VANCOUVER // The USA pulled off a stunning 5-3 win over gold medal favourites Canada in an eagerly awaited Olympic ice hockey clash. Canadians crave an ice hockey gold medal at their Games more than anything else and, although this was only a preliminary round meeting, losing to their southern neighbours was not in the script. Both teams had already qualified from their group but a youthful American side has now put down an important marker with the knockout stages to come. Home fans in the 19,300-capacity Canada Hockey Place were hoping 22-year-old wonderkid Sidney Crosby would step up for his country having led his club side the Pittsburgh Penguins to Stanley Cup glory last season.
But the Americans were quickly out of the traps, Brian Rafalski firing home past the veteran goalkeeper Martin Brodeur after just 41 seconds. Eric Staal levelled after eight minutes and 53 seconds but the US hit right back, Rafalski sweeping up the ice alone to shoot across Brodeur into the top corner just 22 seconds later. The Canadians went into the break 2-1 down with the US keeper Ryan Miller having pulled off 18 saves. Dany Heatley levelled with a third of the second period gone but the US forged ahead again through Chris Drury of the New York Rangers who scored from close range after 36.46sec.
The USA built a two-goal cushion through Jamie Langenbrunner's goal at 47.09sec but when Drury was sent to the penalty box for tripping the US defence could not hold firm as Rick Nash centred for Crosby to score Canada's third from short range. That set up a frantic final three minutes and the Canadians pulled their keeper to throw six men onto the open ice but, with 45 seconds remaining, they lost possession and Ryan Kesler broke away to score into an open net. Afterwards Crosby was philosophical about the defeat, saying: "It is one game and you run into a hot goalie (Miller) now and then. We were pressing to tie the game and he made some big saves." Earlier Russia had beaten the Czech Republic 4-2 in their preliminary round clash.
Up on Whistler Mountain Bode Miller's long wait for Olympic gold finally came to an end as he produced a storming slalom run to take the super-combined title. Miller failed to live up to expectations four years ago in Turin when he led after the downhill section of the super-combined but was disqualified in the slalom and ended the Games with no medals. But Miller, 32, seventh after the downhill run, exorcised those demons by producing the fastest slalom leg for a gold medal-winning combined time of two min, 44.92sec. "It's just awesome," said Miller. "The way I executed, the way I skied, is something I'll be proud of the rest of my life. "I skied with 100 per cent heart. I didn't hold anything back."
Miller, went into the event with a silver and bronze medal in the bag from the super-G and downhill and admitted he had tired badly in the latter stages of the slalom. "My legs started feeling really wobbly," he said. "I didn't even feel like I was looking at the gate anymore." Croatian Ivica Kostelic claimed the silver medal, 0.33sec behind, while Swiss Silvan Zurbriggen took the bronze 0.40sec adrift. Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, who led after the downhill section posting 1min 53.15sec, failed to finish the slalom section. Svindal won the super-G race on Friday and silver in the downhill last week.
Ireen Wust of Holland grabbed speed skating gold in the ladies 1500m at the Richmond Olympic Oval, posting a time of 1min 56.89sec. The silver medal went to Canada's Kristina Groves (1:57.14), adding to her bronze in the ladies 3000m race. Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic took the bronze medal to add to her gold in the 3000m race. Canadian pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir were in the gold medal position after the original dance programme at the Pacific Coliseum. Virtue and Moir scored 68.4 points with their flamenco for an overall total of 111.15 heading into Monday's final phase, the free dance.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the US were lying second after a score of 67.08 gave them a total of 108.55 and Russians Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin were third with 106.60 after scoring 62.84. Germany's Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske won gold in the two man bobsleigh competition at Whistler Sliding Center with a combined time for their four runs of 3min 26.65sec. Compatriots Thomas Florschuetz and Richard Adjei claimed the silver, 0.22sec back with the Russian pair Alexsandr Zubkov and Alexey Voevoda taking bronze 0.86sec adrift. Russian Evgeny Ustyugov won the biathlon 15km mass start race in 35min 35.7sec. Frenchman Martin Fourcode took the silver 10.5sec adrift and Pavol Hurajt claimed the bronze 16.6sec back.
Magdalena Neuner of Germany won the women's 12.5km mass start biathlon race in 35min 19.6sec. Russian Olga Zaitseva claimed the silver 5.5sec back while German Simone Hauswald took the bronze 7.3sec adrift. Swiss Michael Schmid won the gold medal in the men's ski cross on Cypress Mountain, with Austrian Andreas Matt taking the silver and Norway's Audun Groenveld the bronze. Canada's men curlers made it seven wins out of seven in their round robin matches, beating Switzerland 6-4 and there were wins for Great Britain who were 4-2 victors against the USA and Sweden, who edged out Norway 8-7. Canada's women curlers remain unbeaten in the round robin competition after a 9-2 thrashing of the USA. Switzerland beat Great Britain 10-6, Denmark edged past Germany 6-5 and Japan beat Russia 12-9.
In the late session women's curling matches, Sweden beat the USA 9-3, Germany beat Japan 7-6 and China edged out Canada 6-5 after an extra end. The final men's preliminary ice hockey match saw Sweden beat Finland 3-0. * PA Sport