Frenchman Jay takes shock gold

Weather assists soldier's biathlon as rain washes out downhill runs at Winter Olympics.

    Jay had favourable conditions during his early start [AFP]
    French soldier Vincent Jay took advantage of an early start in the best weather conditions of the race to deliver a shock victory in the men's Olympic 10km biathlon sprint.

    While Norway's Ole Einar Bjorndalen suffered a setback in his quest to become the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time, the 24-year-old Jay finished the course in 24 minutes 7.8 secs before heavy snow began to fall at Whistler Olympic Park.

    Norwegian Emil Hegle Svendsen, a winner of four World Cup races this season, came in 12.2 seconds behind to clinch silver while Croatian Jakov Fak took the bronze in his first Olympics.

    Bjorndalen, widely regarded at the best biathlete of all time, surprisingly missed three targets in the first round of shooting before finishing 17th as the later starters all struggled in the deteriorating weather.

    Relentless rain

    Meanwhile relentless rain washed out women's downhill training on Sunday, scrapping any alpine skiing on the first weekend of the Winter Olympic Games, while lugers aimed for gold on a track shortened to boost safety after the death of a Georgian competitor.

    Nodar Kumaritashvili died after flying off the track into a pillar during a luge training run on Friday.

    The gloomy weather has hampered competition and Canada's prospects of winning its first gold medal as host.

    Organisers scrapped a women's downhill training run scheduled for Sunday. The men's downhill on Saturday was cancelled and the women's super combined, also planned for Sunday, was pushed to Thursday.

    The International Ski Federation isn't ready to panic over the Whistler weather woes, with their president Gian-Franco Kasper telling the Associated Press that European broadcasters were pleased at the men's downhill move.

    The race is now slated for 10.30am, which is 7.30pm (18:30 GMT) for most of Europe.

    "It depends which side you see it from,'' Kasper said.

    "For the US side, yes it's not great. But I think European broadcasters are happy.

    "A lot more people are home watching TV on Monday night than Saturday night when they go out.''

    After the luge tragedy, the International Luge Federation (FIL) and Games organisers altered what had been hailed as the world's fastest course – shortening the track by moving the men to the lower women's start – despite them saying that it was safe.

    The men's luge medal round was due to start on Sunday afternoon and women's and double's training runs were also due.

    The men's biathlon, men's freestyle skiing, Nordic combined, and women's speed skating offered more medal prospects.


    The Canadians have yet to win gold on their home turf despite hosting Games in Montreal and Calgary, and this time hopes were high they would break the curse as early as the first day of competition on Saturday.

    Canada poured more than $110 million into "Own the Podium", a programme designed to put Canada top of the medal standings – including a good number of gold – and was expecting a quick return on their investment.

    Games chief John Furlong said last week: "We'd really like to get that monkey off our back."

    But the hosts' gold medal drought extended into a third Olympics on Saturday when American moguls skier Hannah Kearney snatched victory from Canada's Jenn Heil on the last run of the night in the women's freestyle on Cypress Mountain.

    "Score at the end of Day One: Monkey 1, Canada 0," quipped a columnist in the Toronto Globe and Mail on Sunday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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