VANCOUVER // Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White, and Shani Davis all struck gold on Wednesday as the United States transformed a bleak Vancouver Olympics into their own winter wonderland with a dazzling show of gravity-defying stunts, brute strength and old-fashioned courage. A fearless Vonn overcome a painful injury that almost ruined her Olympic dream before it began as she hurtled down a treacherous Whistler mountain course to become the first American to win the women's downhill, one of the most spectacular and dangerous events at the Olympics.
A week ago, Vonn hobbled into Vancouver with a shin injury that prevented her from hitting the slopes, but she summoned up the determination to fly down a slippery course that brought some of her main rivals to grief. "I had to attack and I did that. I made it down," Vonn said. "It's awesome, it's all I ever wanted." White showed why he is one of the most recognisable and highest paid athletes in winter sports as he wowed a new generation of Olympic fans at Cypress Mountain with a breathtaking display of somersaults, twists and aerial tricks.
The flame-haired 23-year-old from California was so dominant that he had the gold wrapped up after his first run so used his second to unveil a special double backward flip he had never performed in competition before. "I just felt like I didn't come all the way to Vancouver not to pull out the big guns," said White. Not to be outdone, Davis powered home over the final lap at the Richmond Olympic Oval to become the first man to win the 1,000 metres speed skating title at successive Olympics as the US soared to the top of the medal standings.
The three victories gave the team a total of five gold medals after the fifth full day of competition, ahead of Germany, South Korea and Switzerland, who each had three golds on a day when the heavy snowfalls and thick fog that forced the postponement of some earlier events finally gave way to clear blue skies. In the men's ice hockey, the defending champions, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Finland all made winning starts.
Second period powerplay goals from Mattias Ohlund and Loui Eriksson gave the Swedes a 2-0 win over Germany as Henrik Lundqvist recorded a shutout, although he was saved by his posts on several occasions. "When they were hitting posts and crossbars it felt like my day," said Lundqvist. "It always feels good to get a shutout. But the funny thing about hockey, you feel like you're in control but you make one mistake and it's different." The Czechs beat neighbours Slovakis 3-1 while the Finns overcame Belarus 5-1.
Playing in his fifth Olympics, the Finnish winger Teemu Selanne picked up an assist on Olli Jokinen's first period powerplay goal to join Canadian Harry Watson, former Soviet Union great Valeri Kharlamov and Czechoslovakia's Vlastimil Bubnik at the top of the all-time Olympic scoring list with 36 points. "It's a big honour but it is not my goal," Selanne said. "I have been around a long time and I have always played with good players and good things happen."