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Rediff.com  » Sports » Swiss minnow shimmers in gold, China break record

Swiss minnow shimmers in gold, China break record

Last updated on: February 16, 2010 14:54 IST

Defago gets Switzerland its first gold in downhill skiing

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A Swiss skier flew out of the shadows of his more illustrious team-mates to win his country's first men's Olympic downhill title for 22 years on Monday.

Didier Defago reached the pinnacle of men's skiing at 32 years of age by flying down the winding Whistler course far faster than his nation's top dogs and pre-race favourites, Didier Cuche and Carlo Janka.

Defago, with little to show from previous Olympics, is the first Swiss to win a men's Olympic Alpine gold since 1988, when Pirmin Zurbriggen also won on the Canadian snow at Calgary.

"This morning I knew that the course would suit me well. I have been looking for a podium for a long time," said Defago over the clanking of cowbells from the slopeside crowd.

The race had been delayed two full days by slushy snow and low visibility.


Image: Switzerland's Didier Defago celebrates after crossing the finish line during the men's alpine skiing downhill event
Photographs: Reuters
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I was really nervous this morning: Miller

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The first Alpine event of these weather-troubled Games also told a tale of redemption for another, more famous 32-year-old.

American skiing's wild child Bode Miller took the bronze medal in a much anticipated comeback, finishing close behind Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal who won the silver.

For Canada, however, the race was a reality check after the host nation's spirits soared on Sunday with its first home Olympic gold ever in the men's moguls race. The Canadian downhillers came nowhere near the podium.

The downhill on the Dave Murray piste proved that the king of ski races can be notoriously difficult to predict.

Miller, who failed to medal in Turin four years ago and courted controversy with his past partying, flirted briefly with gold before Svindal and Defago pushed him down the podium.

"I was really nervous this morning," said the man who once owned American skiing. "Once I got going, I felt really, really solid."

Americans are also anxiously awaiting another turnaround from Turin in Lindsey Vonn, the favourite to win the women's downhill on Wednesday.


Image: Bronze medallist Bode Miller in action during the alpine skiing downhill event

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Wescott rules Cypress Mountains with Snowboard gold

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The weather that has also plagued the Games was looking up, with the best conditions seen since opening after spells of warm temperatures and then fog, snow and rain.

Up on Cypress Mountain snowboarders walked around shirtless in the relatively warm weather, taping up ribs in preparation for the men's hot-dog snowboard cross competition.

Defending champion, American Seth Wescott, won the snowboard cross on Monday.

Wescott's was the second gold for the US, but Switzerland lead the medals table with three golds after Monday's victories in men's 15km cross country and downhill.

France were knocked off the medals table pinnacle by Switzerland after Defago's shock win in the blue riband skiing event and a steely triumph for Dario Cologna in the men's cross country freestyle 15km race.

Making his Olympic debut, the 23-year-old showed a clean pair of skis to the heavyweight favourites to take victory and claim the third Swiss gold of the Winter Games so far.


Image: Seth Wescott of the US celebrates his gold medal-winning feat

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Birthday boy Mo wins men's 500m skating

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Mo Tae-bum of South Korea led an Asian sweep of the medals by claiming the men's 500 metres speed skating gold at the Richmond Olympic Oval on Monday.

Mo celebrated his 21st birthday by clocking a combined time of 69.82 seconds for his two blistering runs.

The silver medal went to Keiichiro Nagashima of Japan in 69.98, with his compatriot Joji Kato taking bronze in 70.01, three-hundreths of a second faster than Lee Kang-seok of South Korea.


Image: Mo Tae-bum of South Korea celebrates his victory in the men's 500 metres speed skating race

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Chinese pair break 46-year-old record

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China gracefully broke Russia's astonishing 46-year grip on pairs skating gold.

China broke Russia's remarkable domination of pairs figure skating dating back to the 1964 Games in Innsbruck.

Husband-and-wife duo Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo came out of retirement to lead a mesmerising Chinese 1-2, their first gold medal in the event.

"Today's medal is a completion of a dream after so many years," gushed Shen, who had kissed the medal in unison with her husband while on the podium.

Job done, a grinning Shen immediately set her sights on their next goal: "It's hard to continue skating (after today so) maybe it's time to have a baby."


Image: China's Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo perform in the pairs free skating figure skating event

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American netminder violates IOC rules

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No sooner had the flotilla of NHL players arrived in Vancouver for the hotly anticipated ice hockey competition than the US team found themselves in hot water.

Netminder Jonathan Quick is to be ordered by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to remove a 'Support Our Troops' slogan seen on his helmet at training on Monday, a gesture that contravenes International Olympic Committee rules on political propaganda.

Team-mate Ryan Miller will likewise be told to ditch a 'Miller Time' motif on his helmet although is hoping 'Matt Man', a tribute to a deceased friend, will be allowed to stay.

"We will inform the American team and their equipment managers that this is a violation of IOC rules," IIHF spokesman Szymon Szemberg said.


Image: Jonathan Quick

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Bumpy downhill course worries Vonn

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Also coming up is the women's downhill on Wednesday, where Americans hope for another turnaround from favourite Lindsey Vonn, a double world champion who has never won an Olympic medal.

Speaking after the racers' first full training run, Vonn said she was shocked by the bumpy, jarring course, a route that might bode poorly for a shin injury on the mend. In a Facebook update, she said the shin was "really sore again".


Image: American downhill skier Lindsey Vonn

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