Germany’s Maria Riesch got her groove back to win the women’s super combined crown on Thursday after American Lindsey Vonn crashed and blew her chances of a second gold medal in as many days at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Riesch,rebounding from a disastrous downhill race the day before,was all smiles as she claimed her first Olympic medal at Whistler mountain while downhill diva Vonn thumped her fist into the snow after wiping out on the concluding slalom leg.
The Games were also looking up for host nation Canada,hit with a series of organisational problems,as speedskater Christine Nesbitt picked up the country’s third gold in the women’s 1000 metres race on day six of competition.
New Olympic history was made as Norwegian biathlete Tora Berger skied and shot her way to the country’s 100th Winter Olympic gold,the first nation to reach that landmark.
Another Norwegian quickly made it number 101. Emile Hegle Svendsen won gold in the men’s biathlon 20 km individual.
The day started with all eyes on Vonn once again after a stunning win on a treacherous downhill on Wednesday that sent a succession of racers tumbling over.
The golden girl of U.S. skiing,who came to Vancouver with a shin injury,was ahead after the first downhill run and was on course to finish on the podium in the combined when she clipped a gate and tumbled within sight of the finish line.
Riesch,a close friend of Vonn’s,said her gold finish came down to getting her nerves under control.
“I was not nervous and that was the key because yesterday I was,” Riesch said,noting that the course was “not so difficult”.
Vonn’s American team mate Julia Mancuso stayed on her skis to finish second to add another silver to her second place in the individual downhill while Sweden’s Anja Paerson took the bronze after surviving a high-speed crash the previous day.
‘SCARED THIS MORNING’
Paerson had decided to race only at the last minute,but once her bronze was in hand,she did not hesitate to do her trademark celebration — a face-first dive across the snow.
“I was pretty scared this morning,” she said. “It hurt a lot,but I didn’t want to miss out on an event.”
The United States led the standings with five golds after scooping up three on Wednesday,while Germany moved to outright second with four golds after Riesch’s win.
At three golds apiece stood Norway,South Korea,Switzerland and Canada,where an “own the podium” programme made for the home Olympics has begun to reap respectable rewards.
To the cheers of a fanatical home crowd,speedskater Nesbitt mounted a gutsy charge to the finish line,claiming the Olympic title by two-hundredths of a second over Annette Gerritsen of the Netherlands.
The Canadian gold rush comes after the country broke on Sunday its so-called “curse” for never before having won Olympic gold on home soil,previously in Montreal in 1976 and Calgary in 1988.
Thursday also saw no new headaches for Vancouver organisers,dogged in the last week by bad weather,ticket cancellations,unreliable ice resurfacing machines and questions over the death of a Georgian luger in training.
Another two golds were up for grabs on Thursday,including the men’s individual figure skating,one of the glamour events of the Olympics.
Russia’s Yevgeny Plushenko was bidding to become the first man in more than half a century to successfully defend the men’s title after he won in Turin in four years ago.
He held a narrow lead over American Evan Lysacek and Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi after Tuesday’s short programme and has vowed to risk all by attempting to nail a quadruple jump in Thursday’s free programme.
“Without the quad it’s not men’s figure skating,” he said.