Winter Olympics: Snowboarder Red Gerard wins USA's first medal as Mark McMorris takes bronze

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Teenage snowboarder Red Gerard won the first Olympic medal for the United States on Friday but Canada’s Mark McMorris stole the show with an inspirational bronze medal.

Gerard, 17, became the youngest US men’s Olympic champion since 1928 with victory in slopestyle, with Canada’s Max Parrot taking the silver.

In another gold medal performance Simen Hegstad Krueger led a Norwegian podium sweep as he took gold in the men’s skiathlon. Charlotte Kalla won the women’s event for Sweden on Saturday.

But McMorris staked an early claim for the most inspirational story at the Pyeongchang Winter Games with his bronze medal finish just 11 months after a near-fatal crash.

His triumph came after an earthquake triggered an alert, high winds disrupted events and a fire warning was issued on a day of more sub-zero cold that left athletes and spectators shivering.

McMorris was fighting for his life after breaking 17 bones and suffering a collapsed lung and ruptured spleen in a snowboarding accident last year.

“I don’t want to think too much about the past today, but I appreciate the fact I’m here on my snowboard,” he said.

“Whatever the outcome was today, just me being pumped on being able to ride a snowboard.”

Earlier Sunday high winds forced the postponement of the showpiece men’s downhill alpine skiing race and a shallow 4.6 magnitude earthquake jolted parts of eastern South Korea. Officials later warned of a high risk of fire due to the tinder-dry conditions in the region.

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Men's Downhill

After the downhill was put off, the women’s women’s slopestyle snowboarding also fell victim to the wind, as the qualifying session was scrapped with riders going straight into the final on Monday.

The men’s downhill will now be raced on Thursday.

Later Sunday French biathlon champion Martin Fourcade opens his campaign for multiple Olympic honours.
France’s most decorated winter Olympian with four medals including two golds, Fourcade is a strong contender to take a first gold medal in Pyeongchang in the biathlon sprint.

Standing in his way is Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Bo, the 26-year-old who has been battling him for honours from the start of the season, with the Frenchman gaining an edge heading into the Games.

“It’s a duel that motivates me,” said Fourcade, the 29-year-old French army officer. “I see it as an obligation to perform better because I know that I need to do my best in order to beat him.”

Six gold medals in total are up for grabs Sunday with speedskating, luge and freestyle skiing still to come as well as the biathlon.

Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the defending champion, is back and heads a strong field in the women’s freestyle skiing moguls.

In speedskating Dutch idol Sven Kramer can race into the record books as the first male to win three gold medals in a specific skating event.

In Luge Germany’s Felix Loch can become the sport’s first four-time gold medallist as the final two runs of men’s singles are contested.

Provided by AFP Sport

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Winter Olympics: Chris and Alexa Knierim keep USA medal hopes alive in Pyeongchang

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The next time you have a ‘domestic’ with your nearest and dearest spare a thought for love on ice couple Chris and Alexa Knierim.

The US figure skaters competing at the olympics are partners on the ice, and married off it.

They say you should never take your work home with you, but for the two-time former US champions it’s unavoidable.

A heated exchange over the cornflakes needs to be quickly forgotten if like Alexa you have to put your total trust in the man you would have happily throttled a short time earlier. He’s the one throwing you up in the air, spinning, and then catching you – all the while having to wear a smile.

“Yeh, you can get that kind of situation, with any relationship whether you’re married or just work partners,” Chris told AFP.

Alexa nods in agreement: “We’re human, so we still run in to that sometimes.”

“I think it’s easy for us in our situation and maybe its different for other people that it’s an asset for us,” Chris adds, “we know what works and what doesn’t, talking, you know how to say something the right way.

Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim

“It’s a lot of communication, we’ve learned throughout the years of being together what works and what doesn’t.

“We switch off the minute you get in the ring – yeh for sure.”

Rink romance in Pyeongchang is by no means confined to the Knierims.

Russians Vladimir Morozov and Evgenia Tarasova, the two-time European champions, are rarely out of step whether are on or off.

“We had mutual understanding from the very beginning,” Tarasova said.

“I decided to listen to Vladimir in everything, he is older, but I do not remember him ever raising his voice at me.”

Her red-haired work and life companion added: “We practically do not have these situations, honestly! Maybe that’s our power.”

‘Life obstacles’

Evgenia Tarasova (R) and Russia's Vladimir Morozov

With all the athleticism, artistry, and emotional intelligence required in their sport, the Knierims say that life off the ice is by far the easy part.

“Outside the rink life is easy,” explains Alexa.

“I mean skating’s our job, that’s our income, that’s our livelihood, that’s the stress.

“When we go home it’s play time, it’s easy.”

It was not always like that, they say.

“Right after we got married we had a lot of life obstacles,” she said, with Nick agreeing: “We really hit the marriage hard.”

“Yep sickness, death in the family, we hit it all, those things changed us on the ice,” added Alexa.
But love on and off the ice does not conquer all.

The Knierim’s fellow Americans, ice dance pair Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue ended their two-and-a-half year romance but kept the day job and remain a couple on ice.

“To work harder and do all of these things right, we just realised that to date and be with each other 24-7 with our particular personalities was just explosive,” Donohue said.

“We had to ask ourselves what was more important, our on-ice partnership or our off-ice relationship?

“And we were both very clearly said the on-ice partnership is No. 1,” added his ex.

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Winter Olympics: Men's downhill event postponed due to high winds

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The blue riband men’s downhill, scheduled to open the Olympic alpine skiing programme, will be raced Thursday after high winds forced its postponement Sunday.

“Due to the strong wind and unfavourable forecast for today, the men’s downhill is postponed,” the International Ski Federation (FIS) announced.

“The jury has decided to switch the official programme and has rescheduled the men’s downhill for Thursday, February 15, and the men’s super-G on Friday, February 16,” FIS said, with the downhill set to start at 0200 GMT.

The downhill training for the men’s combined event scheduled for Monday has also been cancelled.

It is not the first time Mother Nature has played havoc with the best laid plans for alpine skiing at the olympics.

Four years ago in Sochi, the latter part of the programme was rescheduled because of poor weather while the downhill in Vancouver in 2010 was put back two days because of heavy snow and rain.

The downhill at the 1998 Nagano Games was rescheduled on three occasions, also because of heavy snow and rain.

Just prior to the postponement, FIS said the “hill is closed to everyone”, meaning that the gondola that transports athletes, their backroom staff, timing and course officials up to the Jeongseon slope would not be running.

Hungary's Dalibor Samsal makes a run during the Men's Downhill third Training.

Hungary’s Dalibor Samsal makes a run during the Men’s Downhill third Training.

Luckily for the male racers, they managed to get three downhill training sessions in under their belts, racing the third in similarly gloomy weather forecasts that eased at the last minute.

Given that skiing is an outdoor event, at the mercy of the elements, its Olympic programme is always designed with contingencies at hand.

The 11 medal events in Pyeongchang are run over 17 days, with racers having to have completed at least one downhill training run in order to be able to compete in the downhill proper.

The scheduling allows FIS to be able to tinker with the line-up, often bringing forward more technical events like slalom and giant slalom which can at a push be raced in heavy snow for instance.

“We kind of expected this downhill to be postponed due to wind, but at the same time the guys were charged up and ready to go,” said Sasha Rearick, the men’s alpine head coach of the US team.

“With this being an outdoor sport, it is not abnormal.”

Rearick said racers now have to “harness (energy), stay relaxed, and then be able to ramp back up”.

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