Day 1: Ohno, Kearney win; slower luge track debuts
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Apolo Anton Ohno glided around the ice Saturday night with a U.S. flag tucked under an arm, flashing a handful of fingers plus one.
That makes six, his new career medal count that matches Bonnie Blair for the most by a Winter Olympian from the United States.
This one was a silver in the 1,500 meters, and it typified the wild world of short-track speedskating. Ohno was fourth going into the last turn when two of the three Koreans in front of him wiped out, giving him a clear stretch to the finish line behind Lee Jung-su of South Korea.
It also paved the way to bronze for J.R. Celski, just five months after the blade of his right skate sliced his left thigh to the bone during a crash at the U.S. short track championships.
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Ohno and Celski put the United States on the medal stand for the first time at the Vancouver Games. Then Hannah Kearney won the women’s moguls to put an American on the top step for the first time. Teammate Shannon Bahrke earned bronze, so the United States ended the day with four medals and an early lead in the overall chase.
Of course, the first day of competition was filled with Vancouver Olympics firsts, such as Swiss ski jumper Simon Ammann landing the first of 86 gold medals to be awarded and Dutch speedskater Sven Kramer setting the first Olympic record while winning the 5,000 meters.
It also was a day of continued mourning for the 21-year-old luger from the republic of Georgia who died Friday, and the fallout from it.
• Luge: Competition began on a repaired, reconfigured track the day after Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a crash during a training run.
The men were pushed up 600 feet to the women’s start ramp, while women and doubles moved 800 feet to the junior start ramp.
The changes produced slower speeds, as intended. They also drew some backlash, with the Canadians saying they lost their home-ice advantage and a top American luge official saying, “The elite deserve to race from the hardest test.”
After practice in the morning, the race began at night with IOC president Jacques Rogge and Vancouver organizing chief John Furlong in attendance. A moment of silence was held in memory of Kumaritashvili, and his photo was displayed on the video scoreboard near the finish line.
The only other Georgian in the field, Levan Gureshidze, withdrew.
Germans Felix Loch and David Moeller were on top, followed by Italy’s Armin Zoeggeler, the two-time defending Olympic champ. American Tony Benshoof was seventh heading into Sunday’s final two runs.
Most importantly, the men went through two rounds of competition without a single wreck.
• Ski Jumping: If Ammann’s name doesn’t ring a bell, maybe this will: He’s the Swiss ski jumper who looked a lot like Harry Potter back at the 2002 Olympics, when he won two gold medals.
Now 28 – and no longer a double for the boy wizard – Ammann had a decisive victory longest jumps in both rounds. It was an impressive rebound from ’06, when he failed to advance to the final round.
“I’m back at the top of the world,” said Ammann, who became the first two-time champion on the normal hill and matched Finnish great Matti Nykanen’s record of three individual golds.
With Vice President Joe Biden watching, none of the three U.S. ski jumpers made it to the final round. Peter Frenette and Nick Alexander tied for 41st, while Anders Johnson was 49th.
• Speedskating: In the 5,000 meters, a trio of Americans failed to crack the top 10 – but they dominated the next 10. Chad Hedrick finished 11th, with Shani Davis 12th and Trevor Marsicano 14th.
Haralds Silovs of Latvia entered the record books, too, becoming the first Olympian to compete in long and short track events – and doing it on the same day.
Silovs finished 20th in the 5,000 meters on the big oval around midday, then finished fifth in the B finals of the 1,500 around the short track at night.
• Downhill: Alpine skiers woke up Saturday to news of another day of delays, then got a new schedule: seven events in seven days.
That is, if the weather cooperates.
The 10-day forecast is not very encouraging: Highs in the mid-40s almost every day, and at or below freezing only three nights, never getting colder than 29. There’s a good chance of rain, and perhaps snow showers, on Sunday and Tuesday, then turning partly cloudy and finally sunny by next weekend.
The men’s downhill, which was supposed to produce the first gold medal of these Olympics, is scheduled to kick things off at 10:30 a.m. Monday.
American sensation Lindsey Vonn is loving the layoff because it gives her more time to heal from a shin injury. And to bake. She tweeted that she spent the afternoon making banana bread.
• Protesters: After several mostly civil demonstrations Friday, a downtown protest turned violent Saturday, shattering three large plate-glass windows at a popular department store selling Olympic souvenirs. They also shattered windows of a bank.
More than 200 people wearing masks caused an estimated $10,000 in damage, said Rich Gorman, regional vice president for Hudson’s Bay Company. They were subdued by officers carrying clubs and shields, with seven people getting arrested. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
• Figure Skating: Memo to anti-fur folks: Johnny Weir won’t be wearing any animal skins in Vancouver.
Weir said he’s received “very serious threats” from activists since adding white fox fur to his costume at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships last month. They were so serious that he moved into the Olympic village, something he really didn’t want to do but felt it was best for his safety.
However, he insists there are other reasons for his decision to go with a fur-free costume.
“It was not because I was pressured to change it,” he said. “I’m just switching back to another costume.”
The men’s short program is Tuesday, and the free skate is Thursday.
• Men’s Hockey: Steve Yzerman is pushing the puck to Russia.
Rather than saddling the Canada men’s team – of which he’s the executive director – with the hopes and sky-high expectations of their countrymen, Yzerman proclaimed the two-time defending world champions the team to beat.
“They’ve got some of the top forwards in the world right now,” Yzerman said. “With a little bit of luck the other countries can dethrone them.”
• Women’s Hockey: Canada opened its run at a third straight gold medal with a goal just 99 seconds in and went on to ring up the biggest blowout in Olympic history: 18-0 over Slovakia.
The reigning silver medalists from Sweden beat Switzerland 3-0 in the first match of the women’s hockey tournament.
• Biathlon: Slovakia’s Anastazia Kuzmina won the women’s 7.5-kilometer biathlon sprint. The top American, Sara Studebaker, finished 45th, more than two minutes behind.
• Opening Ceremony Ratings: The Nielsen Co. says an estimated 32.6 million people watched NBC’s telecast Friday night, 48 percent more than the 2006 Turin Olympics and approaching the 34.2 million who watched the opening in Beijing.
The Canadian broadcast was easily the most-watched TV event ever in the country, topping the 2002 telecast of the men’s hockey finals in Salt Lake City. Nearly half the country was watching when the opening ceremony began and two-thirds of the country saw at least some of it.
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