Canada rules rink, a flame dies, Olympics end
AP Sports Writer
SOCHI, Russia — The Olympic flame was snuffed out. No chance of that for the Canadian hockey team, champions again.
The Sochi Games completed a 17-day run Sunday with Canada’s 3-0 victory over Sweden in the men’s hockey final, the last of 98 gold medal events.
The end of the $51 billion extravaganza came on a day when Russia captured the medals race, and IOC President Thomas Bach lauded the host city for its “amazing” transformation.
Only three sports were on the schedule, with the other gold medals coming from Russian cross-country skier Alexander Legko and bobsledder Alexander Zubkov leading the way for the hosts in the four-man.
The fifth and sixth doping cases surfaced, involving NHL and Sweden star Nicklas Backstrom — by far the standout name of the group — and Austrian cross-country skier Johannes Duerr.
At the closing ceremony, the athletes stuck to tradition by mugging for cameras and taking a last celebratory prance. The flag was handed over to the next winter host, and a giant mascot bear blew out the flame and sent the Olympics on their way to Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The Canadians won gold for the third time in the last four Olympics, taking all six of their games in Sochi. Jonathan Toews scored in the first period and captain Sidney Crosby scored his first goal of the tournament in the second. Chris Kunitz also scored and Carey Price made 24 saves for Canada. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 33 shots for the injury-depleted Swedes. “We’re just an amazing team to watch, the way we work together,” Toews said. “We were just all over them.”
Alexander Legkov got down to work in a hurry. He led a Russian sweep of the men’s 50-kilometer cross-country race. He was followed by Maxim Vylegzhanin and Ilia Chernousov. That assured Russia of finishing with the most medals. It was also the host nation’s first gold in the sport in Sochi. “This is priceless,” Legkov said. “It’s more valuable than my life.”
After struggling these last years, Alexander Zubkov set things right. He drove Russia to victory in the four-man sled, adding to his two-man title in Sochi. He is the sixth pilot to sweep those events at an Olympics but the first to do so in his home country. Steven Holcomb, the 2010 Olympic champ, won bronze to give the U.S. seven sliding medals in Sochi, tops among all countries. Oskars Melbardis of Latvia took the silver. Germany had no medals in the four-man for the first time since 1968.
Sochi had six doping cases; Vancouver had one four years ago. As IOC President Thomas Bach sees it, that’s good news — the drug cheats are getting caught. “The number of the cases for me is not really relevant,” he said. Nicklas Backstrom, who plays for the NHL’s Washington Capitals, tested positive for a substance found in allergy medication that Sweden’s Olympic Committee said he had been taking for seven years. Austrian cross-country skier Johannes Duerr was cited for the blood booster EPO, the most serious of the Sochi cases.
The arithmetic was clear: Russia was king of the medals, be it total or gold. The host country finished with 33 medals overall and 13 gold. Russia started the day tied with Norway for the most gold. It’s the first time Russia has topped both medals tables since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The U.S. won 28 total, including nine gold. Norway had 26 medals, 11 of them gold. Of the Netherlands’ 24 medals, 23 came in speedskating. “Nobody believed that Russia would even be in the top three in total medals,” Zubkov said. “But we have won.”