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Team USA closes medal count gap

Sochi, Russia -- Men's figure skating and skiing highlight Friday's Olympic schedule.

Russian skater Evgeni Plushenko won't be part of the free program. The four-time Olympic medalist had to withdraw and later announced his retirement from competition after suffering a back injury. Plushenko has undergone 12 surgeries during his career and was injured in practice the day before the short program.

The skiing schedule features by the men's super combined. There's also the women's 15k biathlon and the men's 15k cross-country event. Sochi also will host the women's aerials competition and men's ski-jumping on Friday.

The U.S. curling teams are in action as the men take on Germany and Russia and the women' face Denmark.

There's more men's hockey, including Canada against Austria as part of the four-game slate. Medals will be handed out following the last two runs of the women's skeleton after the men's competition begins.

The U.S. added to its medal count by pulling off a Sochi sweep in men's slopestyle skiing on Thursday.

The Americans swept the medals with Joss Christensen grabbing the gold, Gus Kenworthy the silver and Nick Goepper the bronze.

The sweep is just the third for the U.S. in Winter Olympic history, joining men's figure skating in 1956 and men's halfpipe in 2002.

Conditions for the race were so warm that fellow American Bobby Brown, who finished ninth, competed his final run in short sleeves.

The U.S. men's hockey team has won its first game of the Olympic tournament, blitzing Slovakia 7-1. Paul Stastny scored twice in a six-goal second period, while goalie Jonathan Quick made 22 saves.

The U.S. had 12 medals overall -- four gold, two silver and six bronze -- through Thursday. Norway remained the overall leader with 13 medals.

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Washington Times