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(CNN) — Joss Christensen led a U.S. clean sweep in freestyle skiing slopestyle at the Sochi Winter Olympics Thursday before paying an emotional tribute to his late father.
The 22-year-old Christensen dominated both the heats and finals, producing the two best runs on each occasion, to take the gold.
With Gus Kenworthy taking silver and Nicholas Goepper winning bronze, it was an all-American podium.
Christensen, who struggled to find his form after his father James passed away last August, came to the Games as an outsider and as the last pick on the U.S. team, but with scores of 95.80 and 93.80 in the final the Games debutant was an emphatic victor.
But his first thoughts were with his dad. “I wish he was here and I hope he is smiling down on me. I hope I made him proud. I did it for him,” he said.
Christensen was also congratulated by Sage Kotsenburg, who won the first gold of the Sochi Games, taking the snowboard version of slopestyle Saturday.
“It’s hard not to feel a lump in your throat when you here Joss’ story,” he said.
The United States has proved dominant in slopestyle, which is making it’s debut in the Winter Olympics, winning three of the four golds on offer plus a silver.
German joy in luge
Meanwhile, German domination in the luge is total as the team completed a clean sweep of gold medals by storming to victory in the first-ever relay event at the Games.
Women’s champion Natalie Geisenberger, men’s gold medalist Felix Loch and doubles winners Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt combined for Germany’s seventh gold to date in Sochi.
Nicknamed the “Bayern Express,” the team proved unbeatable and finished over a second clear of silver medalist Russia, with Latvia in bronze.
China makes skating history
But there was an upset in the women’s 1,000 meters speed skating competition as Chinese outsider Zhang Hong beat her more established rivals to claim her country’s first victory in the event.
Zhang clocked one minute 14.02 seconds as an early starter and had to sit while 11 further pairs of skaters attempted to beat her time at the Adler Arena oval.
Ireen Wust of the Netherlands, the 3,000m gold medalist, came closest, but was over half a second slower in taking the silver.
Fellow Dutch competitor Margot Boer took the bronze while fancied American pair Heather Richardson and world record-holder Brittany Bowe were only seventh and eighth.
China also came out on top in a chaotic women’s 500m short track speed skating final, which was marred by a three-skater pileup.
Five-time world champion Li Jianrou stayed upright to take the gold but admitted fortune had been on her side.
“I believe it’s a miracle. I always believe in myself. I skated like I do in my daily training. I’m lucky to get this gold medal,” she said.
Britain’s Elise Christie crossed the line second but was disqualified after officials ruled she had caused the crash.
Italy’s Arianna Fontana, the bronze medalist from Vancouver in 2010, took silver with Park Seung-Hi of South Korea in bronze.
Bjoerndalen upstaged by new biathlon star
Martin Fourcade made it double gold in Sochi as he followed his 12.5 km pursuit triumph with victory in the 20 km individual biathlon event.
The 25-year-old is the first French athlete to win two golds at a Games since alpine skiing great Jean-Claude Killy in 1968.
Germany’s Erik Lesser took silver and Russian Evgeniy Garanichev won bronze on his 26th birthday, but there was disappointment for Norwegian veteran Ole Einar Bjoerndalen.
The 40-year-old failed in his bid to win Winter Olympic record of 13 medals when he finished in 34th after problems in the shooting section, where he picked four penalties.
“I wanted to show my rivals that I’m still angry,” said Fourcade after his triumph, when asked if he was “focused” or “angry.”
On a day when six golds were awarded, Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland won the women’ s 10km classic style event in nordic skiing.
Kowalczyk, who started favorite, finished nearly 20 seconds clear of Charlotte Kalla of Sweden, with Therese Johaug of Norway in third place.
Away from the medal action, Russia’s ice hockey men opened their campaign with a 5-2 win over Slovenia, while the United States thrashed Slovakia 7-1 and defending champions Canada beat Norway 3-1.
But there was disappointment for the host nation when figure skating hero Yvegeny Plushenko dramatically withdrew just before he was due to compete in the men’s figure skating short program.
The 31-year-old had been personally congratulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin after helping his country to win the team gold Sunday.
A two-time Olympic champion, he was bidding to become the first man to win five figure skating medals at the Winter Games.