Vancouver Sees Shake-Up in Winter Sports Powers

      March 02, 2010 08:55

      Korea offered one of the most dazzling overall performances at the Vancouver Winter Olympics, taking home six gold, six silver and two bronze medals in speed skating, figure skating and short track speed skating. Canada, which topped the gold medal ranking, was the only other country to win the gold in all three ice sports.

      "With a record 14 medals at the Vancouver Olympics, including its first golds in sports other than short track, Korea is emerging as a potential Winter Games powerhouse," the AP reported. The country also has a shot at hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics, with Pyeongchang's bid "considered the early favorite in next year's vote," AP added.

      Kim Yu-na (center) and other Korean athletes watch the closing ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Olympics on Monday.

      The Vancouver Olympics saw a fundamental change in the traditional roster of winter sports strongholds. Korea has risen from obscurity in speed skating, a sport in which it previously had been unable to win even a bronze medal. Mo Tae-bum and Lee Sang-hwa captured the gold medals in men's and women's 500 m events, while Lee Seung-hoon also won the gold in the men's 10,000 m and a silver in the 5,000 m. Korea recorded its best performance ever in the sport with three golds and two silvers, followed by the Netherlands (three golds, one silver, three bronzes) and Canada (two golds, one silver, two bronzes).

      But China beat Korea in short track speed skating, which had been its forte until now. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Korea was the undisputed champion of short track speed skating, winning six gold, three silver and one bronze medals. But both the Korean men's and women's short track speed skating teams suffered a series of mishaps in Vancouver which ended up costing the top spot to China. Korea fell to second place after winning two golds by Lee Jung-su, four silvers and two bronzes. China swept the women's short track speed skating events and captured four golds.

      In snow sports, Germany stood out by winning six gold, five silver and two bronze medals in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, and the biathlon, while nordic skiing powerhouse Norway lived up to its name by winning eight golds in the biathlon and cross-country skiing. Germany performed well in alpine skiing with three golds, followed by the U.S. with two golds, three silvers and three bronzes. In contrast, Switzerland failed to live up to expectations by winning only two golds and one bronze in alpine skiing, while Austria also won only one gold, one silver and two bronzes. Traditional skiing powerhouse Italy also walked away with only a single gold.

      Asia emerged as a powerhouse in figure skating with Kim Yu-na rising to the top of the sport. Korea won the gold in the women's singles figure skating, while China captured the gold in the pairs and Japan won one silver and one bronze in the men's and women's singles. Russia, a traditional leader in figure skating, failed to win any gold medals in the sport. Germany maintained its dominance in bobsleigh, luge and skeleton by capturing three gold, four silver and three bronze medals.

      Meanwhile, host Canada ranked first in the number of gold medals with 14 (plus seven silvers and five bronzes). The U.S. ranked first in the overall medal count with 37 (9 golds, 15 silvers and 13 bronzes), followed by Germany (30) and Canada (26).

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