Hometown girl Maelle Ricker wins gold medal
VANCOUVER — Canada cruised to its second gold medal of the 2010 Games on Tuesday as snowboard-crosser Maelle Ricker soared to the top of the podium.
Ricker, 31, of West Vancouver, fell only once during qualifying, unlike a significant number of fellow riders who struggled to stay on their boards during a slippery, fog-plagued afternoon.
In the final, she needed only to stay in control of a technically flawless run, opening up a wide lead early that she never relinquished. Deborah Anthonioz of France took the silver medal, followed by Olivia Nobs of Switzerland.
Beaming as she crossed the finish line, Ricker’s performance was a bright spot in a day that was otherwise dominated by talk of Vancouver’s “Glitch Games” — and the efforts by organizers to make sure the sobriquet doesn’t stick.
One welcome distraction was the longawaited debut of Canada’s men’s hockey team, which took to the ice against Norway at Canada Hockey Place with Vancouver Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo in goal and a frenzied sellout crowd in the stands.
From alpine weather aggravations to cancelled tickets to a controversy over the Olympic cauldron, organizers have been plagued by everything from unco-operative snow conditions on the mountains to ice-resurfacing machines that do more damage than good.
Olympia resurfacing machines, which have twice broken down and caused delays in the speedskating events, had no such problems Tuesday before the women’s 500 metres. Meanwhile, officials took delivery of a Zamboni-brand machine shipped in from Calgary to take over the ice-smoothing duties.
Up at Whistler, where alpine and crosscountry events were meant to be taking place, the weather was up to its familiar tricks, forcing officials to postpone the men’s super-combined ski race.
A night of heavy, wet snow forced the race to be moved to Sunday. A women’s downhill training run was also cancelled.
“It’s pretty clear we’ve had some challenging weather here,” said Peter Bosinger, the alpine sport manager for the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee.
“ We want to make sure that we put together a safe and fair race track. To do that we need time to prepare the race tracks.”
Adding to the grief was trouble at the starting line for the biathlon pursuit races taking place in the Callaghan Valley, where timing errors threw off the results for both Jean-Philippe LeGuellec of Quebec City and Sweden’s Anna Carin Olofsson-Zidek.
LeGuellec, 24, was accidentally allowed to leave the starting gate 30 seconds early, which resulted in him crossing the line fifth when he actually placed 11th.
“I am upset,” LeGuellec said. “The guy just let me out too soon. Why, I don’t know.”
There was also drama in curling as Canadian skip Kevin Martin jumped out to a quick lead before almost watching his first game of the tournament slide away against Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud.
Martin led 5-1 after four ends before the Norwegians battled back with three in the fifth and then took it to an extra end with two in the 10th to tie the game 6-6.
The 5,600 fans sitting on the edge of their seats at the Vancouver Olympic Centre burst into loud cheers as Martin made a perfect draw with the last-rock advantage to eke out a 7-6 victory.
“It’s not scripted but that’s kind of what we figured it would be,” said a relieved Martin, a four-time Canadian champion who is playing in his third Olympics. “They’re good.”
Meanwhile, organizers — burned by the decision to put a chain-link fence around the fivetowered cauldron that houses the Olympic flame — promised to make adjustments to the fence and set up a viewing platform to improve the public’s vantage point.
The cauldron’s location, right next to the International Broadcast Centre, turned out to be inside the secure perimeter established for the Games. Allowing the public to get any closer simply wasn’t an option, organizers said.
“ We’re going to put in place a plan (today) that will give people, we think, a great way to see the cauldron both from up above and from street level,” said Renee Smith-Valade, the vice-president of communications for the organizing committee known as VANOC.