SOCHI - Russian coaches hit back Friday at suggestions that figure skating judges favoured Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova as Ukrainian athletes won an emotional first gold of the Games for their violence-wracked nation. Sotnikova dethroned South Korea’s Vancouver 2010 champion Kim Yu-Na on a night of drama and controversy at the Iceberg Skating Palace, with the 5.48-point gap between the pair raising eyebrows.

Basking in Thursday’s victory in front of a full house of passionate home fans, the delighted gold medallist batted away questions about the judging, saying her victory was “a gift to Russia”. On Friday, Sotnikova’s choreographer Pyotr Chernyshov insisted the 17-year-old — winner of Russia’s first ever women’s individual figure skating gold — was a worthy champion.

“We were following the rules that the modern game was offering and we won this game,” the former Russian-American ice dancer told a packed press conference. “You have to be an expert in figure skating to know the rules now. When you ask a professional figure skater there is no doubt who won on the night.” Kim, 23, who confirmed she was retiring from competition after a glittering career, refused to be drawn into the swirling debate in the immediate aftermath of her victory.

But American Ashley Wagner, who finished seventh, said she was “speechless” about the result after seeing some of Kim’s dance. Ukraine’s first gold came in the women’s team biathlon, with the victors dedicating their inspirational performance to a nation grieving over deadly violence that has claimed dozens of lives.

The president of Ukraine’s Olympic Committee, former pole vault great Sergey Bubka, said the victory could help unite his country and bring peace after days of clashes between security forces and protesters.

In the mountains above Sochi, American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin showed nerves of steel to add Olympic gold to her world slalom title under floodlights at Rosa Khutor. The 18-year-old, in pole position after the first run, clocked a combined total of 1min 44.54sec over two runs to finish 0.53sec ahead of Marlies Schild of Austria, who won her fourth Olympic medal over three different Games.

Another Austrian, Katrin Zettel, claimed bronze at 0.81sec, denying fourth-placed German Maria Hoefl-Riesch another podium finish in her Olympic swansong. “This has been a dream of mine for a very long time,” said Shiffrin, who at the age of 18 years and 345 days became the youngest Olympic slalom champion. “I’m so happy to be in this position, and I couldn’t be happier than to be on the podium with Marlies and Kathrin.”

In the crunch ice hockey semi-final at the Bolshoi Ice Dome, defending champions Canada were leading 1-0 against the United States, with the US desperate for revenge after defeat in the Olympic final four years ago. Sweden beat Scandinavian rivals Finland 2-1 in the earlier semi-final. Away from the sporting action, the first doping cases to hit the 2014 Sochi Games emerged after a double gold-medal winning German female biathlete and an Italian bobsledder tested positive for banned substances.

German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle, who has won two gold medals at previous Olympic Games, confirmed she had tested positive, describing it as the “worst nightmare you can imagine”. The Italian Olympic Committee said Italian bobsledder William Frullani had tested positive for a banned substance and had already been kicked out of the Sochi Games. Canada’s men won their third straight curling title against Britain after their women’s team Thursday beat Sweden to win their first gold since Nagano in 1998.

Russia’s Victor Ahn won his second gold of the Games in the 500m short track speed skating event and South Korea’s Park Seung-Hi matched the feat in the next race, the women’s 1,000. The men’s 5,000 relay gold will also be decided on Friday.

Medals Table

TEAM    Gold    Silver    Bronze    Total

Norway    10    4    8    22

Canada    9    10    5    24

United States    9    6    11    26

Russian Fed.    8    10    7    25

Germany    8    4    4    16

Netherlands    6    7    9    22

Switzerland    6    3    2    11

Belarus    5    0    1    6

France    4    4    7    15

Poland    4    0    0    4

China    3    4    1    8

Korea    3    2    2    7

Austria    2    7    3    12

Sweden    2    6    6    14

Czech Republic    2    4    2    8

Slovenia    2    1    4    7

Japan    1    4    3    8

Finland    1    3    0    4

Great Britain    1    1    2    4

Ukraine    1    0    1    2

Slovakia    1    0    0    1

Italy    0    2    6    8

Australia    0    2    1    3

Latvia    0    1    2    3

Croatia    0    1    0    1

Kazakhstan    0    0    1    1