Over in Predazzo, Sami Johannes Niemi joined compatriot Korpela as a Finnish medal winner only this time it was gold as he prevailed in the HS106 ski jumping competition, while the women's gold medal was claimed by Slovenia's Katja Pozum.
Back on the ice in Baselga di Pine, it was South Koera's turn to dominate the podium positions as three of its speed skaters bagged Universiade medals, although none were gold.
Kim Bo Reum and Park Doyoung put in impressive performances in the women's 3,000 metre final to claim silver and bronze respectively but they were no match for the Czech Republic's double Olympic champion Martina Sablikova, who streaked ahead to finish in a time of 4:13:72, almost four seconds clear of the pack.
"It's my first Winter Universiade and although I'm not in good condition I wanted to participate," said the 26-year-old from Nove Mesto.
"Winning an international race always gives special emotions, especially in Italy.
"I love this country and I often train here."
South Korea's third medal in Baselga di Pine was another bronze as Kim Sung Gyu occupied the bottom rung of the podium behind home favourite Giacomo Mirko Nenzi, who took silver.
The Italian threatened to bring the home crowds to their feet in celebration but he was outdone by Japan's Tsubasa Hasegawa who claimed gold in the 500m sprint competition by just 0.25sec.
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