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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Italy Wins Last Gold, Praise as Games Close

TURIN, Italy -- Italy crowned its Winter Olympics with gold Sunday when Giorgio di Centa won the 50-kilometer cross-country race, beating Russia's Yevgeny Dementyev by less than a second.

And Sweden capped its most successful Winter Games by beating neighboring Finland 3-2 in the men's ice hockey final. The victory gave the Swedes their seventh gold and 14th medal overall.

Germany won no gold Sunday but topped the Winter Games medal table with a haul of 29, including 11 golds.

Russia was fourth in the medal standings with 22, including eight gold medals.

In a closing news conference, International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said the IOC was happy with the games.

"Security worked extremely well, the athletes are happy," Rogge said. "They were definitely games that pleased the athletes. The competitions were at a very high level.

"I decided I would never speak about best-ever games," Rogge said. "I can say today we are very pleased, but I will not make a ranking or comparison."

Rogge, however, praised the Italians for offering "probably the best-ever quality of sports infrastructure" for a winter games.

The United States was second on the medal's list, with 25, nine of which were gold -- the winningest American performance on foreign soil, despite high-profile athletes like Alpine skier Bode Miller and Chad Hedrick falling short of pre-Games expectations.

Miller went home empty handed while Hedrick had an impressive gold-silver-bronze medal collection from speedskating, but that was well short of his goal of five golds.

U.S. officials said they were pleased with their team's performance, and expressed regret for pre-Olympics projections that the Americans would match or exceed the record 34 medals won at Salt Lake City in 2002.

"This has been an incredible performance," U.S. Olympic Committee chief Jim Scherr said. "It's probably our fault that it's been viewed a little less than that."

Canada -- which hosts the 2010 Games in Vancouver -- had its most successful Winter Olympics ever, with 24 medals, including seven golds, and boasted the most successful athlete in Turin, speedskater Cindy Klassen, who won a gold, two silvers and two bronze medals.

Austria, China and South Korea also had their best-ever performances.

Despite Di Centa's gold Sunday, host Italy won only 11 medals, well down from its record 20 at the Lillehammer Games in 1994.

Di Centa finished in 2 hours, 6 minutes, 11.8 seconds, only eight-tenths of a second ahead of silver medalist Dementyev in a thrilling sprint finish.

"I usually finish second in World Cup races, but today I performed really well, and I achieved a fantastic victory, especially because we are Italy," said Di Centa, the father of three daughters. "I had been thinking and planning the race for a long time."

Mikhail Botwinov of Austria took the bronze, a positive ending for the embattled Austrian cross-country skiers and biathletes after they were subjects of a doping investigation by the Italian authorities and International Olympic Committee.

The Russian-born Botwinov was involved with banned Austrian coach Walter Mayer four years ago at the Salt Lake City Olympics, where Botwinov won silver in the 30-kilometer race.

At the hockey final, Sweden's three biggest stars came through in its most important game ever, with Nicklas Lidstrom scoring the game-winning goal 10 seconds into the third period on assists by Mats Sundin and Peter Forsberg.

Sweden once again established its on-ice superiority over its smaller neighbor. Finland had been unbeaten in seven Olympic games in Turin, playing near-perfect hockey, but again couldn't beat the team it wanted to beat most.

Valentino Castellani, the former Turin mayor who headed the local organizing committee, said the Piedmont city hosted a great Games.

"I am very, very satisfied because I believe the facts speak for themselves," he said. "We had a great success. I'm sure we delivered excellent Games. I'm very proud for my country."

Jean-Claude Killy, the former ski great who headed the IOC coordination commission for the Turin Olympics, agreed.

"The Games were extremely remarkable," Killy said. "They were games of heart, of warmth, of smiles, and generosity. It was Italy at its best."