Bilodeau ends home gold wait

Canada’s long wait for a home Olympic gold medal is over after freestyle skier Alex Bilodeau claimed victory in the men’s moguls.

Bilodeau won a gold medal at Cypress Mountain with a score of 26.75, ahead of Canadian-turned-Australian and defending champion Dale Begg-Smith who took silver with 26.58.

American Byron Wilson was third with 26.08.

Britain’s David King and Stacey Kemp delivered a season’s best performance in the short programme of the figure skating pairs competition at the Pacific Coliseum.

Skating to Linkin Park’s ‘Numb’, Britain’s King, 25, and Kemp, 21, beat their season’s best of 45.26 with a score of 48.28 to lie in 16th place going into Monday’s free programme.

The 17th-ranked pair in the world, who train in Poland with coaches Dorota and Mariusz Siudek, were happy to have finally reached the culmination of five years skating as a pair.

“We enjoyed it, and that’s the key,” said Carlisle-born King. “We’re here at the Olympics, we’ve been doing this for five years and we just wanted to do this one programme good and it came off so we’re really happy.”

Preston-born Kemp added: “We just wanted to get a personal best and it definitely gives us confidence for the free.”

A jubilant Bilodeau vowed: “The party is just starting for Canada. There are so many good golds to come and I’ll try to keep a bit of voice for them.

“It is too good to be true and I don’t think I realise yet (what it means).

“At the top (of the course) I said ‘I’m ready’. I went out and I knew what to do.”

Bilodeau dedicated his gold to watching older brother Frederic, who suffers from cerebral palsy.

“My brother is my inspiration,” he added.

“He has grown up with a handicap that puts everything into perspective.”

Begg-Smith, a self-made millionaire who switched his allegiances to Australia after a dispute over the amount of time he was spending on his internet business, looked like making Canada wait another day for a home gold when he led the standings with just Bilodeau and France’s Guilbaut Colas still to descend.

But, by producing the fastest run of the competition after more or less matching Begg-Smith in scoring for his turns and jumps, the top prize was Bilodeau’s.

Germany’s Felix Loch emerged as the winner of a men’s luge competition overshadowed by the tragic death of Georgia’s Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training accident.

Loch claimed gold ahead of team-mate David Moller at the Whistler Sliding Center with Italy’s Armin Zoggeler, who took the title in Turin four years ago, having to settle for bronze.

The German pair made their power tell after the decision, in the wake of Kumaritashvili’s death, to drop the racers’ average speeds by lowering the start-gate to the usual women’s start and change the profile of the ice on the bend where the Georgian’s crash occurred.

The changes made to the track paid off with no major crashes during the four runs of competition.

Earlier Frenchman Vincent Jay took the men’s 10km sprint biathlon title at Whistler Olympic Park.

Jay stormed to the gold on his Olympic debut in a time of 24 minutes, 7.8 seconds with Norwegian Emil Hegle Svendsen taking the silver 12.2 seconds adrift.

Croatian Jakov Fak, who claimed the bronze medal, was a further 1.8secs behind.

Jay was among the early starters and benefited when snow showers made conditions more testing for the pre-race favourites.

Norwegian biathlon great Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, with five Olympic gold medals to his name, saw his bid for another hit by four penalties. He could only finish 17th, one minute and 41.1 seconds behind Jay.

Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic won the ladies 3000m in the speed skating at the Richmond Olympic Oval in a time of 4:02.53.

Germany’s Stephanie Beckert claimed the silver in 4:04.62 with Kristina Groves taking a bronze for Canada in 4:04.8.4.

Sablikova is also the favourite for the 5000m race later in the Games.

Frenchman Jason Lamy Chappuis won the Nordic combined gold medal at Whistler Olympic Park with an overall time of 25:47.1.

Johnny Spillane took the silver for the United States and Italian Alessandro Pittin won the bronze medal.

USA’s women launched their Ice Hockey campaign with a 12-1 win over China at the UBC Thunderbird Arena and American alpine skiing star Lindsey Vonn, who has been troubled by a shin injury, was able to complete a full slalom training session today.

China’s Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao led the way with a score of 76.66 after the short programme of the pairs figure skating competition at Pacific Coliseum.

German pairing Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy were lying second after scoring 75.96 with Russians Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov in third on 74.16.

Meanwhile Finland beat Russia 5-1 in a women’s preliminary ice hockey match at the UBC Thunderbird Arena.

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