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Sports News

Germany surge to top of pile, Canada hung over

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Germany joined the United States at the top of the Winter Games medals table on Monday as Canada awoke to an Olympic-size hangover following their demoralizing loss to the United States men’s ice hockey team.

Germany won gold in the women’s cross country team sprint as well as silver in the men’s event and team ski jump to climb to the summit alongside the high-flying Americans.

Both countries had seven golds midway through the 10th full day of competition. The Germans had nine silvers, two more than the U.S, but the Americans had five more bronze than their European rivals.

Norway moved to outright third by winning a sixth gold in the men’s cross country team sprint and Austria collected their third of the Games in the team ski jump.

Canada were sitting in a respectable joint fifth place but the golden avalanche they hoped for has failed to materialize and the hockey defeat by the U.S. only made it more unbearable.

The host-nation have failed to win a medal in the Alpine skiing events at Whistler mountain, where the Americans have won eight, and their dream of claiming gold in the ice hockey was in danger of melting fast.

The inquisition has begun and the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), which spent millions of taxpayers’ dollars preparing their athletes for the Games, has come under attack.

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“It’s painful to do the autopsy while the patient is alive and kicking,” COC chief executive Chris Rudge said.

GLOOMY MOOD

His pleas not to prematurely judge the results fell on deaf years and The Vancouver Sun newspaper echoed the gloomy mood of a nation with the headline: “Woe Canada, U.S. sticks stake in our hearts.”

For Canadians, anything other than winning gold in the ice hockey would be deemed a national failure.

They remain in the competition but the loss to the U.S. has left them facing a qualifying playoff with Germany for the daunting prospect of meeting Russia in the quarter-finals.

Canadian head coach Mike Babcock tried to offer some reassuring words for his compatriots.

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“We’ve just chosen a longer route to get to where we want to go,” he said.

Austria, another traditional winter sports powerhouse struggling in Vancouver, made a brighter start to the final week of competition when Wolfgang Loitzl, Andreas Kofler, Thomas Morgenstern and Gregor Schlierenzauer joined up to win gold in the ski jumping.

Team ski jumping may not be the highest-profile sport at the Olympics but Austria are a giant in the discipline, winning every world and Olympic title since 2005, and they dominated once again to leave Germany to take the silver and Norway bronze.

“I think we don’t have that much pressure. We know we have the strongest team so we know what to do in order to be the best,” Loitzl said.

A late surge by Claudia Nystad enabled Germany to win the women’s cross country final ahead of Sweden, who had led at every exchange. Russia came third.

Germany looked to be on course to win the men’s final too when they led at the final changeover but Norway’s Petter Northug unleashed a powerful burst on the last lap to snatch his first gold of the Games after failing in three individual events. Russia again took the bronze.

The only other medal to be decided on Monday will be the figure skating ice dance at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, which concludes with the free dance.

Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir led the competition after the compulsory and original dance routines from Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White and the Russian favorites Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin.

Editing by Ed Osmond

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