VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Bode Miller of the United States, for so long the nearly man of Winter Olympics, slalomed from deep in the pack to win gold in the men’s super combined on Sunday as Vancouver braced for a day of hockey rivalries.
In the nail-biting Alpine skiing competition, Aksel Lund Svindal, who won gold for Norway in the men’s super G, had led after the downhill round and Miller trailed a distant seventh.
But the American, silver medalist behind Svindal in the super G, set the pace with a blistering slalom and Svindal was unable to finish after missing a gate.
“I skied my ass off,” gasped Miller, who had never won gold before in an otherwise glittering career. “To execute the race the way I did today is something I will be proud of for the rest of my life.” He has now won gold, silver and bronze here.
In a tragic turn in the Games, Canadian champion Joannie Rochette’s mother died of a heart attack on Sunday, just days before the start of the women’s Olympic figure skating competition.
Rochette, who continued to train, has been tipped as the only athlete likely to stop an Asian sweep of the medals in the women’s competition following her silver-medal performance at last year’s world championships.
Germany’s Magdalena Neuner won her second gold medal of the Games with a storming finish in the women’s biathlon 12.5km mass start. Switzerland’s Michael Schmid took the gold medal in the crash-filled debut of men’s ski cross.
The results leave U.S. top of the medals table with seven golds, ahead of Germany, Norway and Switzerland on five. South Korea and Canada have four apiece.
In all, six medals will be decided on Sunday but in hockey crazy Canada eyes will be on how the world’s six top-ranked teams close out preliminary rounds with rematches of the last three Olympic finals.
The grudge matches started with Russia winning their face- off against the Czech Republic in a rematch of the 1998 Nagano final.
They turn the ice over to neighbors Canada and the United States, who played for gold in 2002 at Salt Lake City.
Nordic rivals Sweden and Finland close out the day’s Olympic hockey action in a rematch of the 2006 Turin final.
By design or coincidence, Olympic schedulers have delivered a rare treat for hockey fans that would be the soccer equivalent of Brazil playing Argentina, Spain meeting Italy and England taking on Germany on the same pitch on the same day.
Off the rink, other medals were due in the women’s 1,500m speed skating and two-man bobsleigh.
Earlier, Russia’s Evgeny Ustyugov picked up the first gold of the day, shooting a flawless program and sprinting away from the pack after the final shooting session to win the biathlon 15 km mass start on Sunday.
Ustyugov, a soldier competing in his first Winter Games, cruised across the finish line at the Whistler Olympic Park 10.5 seconds ahead of Frenchman Martin Fourcade.
Bracing for record crowds, police asked liquor stores in the city center to shut down early on Saturday in an attempt to head off bouts of public drunkenness before they take on Olympic proportions.
“The strategy behind this is to stop the supply of alcohol to the streets,” the Globe and Mail quoted Vancouver Police Constable Jana McGuinness as saying.
“We’re seeing people replenishing their stock at nearby liquor stores and then openly consuming the liquor in the streets.”
Editing by Jon Bramley