Canada triumphant as Winter Olympics end

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Canada triumphant as Winter Olympics end

Michael Buble performs during the closing ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics on Sunday. Sochi, Russia, will host the XXII Olympic Winter Games in 2014. [Photo by David Gray / Reuters]

The Winter Olympics began on a low with the death of luger Nodar Kumaritashvili but ended on a dramatic high on Sunday with Canada winning the hockey final and the host nation earning a record bag of gold medals.

Seventeen days ago the Georgian died in a training run just ahead of the opening ceremony, sparking accusations over track safety, to get the Vancouver Games off to the worst possible start.

Weather woes followed, forcing delays to key events and the cancellation of thousands of tickets for snowboard and freestyle skiing.

It could only get better, and it did, with the closing ceremony on Sunday ending a Games widely considered a success after the early glitches.

"I'm sure no-one will forget (the death), but you have to be fair to Canadians, to the athletes and the organizers and to judge the Games on their own merit without forgetting what happened before," said International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Jacques Rogge.

"The Games began with teething pains but I commend VANOC for rapdily correcting that and from then on things went extremely well.

"So in all, I can say that the IOC is happy with the Games."

Organizers could not have hoped for a better finale than the home nation playing the United States in a hockey game touted as the biggest sporting event in Canadian history with tickets changing hands for as much as $7,275.

Their National Hockey League superstars didn't disappoint with superstar Sidney Crosby scoring the winner in overtime after the US had forced the game into sudden death with a goal 24 seconds from the end of regulation time to draw level 2-2.

In front of a frenzied sea of red at Canada Hockey Place, the hosts pulled through for the one medal that mattered more than any other.

Jonathan Toews and Corey Perry also scored for Canada whose victory secured their second gold in the past three Olympics as they became the first host to win a Games final since the US did at Lake Placid in 1980.

Ryan Kesler and Zac Parise scored for the US.

"It doesn't even feel real. It feels like a dream," said Crosby.

Canadian coach Mike Babcock said: "To do it at home with these guys is special.

"Our guys did a great job and to win in overtime in Canada, it is a dream come true."

The victory assured Canada of finishing their home Olympics with more gold than anyone else in the history of the Winter Games.

They ended with 14 to Germany's 10. The US and Norway both won nine.

Consolation for the US was that their total medal haul of 37 overtook Germany's previous all-time record of 36 from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Almost a sideshow was World Cup leader Petter Northug narrow victory in the grueling 50km mass start nordic marathon.

It was his maiden Olympic individual title and his second gold of the Games.

Northug, the reigning world champion at the distance, beat Germany's Axel Teichmann in a two-up sprint to the line, with Johan Olsson of Sweden taking the bronze.

"I always said he (Teichmann) is maybe the best sprinter with me but I know that if I stayed with him I can beat him in the stadium," said Northug.

But Paralympian Brian McKeever did not start after being left off the team.

The 30-year-old, who is legally blind and suffers from Stargardt's disease giving him just 10 percent vision, was expecting to become the first man to ski in the Paralympics and Olympics.

Canada triumphant as Winter Olympics end

Canada's Sidney Crosby celebrates with teammates Scott Niedermayer (left) and Drew Doughty after scoring the game-winning goal against the US during overtime in their men's ice hockey gold medal game on Sunday. [Todd Korol/ REUTERS]

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