Winter Olympics: Ricker gold lifts gloom for hosts

VANCOUVER - Snowboarder Maelle Ricker emerged from fog to win a second gold medal for Canada yesterday and dispel some of the gloom at the Vancouver Olympics, at least for the host nation.

Adding another problem to the growing list for local organisers though, was that thousands fewer people were there to see her win the women's snowboardcross gold medal at Cypress Mountain because of safety fears.

After the start of snowboardcross was delayed by fog and rain, Ricker, who went into the Olympic race leading the World Cup standings, easily beat Deborah Anthonioz of France in the final.

At the luge track, Germany's Tatjana Huefner won the gold medal in the women's race, the ninth for her country in 13 Olympic competitions.

Huefner finished four runs in 2 minutes, 46.524 seconds. The win gave Germany a sweep of singles' luge gold, after Felix Loch won the men's event.

Speedskater Lee Sang-hwa had an upset win over German world-record holder Jenny Wolf in the women's 500m, giving South Korea its third gold, equal top with Switzerland and Germany after the fifth of five medal events of the day.

Canada, France, Sweden and the United States each have two golds.

Canada's second will be celebrated, particularly by the under-siege local organising committee.

Hours before competition started yesterday, organisers announced that the wet, warm weather had made the general-admission, standing room area too dangerous for viewing the freestyle ski events, forcing them to refund another 20,000 ticket holders.

That was on top of the 8000 tickets that already needed to be refunded, costing about $1.44 million.

The spectator zone was made up of straw bales covered with packed snow, which became dangerous because there had not been enough snow.

Too much snow caused problems at Whistler. At the Alpine venue, where organisers have been able to complete only one race in four days of competition, the men's super-combined was postponed and the women's downhill training was cancelled because of an overnight snowstorm.

Biathlon was right on target among the outdoor pursuits, producing the first multi-medallists of the games, until it also became mired in trouble.

Germany's Magdalena Neuner won the women's 10km biathlon pursuit, holding off Slovakia's Anastazia Kuzmina - the pair exchanging places after the first two women's races. Kuzmina had beaten Neuner for gold in the 7.5km sprint on Saturday.

Bjorn Ferry won the men's 12.5km biathlon pursuit, giving Sweden its first biathlon gold medal in 50 years.

Just like in the women's 10km pursuit, officials in the men's race made errors on the start line.

While three women went off late in the first race, including the fourth-placed finisher, Anna Carin Olofsson-Zidek, two athletes went off too early in the men's race, including Jeremy Teela of the United States and Canada's Jean Philippe Leguellec, who was penalised 30 seconds for starting early and slipped from fifth to 11th place.

- AP

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