Sports 2010 Winter Olympics

Sad news to report, an Olympian from the country of Georgia got killed in a Luge accident today, hours before the official opening ceremonies.

http://msn.foxsports...training-021210
Olympic luger dies after training run crash
Updated Feb 12, 2010 5:02 PM ET
WHISTLER, British Columbia
Associated Press

A men's Olympic luger from the country of Georgia died Friday after a high-speed crash on a track that is the world's fastest and has raised safety concerns among competitors. IOC president Jacques Rogge said the death hours before the opening ceremony "clearly casts a shadow over these games."

Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled during training, went over the track wall and struck an unpadded steel pole near the finish line at Whistler Sliding Center. Doctors were unable to revive the 21-year-old luger, who died at a hospital, the International Olympic Committee said.

"We are deeply struck by this tragedy and join the IOC in extending our condolences to the family, friends and teammates of this athlete, who came to Vancouver to follow his Olympic dream," said John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver organizing committee.

Rescue workers were at Kumaritashvili's side within seconds. Chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation started less than one minute after the crash, and he was quickly airlifted to a trauma center in Whistler.

Kumaritashvili struck the inside wall of the track on the final turn. His body immediately went airborne and cleared the ice-coated concrete wall along the left side of the sliding surface. His sled remained in the track, and it appeared his helmet visor skidded down the ice.

Men's luge competition is to begin Saturday. It's unclear if the schedule will change.

Kumaritashvili is the fourth competitor to die at the Winter Games and the first since 1992.

"It's a very rare situation," three-time Olympic champion and German coach Georg Hackl said before learning of the death, clearly shaken after seeing Kumaritashvili tended to furiously by medical workers.

Shortly before the accident, Hackl said he didn't believe the track was unsafe.

"People have the opinion it is dangerous but the track crew does the best it can and they are working hard to make sure the track is in good shape and everyone is safe," he said. "My opinion is that it's not anymore dangerous that anywhere else."

It was Kumaritashvili's second crash during training for the Vancouver Games. He also failed to finish his second of six practice runs, and in the runs he did finish, his average speed was about 88 mph -- significantly less than the speed the top sliders are managing on this lightning-fast course.

It was unclear how fast Kumaritashvili was going, although many sliders have exceeded 90 mph on this course. The track is considered the world's fastest and several Olympians recently questioned its safety. More than a dozen athletes have crashed during Olympic training for luge, and some questioned whether athletes from smaller nations -- like Georgia -- had enough time to prepare for the daunting track.

At the finish area, not far from where Kumaritashvili lost control, athletes, coaches and officials solemnly awaited word on Kumaritashvili before eventually being ushered away. Access to the crash area was closed within about 30 minutes.

"I've never seen anything like that," said Shiva Keshavan, a four-time Olympian from India.

The remainder of men's training was canceled for the day, with VANOC officials saying in a release that an investigation was taking place to "ensure a safe field of play."

Kumaritashvili competed in five World Cup races this season, finishing 44th in the world standings.

Earlier in the day, gold-medal favorite Armin Zoeggeler of Italy crashed, losing control of his sled on Curve 11. Zoeggeler came off his sled and held it with his left arm to keep it from smashing atop his body. He slid on his back down several curves before coming to a stop and walking away.

Training days in Whistler have been crash-filled. A Romanian woman was briefly knocked unconscious and at least four Americans -- Chris Mazdzer on Wednesday, Megan Sweeney on Thursday and both Tony Benshoof and Bengt Walden on Friday in the same training session where Zoeggeler wrecked -- have had serious trouble just getting down the track.

"I think they are pushing it a little too much," Australia's Hannah Campbell-Pegg said Thursday night after she nearly lost control in training. "To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we're crash-test dummies? I mean, this is our lives."

At the 1992 Albertville Games, Nicholas Bochatay of Switzerland died after crashing into a snow grooming machine during training for the demonstration sport of speed skiing on the next-to-last day of the games. He was practicing on a public slope before his event was to begin.

Austrian downhill skier Ross Milne died when he struck a tree during a training run shortly before the 1964 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. British luger Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki also died in a crash during training in Innsbruck.

At the 1988 Calgary Games, an Austrian team doctor, Jorg Oberhammer, died after being hit by a snow grooming machine.

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http://www.nbcolympi.....epage>1=39003

Olympic luger killed in crash
The Georgia team may withdraw from competition

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - A men's Olympic luger from the country of Georgia died Friday after a high-speed crash on a track that is the world's fastest and has raised safety concerns among competitors. IOC president Jacques Rogge said the death hours before the opening ceremony "clearly casts a shadow over these games" and that his organization is "in deep mourning."

Nodar Kumaritashvili lost control of his sled during training, went over the track wall and struck an unpadded steel pole near the finish line at Whistler Sliding Center. Doctors were unable to revive the 21-year-old luger, who died at a hospital, the International Olympic Committee said.


Before speaking at a news conference, Rogge took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes and said, "Sorry, it's a bit difficult to remain composed." He says this is not the time to talk about investigations.


"We are deeply struck by this tragedy and join the IOC in extending our condolences to the family, friends and teammates of this athlete, who came to Vancouver to follow his Olympic dream," said John Furlong, chief executive of the Vancouver organizing committee. "We are heartbroken beyond words."

Rogge said he spoke with the president of the Republic of Georgia to express his sympathy. Rogge said the Georgian delegation has not decided whether to remain in the competition.

"We are all in deep shock, we don't know what to do. We don't know whether to take part in (today's) opening ceremony or even the Olympic Games themselves," said, Irakly Japaridze, the head of Georgia's delegation.

Rescue workers were at Kumaritashvili's side within seconds. Chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation started less than one minute after the crash, and he was quickly airlifted to a trauma center in Whistler.

Kumaritashvili struck the inside wall of the track on the final turn. His body immediately went airborne and cleared the ice-coated concrete wall along the left side of the sliding surface. His sled remained in the track, and it appeared his helmet visor skidded down the ice.

Men's luge competition is to begin Saturday. It's unclear if the schedule will change.

Kumaritashvili is the fourth competitor to die at the Winter Games and the first since 1992.

"It's a very rare situation," three-time Olympic champion and German coach Georg Hackl said before learning of the death, clearly shaken after seeing Kumaritashvili tended to furiously by medical workers.

Shortly before the accident, Hackl said he didn't believe the track was unsafe.

"People have the opinion it is dangerous but the track crew does the best it can and they are working hard to make sure the track is in good shape and everyone is safe," he said. "My opinion is that it's not anymore dangerous that anywhere else."

It was Kumaritashvili's second crash during training for the Vancouver Games. He also failed to finish his second of six practice runs, and in the runs he did finish, his average speed was about 88 mph - significantly less than the speed the top sliders are managing on this lightning-fast course.

It was unclear how fast Kumaritashvili was going, although many sliders have exceeded 90 mph on this course. The track is considered the world's fastest and several Olympians recently questioned its safety. More than a dozen athletes have crashed during Olympic training for luge, and some questioned whether athletes from smaller nations - like Georgia - had enough time to prepare for the daunting track.

At the finish area, not far from where Kumaritashvili lost control, athletes, coaches and officials solemnly awaited word on Kumaritashvili before eventually being ushered away. Access to the crash area was closed within about 30 minutes.

"I've never seen anything like that," said Shiva Keshavan, a four-time Olympian from India.

The remainder of men's training was canceled for the day, with VANOC officials saying in a release that an investigation was taking place to "ensure a safe field of play."

Kumaritashvili competed in five World Cup races this season, finishing 44th in the world standings.

Earlier in the day, gold-medal favorite Armin Zoeggeler of Italy crashed, losing control of his sled on Curve 11. Zoeggeler came off his sled and held it with his left arm to keep it from smashing atop his body. He slid on his back down several curves before coming to a stop and walking away.

Training days in Whistler have been crash-filled. A Romanian woman was briefly knocked unconscious and at least four Americans - Chris Mazdzer on Wednesday, Megan Sweeney on Thursday and both Tony Benshoof and Bengt Walden on Friday in the same training session where Zoeggeler wrecked - have had serious trouble just getting down the track.

"I think they are pushing it a little too much," Australia's Hannah Campbell-Pegg said Thursday night after she nearly lost control in training. "To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we're crash-test dummies? I mean, this is our lives."

At the 1992 Albertville Games, Nicholas Bochatay of Switzerland died after crashing into a snow grooming machine during training for the demonstration sport of speed skiing on the next-to-last day of the games. He was practicing on a public slope before his event was to begin.

Austrian downhill skier Ross Milne died when he struck a tree during a training run shortly before the 1964 Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria. British luger Kazimierz Kay-Skrzypecki also died in a crash during training in Innsbruck.

At the 1988 Calgary Games, an Austrian team doctor, Jorg Oberhammer, died after being hit by a snow grooming machine.
 
Olympic Opening Ceremonies

I have to say that I'm very impressed.

I was sceptical that Vancouver could follow-up the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Summer Olympics, but I'm pleasantly surprised that they could achieve so much with only a fraction of the budget that the Chinese had. Did I hear correctly that China spent about 300 million dollars on their Olympics compared to Canada's 30 million dollars?

I was impressed with the opening ceremonies involving the First Nations peoples, the use of major Canadian stars Nelly Furtado & Brian Adams, Sarah McLachlan, K.D. Lang and narration by Donald Sutherland. Even though it was using a budget that was a fraction of the Beijing Summer Olympics, the Canadian Olympic ceremonies was just as good, but in a different way.

Very clever use of lighting the arena floor like a projection screen. I liked the giant polar bear rising from the floor. The illusion of the surface ice floor breaking away due to warming was really well done. The illusion of swimming whales and their blowing spray from their blowholes was fantastic. The modern section where there were aerialists imitating skiing & snowboarding, and 'running' on the projected terrain was also great.

I really liked the portion where they featured the Celtic-based music of Atlantic Canada with the fiddle music and step dancing.

K.D. Lang performing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" was magical.

Makes me proud to be Canadian.
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kylo4

Cadet
I'm excited about the men's Ice Hockey starting tonight for Canada. First we're up against Norway, then Switzerland, then the USA. So far the women are doing well, they beat their opponents 18-0.
 
Wonderful performance by Windsor resident Tessa Virtue of London and her London born partner Scott Moir. They are now Canadian heroes with their Gold Medal win.

I'll have to see if they are in town after the Olympics. Tessa attends the University of Windsor.

Their training mates Meryl Davis & Charlie White of the USA got the Silver Medal.

Russians Oksana Domina & Maxim Shabalin edged out Americans for the Bronze Medal.

At the 2009 Four Continents Championships, Davis & White won the Gold Medal while Virtue & Moir got the Silver Medal.

Nice to see their friendship & camraderie backstage prior to the Awards Ceremony.

Loved how Virtue and Moir enjoyed singing "Oh Canada."
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Team Canada Switches Goalies

http://www.nbcolympics.com/news-features/n...snhomepage&cid=
Luongo to start for Canada; Brodeur benched
By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Staff Writer
Feb 22, 11:17p ET

VANCOUVER -- Roberto Luongo is Canada's main man in these Olympics now, meaning he finally has his chance to steal the country from Martin Brodeur.

Luongo will start in net Tuesday against Germany in the qualification round. He's replacing Brodeur, the gold-medal winning goalie who gave up four goals on 18 shots in a 5-3 loss to Team USA. Ryan Kesler closed the scoring with an empty-net goal.

"I felt going into the tournament we set ourselves up with the possibility of making one change," Canada coach Mike Babcock said. "We talked about playing both guys and if we felt we needed a change we had one and now we're making it."

Babcock doesn't anticipate making another one because at this stage of the tournament it's win or go home, and if you win there isn't a reason to make a goalie change. If you have to make one during the game, well that's never a good sign anyway.

"One thing about this tournament now, if you're changing goalies you're probably out of the tournament," Babcock said. "This is our plan, he has an opportunity and he has to play well."

Babcock said Sunday night that "without emotion" he would watch the video of Canada's loss to the Americans and then make a decision. Luongo told NHL.com that Babcock informed him Sunday night that he would be getting the start.

"I thought I had a chance, maybe, but I wasn't sure," Luongo told NHL.com. "I didn't want to assume anything, but I was definitely ready if I got the call."

Luongo stopped 15 shots in an 8-0 win over Norway in Canada's tournament opener. Babcock said before that game he chose to start Luongo because it's his building and he deserves it, but Brodeur would start the next game against Switzerland.

Brodeur played well against the Swiss, showing Babcock his poise under pressure, particularly in the shootout when he was 4-for-4. He earned the start against Team USA for his leadership, but he didn't show enough of that Sunday.

"The adrenaline will be there just like it would be if you're in the Stanley Cup Finals, or playoffs I mean, because I haven't been there yet," Luongo said. "This is a big stage and being in Vancouver, it's just so exciting. I have a lot of support around here so I'm really looking forward to being on the ice tomorrow."

Babcock talked to Brodeur on Monday to give him the news. He didn't sense any shock coming out of the veteran.

"He's a pro," Babcock said. "He's been through it a number of times and has won a lot of championships. He understands it's about the team, not the individual. That's the case this time."

Marc-Andre Fleury is Canada's third goalie here, but it doesn't seem like he got much consideration at all.

"The way we set it up is we had a ranking and the top two guys are getting their opportunity," Babcock said. "That's the way it's set up and Lu is going to start and Marty is going to back up."

Luongo's butterfly style is a reason why Babcock is going back to the Canucks' goalie.

Brodeur is not a butterfly goalie and clearly the Americans had a gameplan to shoot low on him. Three of their four goals went in on shots that either dragged on the ice or only a few inches off of it. Two were deflected and they all were scored with screeners in front.

Babcock hinted that if Luongo was in net, maybe those shots don't go in.

"(Luongo) is a great big butterfly goalie and the way the pucks went in our net last night, with traffic and people in front of you a lot, which is the way the game is now, sometimes being down in that big butterfly things hit you and bump into you," Babcock said. "We think Lu gives us a real good opportunity."

Even with all this fuss about the goalies, obviously any team's most important position, none of the skaters seem to care all that much who is in net.

Defenseman Duncan Keith said they are "just focused on playing and doing what we're told." Asked if it matters to the defensemen that Luongo doesn't like to roam around the net and play the puck as much as Brodeur, Keith said no.

"Either way there has to be communication," he said. "It's just a matter of talking it out. A lot of times that can be done off the ice so you sort it out before you even get on the ice."

Eric Staal doesn't believe Babcock can make a wrong decision.

"Tomorrow is an opportunity for Roberto," Staal told NHL.com. "It's his building."

It's his team now. Luongo has been waiting years to finally take over for Brodeur.

He better not blow it.
 
Team Canada Crushes Germany in Hockey

http://www.nbcolympics.com/news-features/news/newsid=442816.html#canada+wallops+germany+russia+next
Canada routs Germany, earns quarterfinal vs. Russia
Feb 23, 11:59p ET

VANCOUVER (AP) -- Canada and Russia will play in a superpower showdown that couldn't be much bigger unless it decided a gold medal.

Jarome Iginla scored two goals as a revived Canadian hockey team beat Germany 8-2, setting up a quarterfinal matchup against Russia on Wednesday -- or four days sooner than predicted.

It's a game hockey fans have craved ever since Russia's Alex Ovechkin and Canada's Sidney Crosby developed into the sport's two top stars for hockey's two fiercest rivals.

"I mean, that's a big rivalry. We all know it," Crosby said. "It's something everyone's been talking about. It's something at we thought that sooner or later it was going to happen. I don't think anyone believed it would be in quarterfinals."

Canada prompted the early meeting after being exiled to a qualification game by its surprise 5-3 loss to the U.S. That pushed Canada to change goaltenders from Martin Brodeur to Roberto Luongo, but the switch hardly mattered Tuesday as offense-thin Germany had few good scoring chances until the game got out of hand. Luongo also will start against Russia.

The change that made a difference was shifting Eric Staal and Iginla onto Crosby's line, where Iginla scored three goals against Norway. Iginla scored two goals in slightly more than five minutes to make it 4-0 as Canada used its scoring depth and talent to take control against Germany, which was held to five goals while losing all four games in Vancouver.

Crosby also scored, Staal had three assists and Joe Thornton -- nicknamed "No Show Joe" for disappearing in Canada's first three games -- scored in the first period. And Shea Weber had a goal that left scorch marks in the net.

The game, as expected, was little more than a warmup that allowed the favored Canadians to regain their confidence, offense and, perhaps, the trust of a rattled nation.

By late in the third period, fans in Canada Hockey Place began chanting, "We Want Russia, We Want Russia."

"They were just saying what they wanted," Crosby said, smiling. "They are confident."

Canada was left afterward with little time to prepare.

"I don't think it's take it easy tonight," Luongo said. "We're going to have a nice meal, but once we get back to the village we start focusing on Russia. It's only 24 hours away."

There were plenty of holes in Germany's defense for Canada that won't be there against Russia, and one in the net, too.

Weber's slap shot from the right point early in the second period singed the net as it sailed through the hole, causing a slight delay as officials confirmed by video replay that the puck went through rather than past the net. Arena workers were seen stitching up the net between periods.

"I was pretty sure it was going in unless something weird happened," Weber said. "It just looked weird."

Canada coach Mike Babcock also performed some quick repair work on a team whose psyche might have been shaken by a near-miss shootout win against Switzerland and the country's first Olympic loss to the U.S. in 50 years.

Whether the goalie move is regarded as prescient or premature may be determined against Russia, which landed alongside Canada and 2006 Olympic champion Sweden in the same overloaded bracket when it lost to Slovakia in a shootout.

Told that Canadian fans had been hoping for a gold-medal matchup between the two powers, Russian general manager Vladislav Tretiak said, "Me, too."

"Unfortunate, or fortunate, I don't know," Russia forward Sergei Fedorov said, referring to the early-round game. "It's just the way it came out with the way the standings work."

It's a game that's more than Crosby vs. Ovechkin, Russia's speed vs. Canada's vast depth and teammates vs. teammates. Crosby and Evgeni Malkin won the Stanley Cup together last season in Pittsburgh.

This has been hockey's biggest rivalry since the Canadians won the famed 1972 Summit Series in Moscow, a victory considered Canada's greatest in the sport. And Canada beat the Soviets in the 1987 Canada Cup on a Wayne Gretzky pass to Mario Lemieux.

The tension lessened somewhat when Soviet players began migrating to the NHL, yet players remain fiercely loyal to their countries. Ovechkin, the NHL's most dynamic offensive talent, has threatened to leave the Capitals to play in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, if NHL players don't take part. The two-time NHL MVP also brags that Russia has the best of everything -- especially, he said, the best hockey players.

"We don't have the kind of pressure that Canada has right now because they're the home team," Ovechkin said.

Crosby and Ovechkin, the NHL's two premier talents, don't get along, either. Crosby dislikes Ovechkin's showboating and his penchant for targeting opposing players for questionable hits, although Crosby said no one on Canada's team would be intimidated.

"We don't want to be caught in the railroad tracks," Babcock said, referring to Ovechkin's ability to level players -- like he did Jaromir Jagr earlier in the tournament. "We know he's a big body. He will be excited. Sid will be excited. All of us will be excited."
 
Dutch Coach Costs Speedskater His Gold Medal

I feel sorry for the skater and his coach who told him to go into the wrong lane. The skater was inconsolable. The coach is probably going to be the most despised man in the Netherlands.
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The skater seemed to realise the coach ordering him to switch lanes was wrong since he only changed lanes at the last moment. The skater got disqualified for being in the wrong lane as a result.
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Sports News, Opinion, Scores, Schedules | TSN
Blunder costs Kramer Olympic gold
By Grant Robertson, The Globe and Mail
Posted Tuesday, February 23, 2010 4:50 PM ET

Speed skating fans in the Netherlands were stunned yesterday as they watched their heavily favoured wunderkind Sven Kramer make an unconscionable blunder in the men's 10,000-metre race.

With five laps to go, and on pace to beat the Olympic record by a wide margin, the man who many refer to as the world's most dominant speed skater at the longer distances forgot which lane he should be skating in.

Coming around a corner in the last half of speed skating's longest race, Kramer heard his coach signal for him to switch lanes, causing the skater to suddenly change course to the inside of the track.

It was a split-second choice that not only cost him the gold medal and the Olympic record, but will almost definitely cause a scandal back in the Netherlands where speed skating is treated with as much fervour as hockey is here.

Kramer should have stayed in the outside lane. Though skaters must change lanes several times during a race - and some rely on coaches' hand signals as a reminder - getting mixed up is an automatic disqualification. Lane changes are done in speed skating every lap to ensure both skaters on the track skate the same distance.

"I was on my way to making the right decision and right before the corner I changed my decision because of the advice from the trainer," a visibly angry and dejected Kramer said afterward. "But at the end of the day, it's my responsibility. I'm the skater on the ice, and I have to do it. And maybe it's better said that 'we' did it wrong."

Kramer's coach, former Olympic medal-winning speed skater Gerard Kemkers, took responsibility after the race. Calling his instruction "disastrous," Kemkers said he dropped his head to jot down numbers on a sign for Kramer to tell him how far ahead he was, something coaches often do. When Kemkers lifted his head, he thought Kramer needed a lane change, but didn't realize the skater had already shifted over to his proper lane. In a split second, Kramer defaulted to the coach's directions.

It is a heartbreaking loss for the Dutch fans, since the 23-year-old was all but assured to win the gold. Few were surprised to see him on record pace in the first half of the race, building up a significant margin between himself and South Korea's LEE Seung-Hoon, who had skated earlier.

After the violation, the South Korean camp watching from the sidelines began to celebrate in anticipation that Kramer would be disqualified, but reserving themselves for the final decision from officials.

Upon completing the race in what would have been a record 12:54.50, Kramer angrily threw his glasses across the ice.

Lee was awarded the gold medal with a time of 12:58.55, also an Olympic record, but well back of Kramer's time. Russian Ivan Skobrev won silver in a time of 13:02.07, while Kramer's teammate Bob de Jong took bronze in 13:06.73.

The veteran de Jong also struggled to explain what went wrong with Kramer's race. He said some skaters rely on coaches - especially in longer races where athletes become mentally exhausted - but he seemed shocked it could happen to Kramer.

Skobrev was also bewildered: "That's speed skating, it's not only pressure for your legs it's also pressure for your head," Skobrev said. "You don't want to win like this, but everybody has to cross over 25 times" in the 10,000-metres.

Canada did not qualify a skater for this distance, so much of the spotlight in the oval was entirely on Kramer. The stunner silenced the loud Dutch fans in attendance, since Kramer is akin to a rock star in Holland. Even among athletes he is regarded as a celebrity. Earlier this week he was approached by another skater for an autograph during an interview, an indication of his stature.

After winning the gold medal in the men's 5,000-metre race, in which he set an Olympic record, Kramer was looking for his second gold in the 10,000 metres. He was considered such a lock for the gold that some fans refer to the event as the "Sven-K" instead of the 10-K.

"It's pretty hard now," Kramer told a crush of about 40 reporters afterward, most of them Dutch. The race was his to lose, and he did.
 
Team Canada Crushes Arch-Rival & Defending World Champions Russia in Men's Hockey Quarter Finals
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http://www.washingto...0022406036.html
Canada dominates Russia to advance to semifinals
By Tracee Hamilton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2010

VANCOUVER, B.C.

This is what Canadians have wanted, from the moment the cauldron was lit, from the awarding of the Olympics to Vancouver seven years ago, probably from birth. This is what they demanded during their beloved hockey team's humiliating reality, a must-win play-in game Tuesday against Germany, when they chanted "We want Russia!"

They weren't kidding around. Team Canada, so rattled after losing to the United States in pool play Sunday, pole-axed the talented Russians, 7-3, in a quarterfinal game Wednesday evening at Canada Hockey Place. The Canadians will face the winner of Wednesday night's late game between Slovakia and Sweden in the semifinals Friday.

What all of Canada had built into an Alex Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby matchup -- the red-clad, hockey-mad fans gave the arena the look of Verizon Center during a Caps-Penguins playoff game -- instead turned into an eye-averting onslaught. Ovechkin was certainly a focal point, both for the crowd, which booed him during introductions and every chance it got, and for the Canadians, who hit him so hard and so often that Ted Leonsis probably had difficulty getting out of bed this morning. But neither of them had a point.

Not only were the Canadian goals plentiful, despite the Crosby drought, but some of them were works of art, tremendous displays of teamwork and crisp passing and anticipation. That isn't always the case in Olympic play, where teams usually get only one or two practices before pool play begins.

As the score grew lopsided, and poor Evgeni Nabokov was spirited out of the goal and into the Russian version of witness protection -- he certainly witnessed a killing -- the tension that has gripped this country for three days slowly melted, like the snow at Cypress Mountain. You could feel the collective exhale of an entire nation (someone had garlic for lunch). Even the guy with the "Hockey is Canada's Game" sign finally sat down, much to the relief of the rest of the fans, who know that, for Pete's sake.

As hard as a loss would have been to swallow for Canada, it will be just as hard to choke down for the Russians. They are not doing as well in Vancouver; they won 22 medals in Turin but just 13 here so far, and no gold medals in figure skating, which is a bit of an upset for their vaunted program. Failing to win a medal in hockey -- with some of the game's biggest stars on the roster and former great Vladislav Tretiak serving as GM -- will be a blow to the country that will host the Olympics in four years.

Desperation is a rancid cologne, but a great adrenaline. Canada's national schadenfreude* after Sunday's loss to Team USA was almost too painful to watch; an elimination in the quarterfinals, on home ice, would have been unimaginable. And to Russia? Bridges, chair lifts and pharmacies were put on high alert.

Canada had faced Russia (in its various political configurations) nine times in Olympic hockey prior to Wednesday's quarterfinal, and won just once -- in 1960, at Squaw Valley, Calif., where the United States won the gold, Canada silver and the Soviet Union the bronze.

The Canadians had dominated Olympic hockey since the Games began in 1924. In the first six Olympics, Canada won five gold and one silver medal. And then came the Soviets, who joined the party in 1956 with what amounted to professional players, and the tables turned. Canada was not surprisingly annoyed, and even boycotted the Olympic tournament in 1972 and 1976 because of the amateur issue.

In 18 Olympic appearances, Canada has six gold, four silver and two bronze medals, and six times has finished out of the medals. Russia, in 14 appearances, has eight gold, two silver and two bronze medals and has twice finished out of the medals. Neither team performed well in Turin four years ago; the Russians finished fourth, Canada seventh.

The best team leader ever to wear the "C," former Red Wing great Steve Yzerman, is Team Canada's general manager, and he's had his hands full. The trouble with living in the country that invented the game is that each of your citizens believes he knows more about hockey than all the others. When forward Ryan Getzlaf scored the first of Canada's four goals in the first period, Yzerman had to be smiling. He drew fire for putting the Ducks forward on the roster despite a high ankle sprain.

After the loss to Team USA, Canada Coach Mike Babcock made some line moves, teaming Crosby with Jarome Iginla and Eric Staal on the first line and replacing Martin Brodeur in goal with local hero Roberto Luongo, who plays in this arena for the Vancouver Canucks. When Luongo stopped a tremendous breakaway opportunity by Evgeni Malkin with about four minutes remaining, the hometown crowd went nuts.

And then a new chant began: "We want Sweden!"

Those Canadians -- full of demands.

* SIO Note: Schadenfreude - a German term for Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.
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Canadian Women's Hockey Team shut out U.S. for third-straight Gold Medal Championship!
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http://www.nbcolympics.com/news-features/n...epage>1=39003
Canada women shut out U.S. for third-straight gold
Updated: Feb 25, 10:29p ET

VANCOUVER (AP) -- Canada's game. Canada's ice. Canada's gold. Again.

Marie-Philip Poulin scored two goals, Shannon Szabados made 28 saves, and Canada rolled through its American rivals, 2-0, to win the gold medal in women's hockey for the third straight Olympics Thursday night in front of a raucous Vancouver crowd ringing cowbells and frantically waving thousands of maple leaf flags.

After Poulin's two first-period scores, the Canadians dominated every aspect of the biggest game in this young sport, earning their 15th straight Olympic victory.

"I looked up in the stands and saw a sign that said, 'Proud to be Canadian,' and that's what I am today," Szabados said. "My teammates were unbelievable today. We played a great game, and this is an incredible moment."

Playing with a consistency and passion its men's team hopes to emulate this weekend, Canada remained unbeaten at the Olympics since 1998, when the Americans won the first women's gold.

The Canadians kept nearly the entire game in the Americans' end -- outpassing, outshooting and simply outworking the only team in women's hockey with a chance of standing up to them.

While some debate the viability of an Olympic sport with two such dominant powers on top, the Canadians celebrated -- and several even went back on the ice an hour after their win, carrying champagne bottles and posing for pictures in the near-empty arena.

"We commit. We work hard," said Canadian captain Hayley Wickenheiser, a four-time Olympian with three gold medals. "It's up to the rest of the world to catch up. This is not as easy as it looks, trust me."

Earlier, Finland won the bronze medal, beating Sweden 3-2 in overtime.

Canada got two first-period goals from Poulin, the super-speedy 18-year-old forward from Quebec who claims she felt no Olympic pressure. Their smooth, graceful goalie did the rest, with Szabados capping her first Olympics with flawless netminding in a win that sometimes seemed just as one-sided as Canada's 18-0 victory over Slovakia to open the Olympics 12 days ago.

Much of the Canadian men's team, which faces Slovakia in the semifinals Friday, watched the game from press box seats above the ice, while Michael J. Fox, Wayne Gretzky and several Canadian gold medalists from other sports were in the stands. Several members of the American men's team were there, too.

"We kept turning to each other after the game and saying how much we love having the Olympics in Canada," four-time Olympian Jennifer Botterill said. "This country has supported us any time we've played, and today was an amazing example of that."

Jessie Vetter made 27 saves for the Americans, whose offense evaporated in front of Szabados and the Canadian defense. The potent power play that produced 13 goals in the last four games went 0-for-6, and the Canadians consistently won most of the battles in a physical, grinding game.

When the puck went to center ice and time expired, the Canadians skated into a massive pile-up near their goal. Several cheering fans threw flags over the glass to the players, who wrapped them around their shoulders like capes.

Meghan Agosta, voted the tournament MVP for her Olympic-record nine-goal performance, draped a flag over herself and Sarah Vaillancourt. Coach Melody Davidson congratulated her assistants and then shared a long hug with a team manager who lifted her off the ground, her heels in the air.

Several Americans were in tears, including four-time Olympians Angela Ruggiero and Jenny Potter, who had her two children on the ice with her for the medal presentation. The Canadian crowd raised a chant of "U-S-A!" while the players got their bouquets.

"When you give your whole life to something and you come up short, as a team, it's just awful," Ruggiero said, choking back tears. "It's a little different than playing on the men's side. You really give your life to it. You make lots of sacrifices to win the gold medal."

The only matchup that matters in women's hockey was set up in Monday's semifinals, when the Americans routed Sweden and Canada clobbered Finland to finish two dominant runs through the field. Canada outscored its opponents 46-2, starting with an 18-0 rout of Slovakia. The Americans had a 40-2 advantage, with neither team winning by fewer than five goals.

"This rivalry will never end," Szabados said. "It will keep going and going."

Canada's Jayna Hefford predicted the gold-medal match would be the best game in women's hockey history, matching two nations with far larger talent pools and financial resources than the rest of the world combined.

It might have been the best game ever -- but only for the Canadians, who didn't waste their once-in-a-lifetime chance to win gold medals on home ice.

After losing the Canada Cup to the U.S. team on this same ice in September, Canada clearly built on the lessons of six straight exhibition victories over the Americans in the months leading up to the Olympics, showing quicker skating and smarter puck movement throughout.

The Canada Hockey Place crowd was hopping from 45 minutes before Potter and Wickenheiser took the opening faceoff, with competing chants of "Go Canada Go!" and "U-S-A!" reverberating through the rink.

Davidson waited until game time to reveal she had chosen the up-and-coming Szabados over Kim St. Pierre, who won the gold-medal game over the Americans in Salt Lake City in 2002. Szabados, who plays on a men's college team in Alberta, beat the Americans in the final of the Four Nations Cup last fall.

Both teams took early penalties, and the Americans failed to score on a two-man advantage for 40 seconds. Moments later, Poulin flung a quick pass from Botterill through a corridor of four U.S. defenders for the Quebecois star's fourth Olympic goal.

Poulin did it again 2:55 later during 4-on-4 play, collecting a faceoff and ripping a shot that was simply too quick for Vetter to see. Poulin's face shield couldn't conceal the broad grin on her face when she watched the replay on the overhead scoreboard.

The Americans got nearly 100 seconds of 5-on-3 advantage early in the second, but couldn't connect. The drought extended into the third period, with the U.S. team putting far too many of its shots high, right where Szabados could see them.

"Szabados played out of her mind," U.S. forward Monique Lamoureux said. "It's never fun to lose, especially in a championship game."
 
Congratulations to Team Canada for the exciting Gold Medal winning game.
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Congratulations to Team USA for valiantly fighting back to tie with their gutsy decision to pull their goalie to get an extra attacker.
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NBC's Bob Costas rightly said that this moment is the ultimate event in the history of Canadian Sports.

http://www.nbcolympi...epage&GT1=39003
Canada wins men's hockey gold on Crosby OT goal
VANCOUVER (AP) -- With the flick of Sidney Crosby's wrist, Canada found Olympic redemption.

From the pall of a luger's death, from a series of embarrassing glitches, from a first half so disappointing that Canadian Olympic officials prematurely conceded the medals race, from the men's hockey team losing to the upstart Americans in a preliminary game. All that was forgotten Sunday.

Canada is the Olympic champion in men's hockey, and the whole nation can finally celebrate its Winter Olympics.

The national honor is served.

Canada survived one of the greatest games in Olympic history to beat the Americans 3-2 in overtime and cap the host country's record gold rush in the Vancouver Games.

Crosby -- The Next One, hockey heir to Canada's own Great One, Wayne Gretzky -- won it when he whipped a shot past U.S. goalie Ryan Miller 7:40 into overtime after the U.S. had tied it with 24.4 seconds left in regulation.

Canada's collection of all-stars held off a young, desperate U.S. team that had beaten it a week ago and, after staging a furious comeback from down 2-0 on goals by Jonathan Toews and Corey Perry, almost beat the Canadians again.

With Canada less than a minute away from celebrating the gold medal, Zach Parise -- the son of a player who figured in Canada's finest hockey moment -- tied it with Miller off the ice for an extra attacker.

The moment he scored, the groans of disappointed fans likely were heard from Vancouver to the Maritimes. But Crosby, scoreless the previous two games, brought back the cheers with his second post-regulation game-winner of the tournament, a shot from the left circle that Miller was helpless to stop. He also beat Switzerland in a shootout during the round robin.

It was close. It was nerve-racking. It was a game worthy of an Olympic hockey final.

Before the game, Crosby received a brief text message from Penguins owner Mario Lemieux that said: "Good luck."

Now, Crosby joins Lemieux -- whose goal beat the Soviet Union in the 1987 World Cup -- and Paul Henderson, who beat the Soviets with a goal in the 1972 Summit Series, among the instant national heroes of Canadian hockey. At age 22, Crosby has won the Stanley Cup and the Olympics in less than a year's time.

Minutes after the game ended, delirious fans chanted, "Crosby! Crosby! Crosby!" International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge paused before giving the final medal to Crosby as the crowd got even louder. Then he gestured with his right hand, calling for more cheers for Crosby.

As "O Canada" played, the Canadian team stood shoulder to shoulder, arms over each others' shoulders. The U.S. team stood dejected, staring at the ice, many with their hands on their hips.

"Our team worked so unbelievably hard," Crosby said. "Today was really tough, especially when they got a goal late in regulation. But we came back and got it in overtime."

To win, Canada withstood a remarkable and determined effort from a U.S. team that wasn't supposed to medal in Vancouver, much less roll through the tournament unbeaten before losing in the first overtime gold-medal game since NHL players joined the Olympics in 1998.

"No one knew our names. People know our names now," said Chris Drury, one of two holdovers from the 2002 U.S. team that also lost to Canada in the gold-medal game.

Miller, the tournament MVP, was exceptional, and Parise scored a goal that -- if the U.S. had won -- would rank among the storied moments in American Olympic history.

With less than a half minute remaining and Miller out of the net and off the ice for an extra attacker, Patrick Kane took a shot from the high slot that deflected off Jamie Langenbrunner to Parise, who shot it off Canadian goalie Roberto Luongo's blocker and into the net.

Parise is the son of J.P. Parise, who scored two goals for that 1972 Canada Summit Series team.

Three minutes before Parise scored, Kane -- who also set up Ryan Kesler's goal in the second period -- knocked the puck off Crosby's stick on a breakaway that would have sealed it for Canada.

Luongo didn't outplay Miller, but still proved he is a big-game goalie -- something he has never been previously -- by making 34 saves in his own NHL arena. Luongo went 5-0 in the tournament and 4-0 after replacing Martin Brodeur following America's 5-3 win the previous Sunday.

OK, you can exhale now, Canada. The quivers of fear created by the loss to the U.S. and the shootout over Switzerland are gone, replaced by the good-as-gold feeling that was a necessity for Canada to truly proclaim these Olympics a success.

Canada won its eighth hockey gold medal and only its second since 1952 -- it beat the U.S. 5-2 in Salt Lake City in 2002. For the United States, considered on a tier slightly below the Canadians, Russians and Swedes when the games began, it was an immense letdown, especially since it was the best team from nearly start to finish. Nearly.

"It stings right now," said Miller, who made 33 saves after giving up only a goal per game in the first five games.

"It's devastating. It was the biggest game any of us have played in," U.S. defenseman Jack Johnson said.

Requiring the United States to beat favored Canada two times in eight days was a monumental task; under Olympic formats used until the 1990s, when there wasn't a true gold-medal game, the earlier victory and the Americans' unbeaten record would have been enough for gold. The U.S. has never won an Olympics outside the U.S., with its two golds coming in 1960 at Squaw Valley, Calif., and 1980 at Lake Placid, N.Y.

Unlike those games, it wouldn't have been a miracle if America had won -- but, given the opponent and the circumstances, it would have been one of the nation's proudest moments in international sports.
 
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