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.

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