Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics — The story so far

By Paul Hurst


The first full day of competition in the 21st Winter Olympic games got underway in subdued manner, as the athletes continued to mourn the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, killed during a training run on Friday.

The men’s luge competition went ahead, slightly behind schedule, as officials made modifications to the course in the wake of Friday’s tragic accident. The event went off without incident, with all competitors making it down the course safely. The start gate had been moved 200m down the track to the women’s start point, with the effect of knocking 15 km/h off from the top speeds seen in training. German Felix Loch led the field after the first two rounds.

The first medals of the Games were awarded early in the day up at the Whistler Olympic Park, in the normal hill ski jumping . Simon Ammann from Switzerland, the last to jump, took the gold medal, beating Polish jumping legend Adam Malysz into second. Malysz, now at his fourth Games, is still looking for his first individual Olympic gold.

Also at the Olympic Park, the first of the women’s biathlon events was decided. Slovakia’s Anastazia Kuzmina clinched the victory by a narrow margin of 1.5 seconds.

Back in Vancouver, the women’s ice hockey competition got underway at Canada Hockey Place, with the Canadian team drubbing Slovakia 18-0 – the biggest victory in Olympic history. Across the city in Richmond at the Olympic Oval, the Netherlands claimed the first gold of the men’s speed-skating programme, with Sven Kramer setting a new Olympic record in his victory.

There was more drama in the short-track events at the Pacific Coliseum. The hosts were left stunned when Quebecer Charles Hamelin, widely fancied to challenge for the gold medal in the 1500m, failed to qualify for the ‘A’ Final. He had to settle for seventh place overall. The ‘A’ Final itself was relatively uneventful until the final lap.

Into the final corner, South Korea held the first three places, looking good for a clean sweep of the medals. Race favourite Lee Ho-Suk in third place attempted to pass Sung Si-Bak on the inside, but lost his balance, taking his team-mate out with him. Americans Apolo Anton Ohno and JR Celski, who had all but given up on catching the Korean trio, couldn’t believe their luck as they came through to clinch silver and bronze.

Lee Jung-Su was just far enough ahead of his team-mates to avoid being taken down too, which would have have added even more embarrassment for the Korean team, his gold medal at least going some way to saving their blushes.

In the final event of the day, Cypress Mountain, overlooking the city of Vancouver, was christened with the ladies moguls competition. Britain’s Ellie Koyander put in a solid run, but unfortunately just missed out on qualifying for the final. She will certainly be back even stronger in Sochi in 2014.

There has been huge scrutiny in the Canadian press over the last few days of the fact that after hosting two previous Games, Canada is yet to win a gold medal on home soil. Jenn Heil, the defending champion from Torino, was widely fancied to become the first.

Kristi Richards went fourth-to-last in the final. She was quickly out of the gate, and for a while looked like she had a real shot at a medal. However, after a spectacular first jump, she struggled to ever regain control of her skis and fell. Richards, from Summerland BC, just a few hours east of Vancouver, got back on her feet and finished the course to huge cheers from the crowd.

US athlete Heather McPhie, following Richards, also hit the snow, leaving a shootout between the final two skiers for the gold. Heil had the penultimate run, and stormed into first place with just Hannah Kearney of the USA left to go. The excitement in the crowd was palpable, as they sensed Heil was about to repeat her 2006 triumph.

Kearney set off down the course attacking the bumps at a rapid pace, and after landing two perfect jumps, broke Canadian hearts with the run of her life. The judges gave her a final score of 26.63, comfortably beating Heil (25.69) to the gold medal, leaving the nation to wait a little longer for that elusive gold on home soil.


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