Golden day for the host nation

Snowboarder Jasey-Jay Anderson helps Canada to the top of the gold-medal table.

    Jasey Jay Anderson takes a corner on his way to gold for the host nation [GALLO/GETTY]

    Canada enjoyed a successful day on the penultimate day of the Winter Olympics, securing top spot on the medal table with a record-equalling 13 golds, with just one day of competition left.

    The host nation bagged another three gold medals as the Canadian men won the speedskating team pursuit, the snowboard parallel giant slalom and the curling, leaving second-place Germany trailing behind with only two medal events left on the last day of competition.

    Germany won the women's speedskating team pursuit final to remain second on the medals table with 10 golds and the United States won their ninth, in bobsleigh, to be assured of finishing the Games with the most overall.

    It is the first time Canada have topped the medal standings at the Winter or Summer Olympics and followed a remarkable turnaround in fortunes.

    Just a week ago, the hosts were facing public demands for a full investigation into their failure to win more golds, but they have piled up nine in six days to soar past their rivals and ignite a wave of patriotism.

    And the most prized gold – the men’s ice hockey final – is yet to come.

    Top spot

    The Canadian speedskating pursuit team of Denny Morrison, Lucas Makowsky and Mathieu Giroux started the late surge by beating Chad Hedrick's US team to win the 11th gold medal - establishing a record for a Winter Games host nation.

    The 12th followed soon after in the Parallel Giant Slalom, where Jasey Jay Anderson beat top-ranked Benjamin Karl of Austria by 0.35 seconds.

    Steven Holcomb drove USA-1 to gold in the 4-man bobsled, ending a 62-year drought for the Americans in the event and, crucially for Canada, beating two-time defending champion Andre Lange of Germany. Lange finished with silver and Canada collected bronze.

    Then 43-year-old Canadian Kevin Martin led the curling team to a 6-3 victory in the final, maintaining their unbeaten run by downing the Norwegian team.

    The 13th gold equalled the record for most by a country at a Winter Games - shared by the Soviets in 1976 and Norway in 2002.

    The Norwegians know how to win Winter Olympics medals - having more than any other country. But after a disappointing time in Turin four years ago, Norway came within a split second of a ninth gold medal in Vancouver when Marit Bjoergen lost in a photo finish to Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk in the 30-kilometre classical cross-country race.

    Bjoergen will finish the games with three golds, a silver and a bronze after finishing a fraction behind Kowalczyk despite a desperate last push when she matched her rival stride for stride.

    Giuliano Razzoli slides to Italy's first Alpine title since 1992 [GALLO/GETTY]

    Italy gold

    Giuliano Razzoli picked up Italy's first gold medal of the games when he won the slalom - the last event on the Alpine program - with a combined time of 1 minute, 39.32 seconds.

    Croatia's Ivica Kostelic was 0.16 behind to claim his second silver in Vancouver, while defending champion Benjamin Raich was fourth, leaving the powerful Austrian men's team without an Alpine medal.

    The Italians, who won five golds when they hosted the 2006 Turin Games, had not won a men's Alpine title since Alberto Tomba's giant slalom title at Albertville in 1992.

    In the cross-country, Kowalczyk won in 1 hour, 30 minutes and 33.7 seconds to narrowly beat Bjoergen, who was aiming to become only the second woman to win four golds at the same Winter Olympics. Speedskater Lidiya Skoblikova did it for the Soviet Union in 1964.

    Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong - dubbed the Snow Leopard - was 21.29
    seconds behind the leader on his Olympic debut, but was by no means last.

    Saturday's outdoor events were plagued by bad weather with the snowboarders and Alpine skiers barely able to see their courses because of the heavy fog, not that the winners were complaining.

    At the final Alpine event on Whistler mountain, the completion rate in the first slalom leg was just over 50 percent.

    Canada will set a new mark by winning either of the two golds on offer on Sunday, the men's 50km cross-country skiing and the men's ice hockey final.

    Finland beat Slovakia 5-3 on Saturday to win the bronze but Sunday's mouthwatering final between Canada and the US, the final medal event of the Games, promises the perfect ending for a host-nation that has already exceeded their wildest dreams. 

    SOURCE: Agencies


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