Updated: Wednesday, 12 February 2014 18:39 | By Agence France-Presse

Downhill dead heat drama as men's ice hockey starts

Swiss outsider Dominique Gisin and Tina Maze of Slovenia shared women's downhill gold on Wednesday in the first dead heat in Olympic alpine skiing history as the men's ice hockey players prepared to take to the ice in Sochi.

Downhill dead heat drama as men's ice hockey starts

Switzerland's Dominique Gisin skis during the women's Alpine Skiing Downhill during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 12, 2014 - by Olivier Morin

Under piercing blue skies on the mountains at Rosa Khutor, Maze, racing 13 bibs after Gissin, matched the long-time leader's time of 1min 41.57sec in a race missing injured US defending champion Lindsey Vonn.

Switzerland's Lara Gut took bronze but pre-race favourite Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, who won super-combined gold on Monday, failed in her bid for a fourth Olympic gold.

"This is incredible. I am overwhelmed with emotions," said a tearful Gisin, 28, forced to watch in agony as racer after racer came down the icy, hard-packed 2.7-kilometre course chasing her mark.

"I am so happy -- what a day. I don't think I even dreamt about this. Now that I have won, I am living the dream, but this is better than dreaming."

Maze was up on Gisin's time at all four intermediate splits but a small mistake on the final section slowed the 30-year-old fractionally.

"I have been dreaming about this since I was little," said Maze, who climbed onto the podium hand-in-hand with Gisin.

 "The first ski race I ever won in my life was a downhill so before I went down the track today I said to myself, 'This has to be it. I can do it', and I just went for it."

Other gold medals up for grabs on Wednesday include the second figure skating title of the Olympics, in the pairs competition.

Russia are facing growing public and media pressure after a sluggish start to the Games, which sees them lagging a long way behind medal leaders Norway.

But the host nation are favourites to take the pairs title after team gold medallists Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov set a new world record in the short programme on Tuesday.

Trankov and Volosozhar performed flawlessly to "Masquerade Waltz" by Aram Khachaturian to score a record 84.17 points.

The event had been won at 12 consecutive Olympics by Russia or the then Soviet Union until 2010 in Vancouver when China triumphed and Russia failed to win a medal. 

- Dismal showing at the 2010 Olympics -

American snowboarder Kelly Clark will face stiff competition from 2010 Olympic champion Torah Bright of Australia in the women's halfpipe after US superstar Shaun White was dethroned in the men's competition on Tuesday by Switzerland's Iouri Podladtchikov.

The first matches in the men's hockey tournament will be the Czech Republic taking on Sweden and Latvia against Switzerland.

The three big guns -- Canada, the United States and hosts Russia -- do not make their bow until Thursday.

There is also a tasty tie in the women's ice hockey, with a match-up between defending Olympic champions Canada and world champions, the United States.

Russian ice hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak insisted the host country's men's team were fully aware of the need to make amends for their dismal showing at the 2010 Olympics, when they were dismantled 7-3 by Canada in the quarter-finals.

"We remember the Vancouver Olympics and we know we have a lot of responsibility and a lot to answer for," said Tretiak, who is president of the Ice Hockey Federation of Russia and a three-time gold medallist. 

"We are on our home turf. We will fight for the result in every match."

US speed skater Shani Davis will go for his third successive gold medal in the men's 1,000m and medals are also up for grabs in the individual normal hill Nordic combined and the luge doubles.

The warm temperatures at the Sochi Games are causing concern --  forcing organisers to shovel stored snow onto the pistes.

But International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams downplayed the concerns on Wednesday.

"I think (the weather concern) is getting a bit premature here, it does not seem to be an issue. Every event has happened on schedule. If this is a problem, then let’s have more of them (such problems)."

Games spokeswoman Alexandra Kosterina said: "The weather is gorgeous. It is challenging but nothing we have not prepared for."

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