Olympics: Americans Demong, Spillane go 1-2 in Nordic combined race
AP Sports Writer VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Gold was the only option for Canada's women's hockey team. For the U.S. Nordic combined squad, any medal in any color would do. All of them were quite pleased with the way things turned out Thu...
AP Sports Writer
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) -- Gold was the only option for Canada's women's hockey team. For the U.S. Nordic combined squad, any medal in any color would do.
All of them were quite pleased with the way things turned out Thursday.
Up in the mountains, Billy Demong and Johnny Spillane finished 1-2 in a Nordic combined race, a surprising medal haul in a sport that's been part of the Winter Olympics since 1924 but never had an American medalist until these games.
Demong's victory is the first gold and his second of these games. Spillane became the first medalist on Sunday, and now he has three, all silver.
"I think it has been building over the past five to 10 years," Demong said. "These Olympics are the combination of years of hard work and hard breaks."
Add silvers by the hockey women and Jeret "Speedy" Peterson in men's aerials, and the U.S. medal count is up to eight golds and 32 overall. The Americans are closing in on their record hauls of 10 gold of 34 total, both set at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
Germany had a 1-2 finish in giant slalom to reach eight golds and 26 overall medals.
Norway's Marit Bjoergen became the top medal-winner thus far, becoming the first with three golds and with four overall medals by leading the winning team in the women's cross-country relay.
The lone medal event left Thursday night was in women's figure skating.
This race involved ski jumping on the large hill, then a 10-kilometer race. Weather was another obstacle.
A driving, wet snow and tail wind late in the ski jumping portion ruined the distances for many of the top competitors, forcing them to start way back in the cross-country race. Demong and Spillane were among those to win the weather "lottery," as World Cup leader Jason Lamy Chappuis of France called it.
The Americans weren't the only lucky ones, though. And Demong did rise from sixth to first, outlasting Spillane and Bernhard Gruber of Austria after they distanced themselves from everyone else.
So don't put too much of an asterisk on this.
Peterson pulled out his one-of-a-kind "Hurricane" jump and landed the highest score of the 24 jumps, but his two-jump total came up just shy of Alexei Grishin of Belarus.
Peterson's move wraps five twists into three somersaults as he vaults off the ramp and 50 feet in the air. Then, he stuck the landing.
Julia Mancuso was third fastest in Thursday's second run of the giant slalom, which wasn't enough to overcome a frustrating performance in the first run a day earlier. Her Vancouver Olympics ends with a pair of silver medals.
Viktoria Rebensburg won the race, giving Germany a winner in it for the first time since 1956. She was highly unlikely to be the drought-buster as she'd never won a major event.
"Unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable," she said.
Also, Lindsey Vonn plans to ski the slalom Friday with a hard, plastic brace protecting her right pinkie. She broke it during a tumble in the giant slalom Wednesday that left her "a ball of hurt right now," according to her husband, Thomas.
Bjoergen joined the growing trend of skiers pausing on the way to the finish to grab a flag. Like the others who did it, she was well ahead.
Norway won its first women's relay gold since 1984, having settled for silver five times. Bjoergen also won the individual sprint and 15K pursuit, and took bronze in the 10K freestyle.
The Americans were 12th.
In the ongoing dispute over whether the NHL will let its players participate in the 2014 Sochi Games, the head of Russia's pro hockey league says it would be a serious mistake for the NHL to stand in their way.
Alex Medvedev said he met three times in Vancouver with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman. Bettman is concerned about shutting down the NHL season during the Olympics. He also has doubts about an Olympics in which the hockey would be played at a time when many North American fans would be asleep.
IOC president Jacques Rogge says the death of a Georgian luger will forever be associated with the Vancouver Games, just as the slaying of Israeli athletes remains a legacy of the Munich Olympics. Rogge said the IOC accepted a "moral responsibility" for the tragedy but not legal responsibility.
The Norwegian men -- and their popular, gaudy, diamond-print trousers -- will meet Canada in the gold-medal final after beating Switzerland. Canada is attempting to become the first Olympic curling team to go unbeaten at the games since the sport returned as a medal event in 1998. It earned its own spot in the final by beating Sweden.
In the women's final, it'll be Sweden vs. Canada.
The defending gold medalists from Sweden KO'd the reigning world champion Chinese in one semifinal, and the hosts took out Switzerland on a late shot.