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Men’s downhill highlights first day of Olympic medals

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The first day of medals at the Beijing Olympics could be the start of another Norwegian gold rush.Aleksander Aamodt Kilde is among the favorites in the men’s downhill and fellow Norwegian Therese Johaug looks poised to add to the three Olympic medals she’s already won in cross-country skiing. Norway led all nations with 39 medals at Pyeongchang four years ago, including 14 golds.The U.S., of course, has its share of contenders. Snowboarder Jamie Anderson is trying for a third straight slopestyle gold, and the final is Saturday night. The team figure skating competition resumes that evening, too. The Americans lead that after a strong start by Nathan Chen and Co.Here are some of the highlights from the first day of competition:Alpine skiingRace favorite Aleksander Aamodt Kilde was one of only three skiers to get a third run on the course before the final training session for the men’s Olympic downhill was halted prematurely on Saturday.Kilde, two-time Olympic champion Matthias Mayer and Christof Innerhofer completed their runs before organizers stopped the third training session because of high winds.The downhill race, which will open the Alpine skiing program at the Beijing Games, is scheduled for Sunday.“I used more power but other than that it’s for sure nice to be through that course one more time,” said the Norwegian, who has been the leading speed skier this season. “And today was faster, 100%.“Fun to ski but with the wind it’s kind of crazy because you gain so much speed, some places. And then you suddenly see speed on the jumps. I went 60 meters, I think. I was in balance, thank God for that. It’s good that they canceled and that they made a decision that we keep everybody safe for tomorrow.”Kilde was fastest of the three skiers, beating Mayer by nearly three seconds and Innerhofer by more than 11.On a completely new course that none of the racers had been on before Thursday, the cancellation raises the question if it’s safe and fair enough to hold the race on Sunday. The three skiers who got a third run could be seen to have an unfair advantage.The world’s best skiers only saw the Rock course up close for the first time this week because test events were canceled over the last two years amid the pandemic.Friday’s second training session was also affected by high winds and had to be delayed by an hour. Kilde also posted the fastest time in that session.Figure skatingThe U.S. leads the powerful Russians and third-place China so far in the team competition. Chen won the men’s short program, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue did the same in the rhythm dance.Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier were third in the pairs short program, putting the Americans in first place heading into the women’s short program Sunday. “We have a really strong team, so we have a lot of chess pieces to play with,” Chen said. “Whatever is the strongest piece at that time is the strongest piece at that time.”The heavily favored Russian team is two points back in second, while host nation China is seven points behind the U.S. in third. SnowboardingThe men’s and women’s slopestyle happens Saturday. The final runs of the women’s competition are followed by qualifying for the men.The U.S. swept slopestyle snowboarding in 2018, with Anderson and Red Gerard both winning.The swirling wind made judging the rails and jumps tricky.The slopestyle course in Zhangjiakou includes a snow replica of the Great Wall that serves as a backdrop for the rails and jumps athletes will navigate. Snowboarder Zoi Sadowski Synnott of New Zealand navigated the extreme conditions and turned in the top score of 86.75. Synnott may just be the biggest challenger to two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson of the United States.Anderson finished fifth in qualifying. The top 12 advanced to Sunday’s final.The 31-year-old Anderson said the Great Wall barrier was helpful, but joked “they need a bigger wall.” First gold medals earned Biathlon: Mixed relay Norway won gold in the biathlon mixed relay, beating France and the Russian team in the first biathlon event of the Beijing Olympics.Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway, Quentin Fillon Maillet of France and Eduard Latypov of the Russian team left the range close together after the last round of shooting and raced for position until the final stretch, when Boe sprinted for the win.Norway, which came into the relay as the World Cup leader, also got strong performances from Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Tarjei Boe. But they trailed early in the race when Tiril Eckhoff struggled.___Cross-country skiingCross-country skier Therese Johaug of Norway won the first gold medal of the Beijing Games in the women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon.Johaug fought wind and frigid temperatures to win by skiing away from a chase group of four.Russian athlete Natalia Nepryaeva, the current overall World Cup leader, pulled away from the group on the last climb to take the silver. Teresa Stadlober of Austria followed just behind for the bronze medal.___Speedskating Irene Schouten gave the mighty Dutch a gold in the first speedskating event of the Beijing Winter Games, breaking a 20-year-old Olympic record in the women’s 3,000 meters. Skating in the last of 10 pairs, Schouten turned in a blazing final lap to post a winning time of 3 minutes, 56.93 seconds.That broke the previous Olympic mark of 3:57.70, set by Germany’s Claudia Pechstein at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Italy’s Francesca Lollobrigida held on for the silver in 3:58.06. The bronze went to Canada’s Isabelle Weidemann in 3:58.64.

The first day of medals at the Beijing Olympics could be the start of another Norwegian gold rush.

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde is among the favorites in the men’s downhill and fellow Norwegian Therese Johaug looks poised to add to the three Olympic medals she’s already won in cross-country skiing. Norway led all nations with 39 medals at Pyeongchang four years ago, including 14 golds.

The U.S., of course, has its share of contenders. Snowboarder Jamie Anderson is trying for a third straight slopestyle gold, and the final is Saturday night. The team figure skating competition resumes that evening, too. The Americans lead that after a strong start by Nathan Chen and Co.

Here are some of the highlights from the first day of competition:

Alpine skiing

Race favorite Aleksander Aamodt Kilde was one of only three skiers to get a third run on the course before the final training session for the men’s Olympic downhill was halted prematurely on Saturday.

Kilde, two-time Olympic champion Matthias Mayer and Christof Innerhofer completed their runs before organizers stopped the third training session because of high winds.

The downhill race, which will open the Alpine skiing program at the Beijing Games, is scheduled for Sunday.

“I used more power but other than that it’s for sure nice to be through that course one more time,” said the Norwegian, who has been the leading speed skier this season. “And today was faster, 100%.

“Fun to ski but with the wind it’s kind of crazy because you gain so much speed, some places. And then you suddenly see speed on the jumps. I went 60 meters, I think. I was in balance, thank God for that. It’s good that they canceled and that they made a decision that we keep everybody safe for tomorrow.”

Kilde was fastest of the three skiers, beating Mayer by nearly three seconds and Innerhofer by more than 11.

On a completely new course that none of the racers had been on before Thursday, the cancellation raises the question if it’s safe and fair enough to hold the race on Sunday. The three skiers who got a third run could be seen to have an unfair advantage.

The world’s best skiers only saw the Rock course up close for the first time this week because test events were canceled over the last two years amid the pandemic.

Friday’s second training session was also affected by high winds and had to be delayed by an hour. Kilde also posted the fastest time in that session.

Figure skating

The U.S. leads the powerful Russians and third-place China so far in the team competition. Chen won the men’s short program, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue did the same in the rhythm dance.

Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier were third in the pairs short program, putting the Americans in first place heading into the women’s short program Sunday.

“We have a really strong team, so we have a lot of chess pieces to play with,” Chen said. “Whatever is the strongest piece at that time is the strongest piece at that time.”

The heavily favored Russian team is two points back in second, while host nation China is seven points behind the U.S. in third.

Snowboarding

The men’s and women’s slopestyle happens Saturday. The final runs of the women’s competition are followed by qualifying for the men.

The U.S. swept slopestyle snowboarding in 2018, with Anderson and Red Gerard both winning.

The swirling wind made judging the rails and jumps tricky.

The slopestyle course in Zhangjiakou includes a snow replica of the Great Wall that serves as a backdrop for the rails and jumps athletes will navigate.

Snowboarder Zoi Sadowski Synnott of New Zealand navigated the extreme conditions and turned in the top score of 86.75. Synnott may just be the biggest challenger to two-time defending Olympic gold medalist Jamie Anderson of the United States.

Anderson finished fifth in qualifying. The top 12 advanced to Sunday’s final.

The 31-year-old Anderson said the Great Wall barrier was helpful, but joked “they need a bigger wall.”

First gold medals earned

Biathlon: Mixed relay

Norway won gold in the biathlon mixed relay, beating France and the Russian team in the first biathlon event of the Beijing Olympics.

Johannes Thingnes Boe of Norway, Quentin Fillon Maillet of France and Eduard Latypov of the Russian team left the range close together after the last round of shooting and raced for position until the final stretch, when Boe sprinted for the win.

Norway, which came into the relay as the World Cup leader, also got strong performances from Marte Olsbu Roeiseland and Tarjei Boe. But they trailed early in the race when Tiril Eckhoff struggled.

___

Cross-country skiing

Cross-country skier Therese Johaug of Norway won the first gold medal of the Beijing Games in the women’s 15-kilometer skiathlon.

Johaug fought wind and frigid temperatures to win by skiing away from a chase group of four.

Russian athlete Natalia Nepryaeva, the current overall World Cup leader, pulled away from the group on the last climb to take the silver. Teresa Stadlober of Austria followed just behind for the bronze medal.

___

Speedskating

Irene Schouten gave the mighty Dutch a gold in the first speedskating event of the Beijing Winter Games, breaking a 20-year-old Olympic record in the women’s 3,000 meters. Skating in the last of 10 pairs, Schouten turned in a blazing final lap to post a winning time of 3 minutes, 56.93 seconds.

That broke the previous Olympic mark of 3:57.70, set by Germany’s Claudia Pechstein at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Italy’s Francesca Lollobrigida held on for the silver in 3:58.06. The bronze went to Canada’s Isabelle Weidemann in 3:58.64.



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