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China Skaters Golden on the Track; American Sweep in Slopestyle

China took its spot on the medals board at the Sochi Olympics Thursday by winning two gold medals in speedskating.

Short track speedskater Li Jianrou won the women's 500-meter race, beating Italy's Ariana Fontana and South Korea's Park Sueng-Hi. In the women's 1,000-meter speedskating event, China's Zhang Hong beat two Dutch skaters for the top spot.

In skiing, American freestylers dominated the first-ever Olympic slopestyle competition, sweeping the top three spots. Joss Christensen won the gold medal, with Gus Kenworthy taking silver and Nicholas Goepper earning bronze.

Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk won gold in the women's 10-kilometer cross country skiing race, and sharp-shooting French biathlete Martin Fourcade won the 20-kilometer individual gold.

In the final medals event of the day, Germany remained dominant on the luge track in the new team relay competition, which involves one women's, one men's and one doubles run in succession.

Natalie Geisenberger, Felix Loch and the pairing of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished first in the relay, giving the Germans gold medals in all four of the luge events so far in Sochi.

The win lifted Germany into the gold medal lead with seven.

On the ice, the top men's hockey teams -- Russia, the United States and Canada -- played for the first time in these Games Thursday. Russia beat Slovenia, 5-2, and the U.S. routed Slovakia, 7-1. Canada is playing Norway.

In other news, Russian figure skater Evgeny Plushenko pulled out of the men's individual figure skating competition Thursday. Plushenko, a two-time gold medalist, was seen clutching his back during warmups, before he announced his withdrawal from the event.

He later said he is retiring from figure skating.

Meanwhile, the head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, said he is not worried about the unseasonably warm temperatures that have been melting snow and ice in and around Sochi.

Temperatures in Sochi have been hitting 17 degrees Celsius for the past four days.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Bach recalled even warmer conditions at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary.

"It's not as warm yet as it was in Calgary at the time, where I remembered going around the last days of the Games in a T-shirt. It was about 25 degrees Celsius, so the situation so far is under control. The organizing committee together with the international federations is working very, very hard. There is still storage of snow and so far it is going well."

Bach said the accident of an Olympic track worker struck by a bobsled was not related to other accidents caused by sloppy conditions created by the warm weather.

The worker was on the track when he was hit by a forerunning sled, just before the start of Thursday's two-man bobsled training.

Olympic officials said he broke both legs and may have a concussion.

"That is different. It's a worker being in the braking zone of the bob and we do not know why he was there in this zone. This you cannot compare with any incident with an athlete."

After six days of competition in Sochi, Norway leads in the overall medal count with 13, followed by the United States and the Netherlands with 12. Russia has 11, and Canada and Germany have 10 each.

There are 98 medal events at the Sochi Games, 12 more than in Vancouver in 2010.

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