SOCHI, Russia – Matthias Mayer shut his eyes for a moment, his day's work over.
If he had trouble believing what had just happened as he stood before the crowd it was with good reason. The Austrian struck a big upset Sunday in one of the Olympics' marquee events, capturing the men's downhill and upending the elite of his sport.
"It's amazing to be an Olympic champion," he said.
Mayer has never finished better than fifth in a World Cup downhill. That proved no obstacle in dismissing the preordained favorites – Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway finished fourth and Bode Miller of the U.S. eighth.
Among the eight gold medalists on Day 3 were: snowboarder Jamie Anderson, the American slopestyle queen who triumphed in her sport's Olympic debut; and Irene Wust, who showed why speedskating is Dutch territory. Russia closed in on the gold in team figure skating, likewise an Olympic newcomer.
SKIING: In a country where skiing is revered, Mayer gave Austria a jolt. A few weeks ago he was not even considered the nation's best shot for gold. But he covered the Rosa Khutor course in 2 minutes, 6.23 seconds and beat Italy's Christof Innerhofer by 0.06 seconds. Norway's Kjetil Jansrud won the bronze. Miller, who dominated the training runs, was so unnerved by the change of visibility he thought he'd have "to do something magical to win." That was left to Mayer, who enjoys good skiing bloodlines – his father, Helmut, won a super-G silver medal at the 1988 Calgary Games.
FIGURE SKATING: Evgeni Plushenko won the men's free skate to pad Russia's lead in the team event. Canada is second, followed by the U.S. and Japan, with the women's free skate and ice dance to come. Three-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada and short program winner Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan did not compete, resting for the individual men's event.
SNOWBOARDING: The U.S. now has a double gold hit in slopestyle, with Anderson doing her part a day after Sage Kotsenburg. "Even though it's just another competition, the stage and the outreach that this event connects to is out of control," Anderson said. Finland's Enni Rukajarvi won the silver. The bronze went to Jenny Jones, a 33-year-old former maid at a ski resort who gave Britain its first medal in any snow sport.
SPEEDSKATING: Another royal visit, more Dutch gold. Wust gave the Netherlands its second victory by winning the 3,000. Skating before her king and queen, Wust won in 4 minutes, 0.34 seconds. Defending champ Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic took the silver while Olga Graf won bronze for Russia's first medal of the games. Claudia Pechstein, 41 and a six-time Olympian, was fourth. Wust, her nails red, white and blue like the Dutch flag, held up three fingers, signifying her third Olympic gold medal.
CROSS-COUNTRY: Switzerland's Dario Cologna had ankle surgery in November, but that now seems ancient. He won the 30-kilometer skiathlon, pulling away at the top of the last uphill section. The three-time overall World Cup winner claimed his second Olympic gold medal. He was timed in 1 hour, 8 minutes, 15.4 seconds. Defending champion Marcus Hellner of Sweden took silver, with the bronze to Norway's Martin Johnsrud Sundby.
BIATHLON: Slovakia's Anastasiya Kuzmina matched her gold from Vancouver in the women's 7.5-kilometer sprint. Kuzmina shot flawlessly and finished in 21 minutes, 6.8 seconds. The silver medal went to Russia's Olga Vilukhina and the bronze to Ukraine's Vita Semerenko. Kuzmina's brother is Russian biathlete Anton Shipulin, who was fourth Saturday.