Vancouver Olympics end with a big finish: US-Canada in men’s hockey, closing ceremonyBy Jaime Aron, AP
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Final day in Vancouver all about hockey
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Only one thing mattered to most Canadians on the last day of the Vancouver Olympics, and it had nothing to do with who performs what in the closing ceremony.
Canada vs. the United States.
In the finale of the hockey tournament.
Playing for the last gold medal — and, most Canadians would say, the most important — of the entire Winter Olympics.
“Is there any place you’d rather be?” a Canadian broadcaster said at the start of their game coverage.
Regardless of how the game finished, the United States was going to wind up first in medals with 37, more than any country at any Winter Games, and its first time leading the pack since 1932.
Canada went into the hockey game playing for more than pride. A win would earn the country’s 14th gold medal, which also would be the most by any country at any Winter Games. Canada already has matched the 13 won by the Soviets in 1976 and Norway in 2002, this time with the bonus of being at home.
The closing ceremony was to begin about two hours after the hockey game finished. Canadian officials announced Sunday that figure skater Joannie Rochette would have the honor of carrying the nation’s flag into the arena.
Rochette won fans throughout the world by winning a bronze medal just days after her mother died of a heart attack while visiting the Olympics.
The 24-year-old skater from Quebec said she was surprised one of the gold medalists wasn’t chosen to carry the flag.
“It’s been a tough week for me, but I want … to walk into that stadium with a smile on my face,” she said. “I achieved my goals. I want to celebrate with my teammates tonight.”
In the next-to-last event, which finished just before the hockey game started and will be honored at the closing ceremony, Petter Northug of Norway won the 50-kilometer classical cross-country race. He also became the only man to win four medals at these games; two gold, a silver and a bronze.
The Vancouver Games got off to a difficult start, with a Georgian luger dying in a crash during training hours before the opening ceremony to a technical glitch that kept one of the five spires of the Olympic cauldron from rising under the ice. Bad weather shuffled the Alpine skiing schedule, fans were angry they were kept far from an outdoor cauldron by a barbed-wire fence and one of many protests turned violent, with newspaper bins thrown through the windows of a department store.
But the longer the Olympics went, the more good vibes began flowing, especially as the Canadians turned into some of the biggest winners. Red was everywhere — in the stands at all events and throughout the streets, with the locals savoring their role as gracious hosts.
“We find ourselves in a brand new culture and it is clear Canadians have taken a stand for sport,” said Marcel Aubut, the president-elect of Canada’s Olympic committee, which was celebrating the success of its $117 million “Own the Podium” program. “We have turned a corner and must never look back.”
When the United States met Canada the previous Sunday, the Americans wore jerseys patterned after those won by the 1960 U.S. team that beat Canada in the gold-medal game in Squaw Valley, Calif.
On the 50th anniversary of that game, the Americans were back in their usual outfits.
In addition to 1960, the Americans won in the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” in Lake Placid. So they were seeking their first hockey gold won on foreign ice.
Northug used his trademark sprint to pull past Germany’s Axel Teichmann on the final straightaway, a remarkable burst of speed after skiing 31 miles. Then, he blew a kiss to the sky.
They raced for more than 2 hours, 5 minutes and Teichmann was 0.3 seconds behind.
James Southam was the top American, finishing 28th.
Lubomir Visnovsky — a Slovakian hockey player for the Edmonton Oilers — tested positive for a stimulant contained in a cold medication and received a reprimand from the IOC.
This is only the second doping violation of these Olympics. A female Russian hockey player was reprimanded after testing positive for a stimulant before the games.
The IOC said Visnovsky declared on his doping control form that he was taking the medication pseudoephdrine and didn’t know it was prohibited.
Slovakia lost to Finland 5-3 in the bronze-medal game Saturday night.
IOC president Jacquess Rogge called the figure skating judging “absolutely impeccable,” regardless of what Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko thinks.
After settling for silver, Plushenko griped that scoring was flawed because his routine was more difficult than the one by gold medalist Evan Lysacek of the United States.
Rogge said international skating authorities have made it clear they value versatility. He added that if Plushenko wants a new scoring system, he should encourage his country’s officials to push for it.
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