With one day left in the Winter Olympics and only two medal events set for Sunday, a few things are certain: Germany will leave Turin with the most gold medals, and Bode Miller will drive his motor home out of the Italian Alps with none.
Michael Greis won his third biathlon gold medal of these Games and Andre Lange piloted the Germany 1 entry to victory in the four-man bobsled on Saturday, putting Germany’s gold-medal count at 11 — a leading 29 overall.
The United States were sitting in second place with nine gold (25 overall), a total that could have been much better if Miller had won any of the five Alpine ski medals he was chasing. His last chance evaporated on Saturday on the slalom course at Sestriere when he was disqualified for straddling a gate just seconds into his first run.
”The expectations were other people’s,” said Miller, who admitted he liked the nightlife in the mountains more than the racing.
”I’m comfortable with what I’ve accomplished, including at the Olympics. I came in here to race as hard as I could. I wanted to have fun here, to enjoy the Olympic experience, not be holed up in a closet and not ever leave your room.”
Austria’s skiers were enjoying themselves on Saturday on the slopes, with Benjamin Raich leading an Austrian sweep of the medals in the slalom — only the fifth time a country has taken all three medals in an Olympic Alpine event. Italian favourite Giorgio Rocca crashed out on the first run to join Miller on the sidelines.
Elsewhere on Saturday, when eight golds were presented, Clara Hughes of Canada ended the Olympic reign of Germany’s Claudia Pechstein in 5 000m speed-skating, edging the three-time defending champion into second place by just more than a second.
Apolo Anton Ohno of the US won the men’s 500m on the short track, Jin Sun-yu of South Korea won the women’s 1 000m and South Korea, who won six of eight short-track events, took the men’s 5 000m relay.
Anna Carin Olofsson of Sweden joined Greis on the biathlon gold-medal platform, winning the 12,5km mass start, while Canadian speed-skater Cindy Klassen’s bronze in the 5 000m was her leading fifth in Turin — a gold, two silver and two bronze.
Austria’s sweep of the medals in the slalom gave the country their ninth gold and 22 overall — including an Olympic record 14 in Alpine events.
”This is the greatest Olympics ever for us,” Austrian Alpine director Hans Pum said of his team.
Other members of the Austrian team, however, remained in the doping spotlight. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Saturday it has formed a special panel to investigate the doping scandal surrounding Austria’s cross-country and biathlon teams.
President Jacques Rogge appointed a three-man disciplinary commission to look into all the elements of banned coach Walter Mayer’s involvement with the team.
Mayer’s presence in Italy triggered a police raid on the Austrians’ private lodgings and no-notice doping tests by the IOC on six cross-country skiers and four biathletes. The tests came back negative on Friday, but the IOC and Italian police are pressing ahead with the case.
Leading from start to finish in the 500m, Ohno upset favoured South Korean Ahn Hyun-soo to win the gold medal.
”I’ve never been a 500 specialist. I’ve never shined consistently in this race,” he said. ”To lead from start to finish doesn’t happen very often. For me, it was the perfect race.”
Before the final night was done, he skated to his third medal of the Games. With a burst at the end, Ohno passed an Italian skater to grab bronze for the Americans in the 5 000m relay.
Ahn helped the Koreans win the relay, earning him a third gold medal at these Games. His teammate Jin won three gold medals on the women’s side.
The last two golds of the 20th Winter Games will come in the men’s 50km race in cross-country, and Finland against Nordic neighbours Sweden in the men’s hockey final. The Czech Republic beat Russia 3-0 on Saturday to take the hockey bronze.
Then it’s to the closing ceremony, and there’s no telling whether Miller will join the other American athletes in the stadium.
”It’s been an awesome two weeks,” Miller said on Saturday. ”I got to party and socialise at an Olympic level.” — Sapa-AP