It's a star-spangled day of Olympic gold for U.S.

Thu Feb 18, 2010 9:14am EST
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By Julian Linden

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn and Shani Davis all struck gold on Wednesday as the United States transformed a bleak Vancouver Olympics into their own winter wonderland with a dazzling show of gravity-defying stunts, brute strength and old-fashioned courage.

White showed why he is one of the most recognizable and highest paid athletes in winter sports as he wowed a new generation of Olympic fans at Cypress Mountain with a breathtaking display of somersaults, twists and aerial tricks.

The flame-haired 23-year-old from California was so dominant that he had the gold wrapped up after his first run so used his second to unveil a special double backward flip he had never performed in competition before.

"I just felt like I didn't come all the way to Vancouver not to pull out the big guns," said White, whose cult-status among snowboarders and skateboarders has earned him the nicknames "The Flying Tomato" and the "Animal".

A fearless Vonn overcome a painful injury that almost ruined her Olympic dream before it began as she hurtled down a treacherous Whistler mountain course to become the first American to win the women's downhill, one of the most spectacular and dangerous events at the Olympics.

Not to be outdone, Davis powered home over the final lap at the Richmond Olympic Oval to become the first man to win the 1,000 meters speed skating title at successive Olympics as the U.S. soared to the peak of the medal standings.

The three victories gave the powerful team a total of five gold medals after the fifth full day of competition, ahead of Germany, South Korea and Switzerland, who each had three golds on a day when the heavy snow falls and thick fog that forced the postponement of some earlier events finally gave way to clear blue skies.

The Americans were not the only athletes doing their part to help lift the mood at an Olympics still struggling to recover from the tragic death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who was laid to rest in his home town in Georgia on Wednesday.   Continued...

<p>Lindsey Vonn holds a U.S flag after winning the gold medal in the women's Alpine Skiing Downhill race at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia February 17, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar</p>