VANCOUVER, British Columbia — While the Vancouver Olympics aren’t finished, the medal races are — and in spectacular fashion for North Americans.
The United States is guaranteed 37 medals and Canada will finish with at least 13 gold medals. Both are the best of these games and part of the greatest hauls ever at a Winter Olympics.
The Americans will leave with the most medals by any country at any Winter Games. They also will win the medal count for only the second time, the other being at Lake Placid in 1932.
Steven Holcomb and the “Night Train” delivered the 36th medal, and ninth gold, for the United States by winning the four-man bobsled event Saturday. The 37th will come from the men’s hockey team. Whether it is gold or silver will be determined Sunday.
Canada invested $117 million and five years into an “Own the Podium” program that was supposed to win the medals race. At least it bought the top step.
The Canadians have matched the record of 13 golds set by the Soviets in 1976 and Norway in 2002. It’s also the most gold Canada has won at any Olympics, winter or summer, and its the most for any Winter Olympics host country; both those marks had been 10.
And how’s this for timing: Lucky No. 13 came in the nation’s second-favorite sport, curling, with beloved skip Kevin Martin shoving aside the Norway guys wearing those tacky trousers. The record-setting 14th could come Sunday in the nation’s far and away favorite sport, hockey, with Sidney Crosby and friends facing the Americans.
Canadians also will finish third on the overall medals list. They’ve claimed 26, counting the one in hockey. Germany is second with 29.
All told, it’s a staggering list of achievements for the hosts and their nearest neighbor.
Bottom line: The rest of the world is probably glad the next two Winter Games will be held in other continents.
BOBSLED — The Americans hadn’t won gold in four-man bobsledding since 1948.
And they did it by knocking off a German crew led by Andre Lange, who had won all four Olympics races he’s ever entered. His crew wound up with silver, one-hundredth of a second faster than the Canadians.
“No more 62 years,” Holcomb said. “We’ll start the clock over. Now it’s going to be four years.”
A slew of U.S. teammates rushed to Holcomb’s sled to celebrate. Among the first to offer congratulations was Geoff Bodine, the 1986 Daytona 500 champion who was behind the group that paid for and built the team’s sleds.
SPEEDSKATING — Chad Hedrick and a pair of 19-year-old teammates couldn’t keep up with the Canadians.
Hedrick took silver in the final race of his career. He goes out with five medals in five events, joining Eric Heiden as the only American men to win that many at the oval.
Germany repeated as the gold winners in women’s team pursuit, edging Japan by two-hundredths of a second in the final after escaping the semifinals with Anni Friesinger-Postma’s belly slide across the line to beat the Americans.
Poland claimed the bronze, overcoming the United States when Catherine Raney-Norman couldn’t keep up with teammates Jennifer Rodriguez and Jilleanne Rookard. They crossed ahead of the Poles, but the time only counts when all three skaters finish.
SLALOM — Bode Miller wasn’t able to add anything beyond the gold, silver and bronze he’d already won. He bailed out just a few gates into the slalom, a casualty of “grabby” snow that bedeviled a slew of skiers.
Miller is one of only five men to get three Alpine medals at a games, a record performance for a U.S. skier. His five career Olympic medals are tied for second on the career list behind Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who has eight.
“I really couldn’t be much happier,” Miller said.
“I came out, I was ready, I was prepared — that’s all the stuff you can do.”
Giuliano Razzoli won, giving Italy’s first Alpine medal in the Winter Games in 16 years.
Ivica Kostelic of Croatia picked up his second silver in Vancouver, while Austria’s usually powerful men’s team finished an Olympic shutout.
SNOWBOARDING — Anderson, a seven-time World Cup champion, carved through the rain-sluiced, fogged-in course to take down Austria’s Benjamin Karl, the top-ranked rider in the world.
It was his first Olympic medal in four tries, adding it to his four world championship golds and a career that has done more than anyone’s to spread the word of snowboarding across his wintry country.
Bronze medalist Mathieu Bozzetto of France called the conditions “ugly,” and American Tyler Jewell said if this had been a World Cup event, “they probably would have canceled it.”
American Chris Klug — who won bronze in 2002, 18 months after a lifesaving liver transplant — knocked off the top seed but later skidded out. He finished seventh, Jewell 13th.
CURLING — Eight years ago in Salt Lake City, Martin’s final stone went inch too far and the Canadians lost the gold medal to the Norwegians. This time, with a sellout crowd singing the national anthem, Martin’s final stone didn’t even matter.
Canada stormed through the tournament 11-0 to win gold for the second straight Olympics. (Martin, however, wasn’t on the 2006 squad.)
Switzerland swept past Sweden for the men’s bronze medal, getting two points on its final rock.———
CROSS COUNTRY — Canada turned in its four cross-country skiers for the 50-kilometer mass start classic race on Sunday, and it doesn’t include legally blind Brian McKeever, who was hoping to become the first competitor in both the Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
The 30-year-old McKeever — who started going blind in college because of a degenerative disease, but still has peripheral vision — said he understands the decision.
“Olympic dream over,” he wrote on his Twitter account. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so sad.”
In the women’s 30k classical race, Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk beat Bjoergen in a photo finish. Kowalczyk, the World Cup leader, now has a medal of each color.
American Kikkan Randall finished 24th.
LONDON 2012 — The head of the next Olympics — the 2012 Summer Games in London — hopes to match the full venues and lively crowds he’s seen in Vancouver.
“Not since Sydney (in 2000) have I seen a city embrace the games the way they’ve been embraced here,” Sebastian Coe said. “My gut instinct is that is what these games will be remembered for.”
Coe and about 50 staffers have been in Vancouver to see how things are being done.