North American medal madness: US sets record for most, Canada 1 from claiming most goldBy Jaime Aron, AP
Saturday, February 27, 2010
US sets medals record, Canada eyes gold record
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — While the Vancouver Olympics aren’t finished, the medal races are — and in spectacular fashion for North Americans.
Most medals: United States, 36 so far, with another gold or silver on the way.
Most golds: Canada, 12 so far and perhaps two more on the way.
And those are only some of the accolades.
With 37 medals guaranteed, the U.S. has more than any country has won at any Winter Games. It’s also only the second time in the 21 Winter Olympics that Americans have won the medal count, the other coming at Lake Place in 1932.
Canada, which invested $117 million and five years into an “Own the Podium” program, certainly bought the top step.
The Canadians have a great chance to match or break the record for most golds at a Winter Olympics, which is 13, set by the Soviets in 1976 and matched by Norway in 2002. Canada’s men’s curling team was in the final Saturday and the men’s hockey team was playing the U.S. in the final on Sunday.
Canada already has won its most gold at any Olympics, winter or summer, and the most for any Winter Olympics host country. Both those marks were 10.
Canadians also will finish third on the overall medals list. They’ve claimed 24 and are guaranteed two more. Germany is second with 29.
All told, it’s a staggering list of achievements for the host and its neighbor.
Bottom line: The rest of the world is probably glad the next two Winter Games will be held in other continents.
As for the specifics of Saturday’s action:
—Steven Holcomb and the “Night Train” delivered the 36th medal, and ninth gold, for the United States by winning the four-man bobsled event.
—The U.S men’s team pursuit squad in speedskating took silver, finishing just behind — guess who? — Canada.
—A few minutes later, Canada got another gold when Jasey-Jay Anderson won the men’s parallel giant slalom.
Also Saturday, Norway’s Marit Bjoergen was a photo finish from getting her fourth cross-country gold medal of these games. She wound up settling for silver and becoming the first person in Vancouver with five medals; nobody else even has four.
The Americans hadn’t won gold in four-man bobsledding since 1948.
And they did it by knocking off a German crew led by Andre Lange, who had won all four Olympics races he entered. His crew wound up with silver, one-hundredth of a second faster than the Canadians.
A slew of U.S. teammates rushed to Holcomb’s sled to celebrate. Among the first to offer congratulations was Geoff Bodine, the 1986 Daytona 500 champion who was behind the group that paid for and built the team’s sleds.
Chad Hedrick and a pair of 19-year-old teammates couldn’t keep up with the Canadians.
Hedrick took silver in the final race of his career. He goes out with five medals in five events, joining Eric Heiden as the only American men to win that many at the oval.
Germany repeated as the gold winners in women’s team pursuit, edging Japan by two-hundredths of a second in the final after escaping the semifinals with Anni Friesinger-Postma’s belly slide across the line to beat the Americans.
Poland claimed the bronze, overcoming the United States when Catherine Raney-Norman couldn’t keep up with teammates Jennifer Rodriguez and Jilleanne Rookard. They crossed ahead of the Poles, but the time only counts when all three skaters finish.
Bode Miller wasn’t able to add anything beyond the gold, silver and bronze he’d already won. He bailed out just a few gates into the slalom, a casualty of “grabby” snow that bedeviled a slew of skiers.
Miller is one of only five men to get three Alpine medals at a games, a record performance for a U.S. skier. His five career Olympic medals are tied for second on the career list behind Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who has eight.
“I really couldn’t be much happier,” Miller said. “I came out, I was ready, I was prepared — that’s all the stuff you can do.”
Giuliano Razzoli won, giving Italy’s first Alpine medal in the Winter Games in 16 years.
Ivica Kostelic of Croatia picked up his second silver in Vancouver, while Austria’s usually powerful men’s team finished an Olympic shutout.
Anderson, a seven-time World Cup champion, carved through the rain-sluiced, fogged-in course to take down Austria’s Benjamin Karl, the top-ranked rider in the world.
It was his first Olympic medal in four tries, adding it to his four world championship golds and a career that has done more than anyone’s to spread the word of snowboarding across his wintry country.
Bronze medalist Mathieu Bozzetto of France called the conditions “ugly,” and American Tyler Jewell said if this had been a World Cup event, “they probably would have canceled it.”
American Chris Klug — who won bronze in 2002, 18 months after a lifesaving liver transplant — knocked off the top seed but later skidded out. He finished seventh, Jewell 13th.
Canada turned in its four cross-country skiers for the 50-kilometer mass start classic race on Sunday, and it doesn’t include legally blind Brian McKeever, who was hoping to become the first competitor in both the Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
The 30-year-old McKeever — who started going blind in college because of a degenerative disease, but still has peripheral vision — said he understands the decision.
“Olympic dream over,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so sad.”
In the women’s 30k classical race, Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk beat Bjoergen in a photo finish. Kowalczyk, the World Cup leader, now has a medal of each color.
American Kikkan Randall finished 24th.
The head of the next Olympics — the 2012 Summer Games in London — hopes to match the full venues and lively crowds he’s seen in Vancouver.
“Not since Sydney (in 2000) have I seen a city embrace the games the way they’ve been embraced here,” Sebastian Coe said. “My gut instinct is that is what these games will be remembered for.”
Coe and about 50 staffers have been in Vancouver to see how things are being done.
Alpine skier Noelle Barahona of Chile is sticking around for the closing ceremony after learning her family was safe following the devastating earthquake in her country.
Barahone actually was planning on going home Saturday, but couldn’t get a flight. The rest of the delegation still in Vancouver includes a team spokesman and a physical therapist; they both also heard that family and friends are OK.
Chile’s two other Olympians already had left Vancouver, one to France and the other to Seattle.
Switzerland swept past Sweden for the men’s bronze medal, getting two points on its final rock.
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