Germany, U.S. finish 1-2, many nations share wealth in Turin medals race
TURIN, Italy -- Germany and the United States again won the most medals at a share-the-wealth Turin Olympics that featured more countries winning medals and more in double figures than ever before.
Canada and Austria, among others, had their best all-time showing.
Twenty-six countries -- including first-time winners Slovakia and Latvia -- earned at least one medal, up from a high of 24 in 1998 and 2002. And 11 countries won at least 10 medals -- the previous mark was 10 countries at Nagano in 1998.
The Germans and Americans repeated their one-two finish from Salt Lake City four years ago, although both fell short of their 2002 totals. Germany led in Turin in overall medals with 29 and golds with 11, while the Americans won 25 medals overall, nine of them gold.
U.S. officials said they were pleased with their team's performance, the nation's best for a Winter Games on foreign soil, and expressed regret about pre-Olympic projections that the Americans would match or exceed the record 34 medals of 2002.
"This has been an incredible performance," said U.S. Olympic Committee chief Jim Scherr. "It's probably our fault that it's been viewed a little less than that."
Canada was among the major success stories, bettering its record 2002 haul of 17 medals with 24 in Turin, including a games-high five by speedskater Cindy Klassen. The team's performance lent some credibility to Canada's "Own the Podium" plan to finish No. 1 when it hosts the next games in Vancouver in 2010.
Austria also had the best showing in its long Winter Games history with 23 medals overall, nine of them gold, despite a police raid and unannounced doping tests that targeted some of its cross-country skiers and biathletes. It was most proud of a record 14 medals in Alpine skiing, including a medal sweep in the men's slalom on Saturday.
"This is the greatest Olympics ever for us," said Alpine director Hans Pum.
Others with their best Winter Games included Sweden with 14 medals, and China and South Korea with 11 each.
The Italians, despite competing at home before zealous and imploring crowds, was shut out in high-profile Alpine skiing and won only 11 medals in all -- far off their Winter Games best of 20 in Lillehammer in 1994. Yet any disappointment was erased on the final day when Giorgio di Centa won gold in the 50km cross-country race.
The games were frustrating for Norway, even though it extended its lead in all-time winter medals. With 19 medals in Turin, Norway's overall total reached 283, but only two of the latest medals were gold; by himself, biathlon star Ole Einar Bjoerndalen had been expected to win several golds.
Estonia, by contrast, won only three medals -- but all were gold, in men's and women's cross-country skiing.
Russia, with eight golds and 22 medals overall, rebounded solidly from its worst Winter Games in Salt Lake City, where it won only 13 medals and was buffeted by doping scandals. It was not quite the 25 medals that some Russian officials had projected beforehand, but good enough to merit a special flight home Monday just for the medal winners.
Slovakia won its first winter medal thanks to a brand-new Olympic sport, snowboardcross, in which Radoslav Zidek took silver. Latvia's first winter medal, a bronze, went to Martins Rubenis in luge.
There were other breakthroughs: Tanja Poutiainen gave Finland its first medal in Alpine skiing with a silver in women's giant slalom, and Shizuka Arakawa, with her elegant free skate, gave Japan its first gold medal in figure skating.
Although more countries won medals, Australia was the only one from the Southern Hemisphere, with a gold in moguls for Canadian-born Dale Begg-Smith. Thirteen nations from Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean were among the 80 competing in Turin, but the all-time shutout streak for those regions continued.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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