Robertson misses out on gold by a hairs breadth in epic snowboard cross battle

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VANCOUVER - The rough-and-tumble roller-coaster of snowboard cross gave Canada its second silver medal Monday as Michael Robertson missed out on gold by the nose of his American rival's board.
The 24-year-old boarder from Canmore, Alta., led for much of the race, only to be overtaken in the final moments by U.S. competitor Seth Wescott, who also claimed the top prize at the Winter Games in Turin, Italy in 2006.
"It was kind of bittersweet," Robertson said after the race. "Obviously I wanted to win, for sure, but I'm so happy to be second. It's amazing."
Of course, it was Alexandre Bilodeau who set the gold standard the day before.
An Olympic language backlash in Quebec and less-than-stellar results in the long-delayed downhill couldn't dampen the thrill Monday after the 22-year-old moguls master from Rosemere, Que., gave Canada its first-ever gold medal at home.
In Bilodeau's hometown, Mayor Helene Daneault was wearing one of hundreds of red scarves emblazoned with "Good luck, Alexandre" as she promised a massive party when the newly minted national hero comes home next month.
"It's a dream realized," Bilodeau said after Sunday's win in the men's moguls, which marked the first time Canada has claimed gold on home soil - and which the skier insisted would be just the first of many more for Canada's Olympic team.
"It's just the beginning of the party."
Alas, that party had to be postponed Monday after a less-than-stellar Canadian showing in the long-delayed men's downhill, where Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was the top Canadian in fifth place in 1:54.64.
Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Invermere, B.C., who was seen as the host nation's top medal threat in the marquee event on the alpine skiing schedule, finished in 17th, well back of gold medallist Didier Defago of Switzerland.
Defending overall World Cup champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway took silver and American Bode Miller won bronze. Calgary's Jan Hudec was 25th while Whistler's Robbie Dixon did not finish.
The joy in Quebec at Bilodeau's gold was tempered by some familiar French-language frustrations.
Denis Coderre, the federal Liberal critic for official languages, tore into Vancouver organizing committee head John Furlong for failing to make a passable effort to ensure the ceremonies reflected Canada's French-speaking roots.
Coderre told LCN TV the ceremonies left him feeling like a "second-class citizen."
Liza Frulla, formerly the Liberal cabinet minister responsible for sport, said she watched the opening ceremonies with a group of federalist friends who were aghast at what they saw.
"We were really disappointed on the one hand, and hurt on the other," Frulla said.
On Friday, Furlong - head of the committee known as VANOC - defended both the ceremony and the Games in general.
"I think VANOC has worked tirelessly to present bilingual Canada at every level, every venue, every facility, everything we're doing," he said.
French content in the opening ceremonies included a performance by Quebec pop star Garou, a speech by International Organizing Committee Jacques Rogge and figures like astronaut Julie Payette and race car driver Jacques Villeneuve helping to carry the Canadian flag.
"At every venue you'll see the fact that we have treated this as a completely bilingual exercise."
On the cross-country course in the Callaghan Valley near Whistler, far from the language controversy, the women's 10-kilometre freestyle gold went to Sweden's Charlotte Kalla.
Estonia's Kristina Smigun-Vaehi took the silver, just six seconds back, while Norway's Marit Bjoergen grabbed the bronze. Canada's Madeleine Williams finished 51st in her first Olympic competition.
But the event had controversy of its own, after the top woman on the World Cup cross-country skiing circuit became the latest to criticize the Olympic course in Callaghan Valley.
Fifth-place finisher Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland had some choice words for the track, which she said "is not for the Olympics."
The track has a lot of corners and "dangerous downhills," she said. "It was the first time in my life I see a track like that in the Olympics."
Canadian hockey fans were celebrating good news Monday after Anaheim Ducks centre Ryan Getzlaf, who sprained his ankle last week, was given the green light to play for Team Canada after scoring four points Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers.
The team, which is carrying more gold-medal pressure on its shoulders than any other Canadian athlete at the Games, was scheduled to skate Monday in anticipation of its first game of the tournament Tuesday against Norway.
A small funeral was also held Monday for the Georgian luger who died on the track in Whistler during training last week.
Members of the Georgian Olympic delegation, the International Olympic Committee and the Vancouver Games committee gathered at a funeral home to bid goodbye to 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili.
The body of the young athlete, who was killed during a training run, was to be put aboard a plane Monday in Vancouver for the trip back to Georgia.


Organizations: Vancouver organizing committee, International Organizing Committee Jacques Rogge, Team Canada Edmonton Oilers International Olympic Committee Vancouver Games committee

Geographic location: Canada, VANCOUVER, Quebec Norway Whistler Canmore U.S. Turin Italy Rosemere Mont-Tremblant Invermere Switzerland Calgary Callaghan Valley Sweden Estonia Poland Georgia

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