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VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Dutch champion speed skater Sven Kramer, world record holder and red-hot gold medal favorite, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in one of the most dramatic moments of the Vancouver Olympics on Tuesday.
Kramer celebrated his apparent clear victory in the 10,000 meters but within seconds of crossing the line he threw his glasses down in fury and kicked at the track in frustration after being told he had been disqualified for a lane violation.
The day was shaping up as a rough one for favorites with big disappointment too for the once-dominant Alpine skiers of Austria who missed out on medals again on the Whistler slopes.
Later, Canada will hold its breath when its ice hockey team take on Germany in a do-or-die encounter which could send them spinning out of the tournament and send the nation into mourning.
The drama at the Richmond Olympic Oval speed skating rink will take some matching, though, even by the under-pressure Canadian hockey players.
Kramer, who earlier in the Games cruised to the 5,000m gold, sat despondent on a bench in the infield, his head down and elbows on his knees after the error came to light.
"I am furious," Kramer told reporters about the gaffe, where an apparent miscommunication with his coach caused him to change lanes at the wrong time.
"It's a matter of concentration. Not a concentration failure on my side.
"It was the best 10,000m I have ever skated. I am mad with the coach and I will have a conversation with him."
As snow and rain swept the Olympic venues, Swiss ski sensation Carlo Janka became the first Swiss man to win the Olympic giant slalom gold since 1984 while the once-mighty Austrian men were again swept off the podium. The Austrians had dominated the discipline at the last three Olympics.
But Norway's Kjetil Jansrud took silver and compatriot Aksel Lund Svindal gained his third medal of the Games in third place. American Bode Miller's hopes of a fourth medal in four races disappeared when he skied out in the first run.
Canada added another gold through Ashleigh McIvor, a strong hometown favorite in the women's ski cross, after one of her main rivals, Ophelie David of France, crashed out in an earlier round.
Gold was also decided in the Nordic combined team 4x5 km relay when Olympic champions Austria retained their gold to offer a little consolation for their country's Alpine skiing disappointments.
Russia had taken the first of the day's five golds in the women's 4x6km biathlon relay, overcoming the German favorites who competed without exhausted double gold medal winner Magdalena Neuner. Germany settled for bronze behind France.
McIvor's win put Canada into fourth place in the medals table with six golds. Norway also have six but one more silver and United States just edge Germany at the top because of bronzes won. Both those countries have won seven golds.
All eyes later on Tuesday will be on the ice at Canada Hockey Place, where the Olympic hosts seek to redeem themselves against winless Germany after losing a 5-3 shocker to the U.S. on "Super Sunday."
Taking no chances, the ice hockey-mad Canadians dropped goalie Martin Brodeur, who struggled in the upset by the Americans, and now it will be Vancouver favorite Roberto Luongo in the net. Even with a win, the Canadians must face Russia to keep their gold dreams alive.
Brodeur, who led Canada to gold in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and has the most wins and shutouts ever in the National Hockey League, allowed some loose goals and was outplayed in Sunday's defeat by American goaltender Ryan Miller.
"We're in the winning business," Canada coach Mike Babcock said. "And to win at any level you need big saves, you need momentum-changing saves. I think (Luongo) gives us a real good opportunity to win."
Editing by Jon Bramley