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Published: Sunday, 2/14/2010

Swiss ski jumper takes 1st gold

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Switzerland's Simon Ammann sails by a balloon en route to winning the first gold medal of the Games. Switzerland's Simon Ammann sails by a balloon en route to winning the first gold medal of the Games.
DMITRY LOVETSKY / AP Enlarge

VANCOUVER - The first gold medalist of the 2010 Winter Games is the guy who won two golds in Salt Lake City eight years ago.

If the name Simon Ammann doesn't ring a bell, maybe this will: He's the Swiss ski jumper who looked a lot like Harry Potter.

Now 28 - and no longer a double for the boy wizard - Ammann is again the best in the world. He won the individual normal hill title yesterday for the honor of being the first of 86 champions to be crowned at the Vancouver Games.

The first Olympic record was set by Dutch speedskater Sven Kramer in winning the 5,000 meters.

Kramer's time of 6 minutes, 14.60 seconds shaved six-hundredths of a second off Jochem Uytdehaage's record set at altitude in Salt Lake City in 2002.

The men's downhill was supposed to be the first medal of these games, but it was postponed because of warm, wet weather in Whistler. That put the ski jumpers at the head of the list.

Ammann's victory was decisive - he posted the longest jumps in both rounds. His score of 276.5 points far beat his 269 from Salt Lake. At Turin in '06, Ammann went out in the first of two rounds, finishing 38th.

Polish veteran Adam Malysz took silver, and Austria's Gregor Schlierenzauer bounced back from a disappointing first jump to earn bronze in his Olympic debut.

With Vice President Joe Biden watching, none of the three U.S. ski jumpers made it to the final round. Peter Frenette and Nick Alexander tied for 41st, while Anders Johnson was 49th.

In speedskating, a trio of Americans failed to crack the top 10, but they dominated the next 10. Chad Hedrick finished 11th, with Shani Davis 12th, and Trevor Marsicano 14th.

Alpine skiers woke up Saturday to news of another day of delays.

The competition-opening men's downhill was called off about 4 a.m., with officials realizing their slopes would be too slushy. It wasn't much of a surprise because the women's super-combined, originally planned for today, was postponed Friday afternoon.

The International Ski Federation is considering throwing out its schedule and starting from scratch, with a new plan featuring seven straight days of racing.

So far, the only decision is that the men's event will (hopefully) be Monday, at 1:30. The women's event - featuring American sensation Lindsey Vonn - had not been rescheduled as of yesterday afternoon.

Vonn is about the only one pleased with all the delays because it gives her more time to recover from a bruised shin.

Slovakia's Anastazia Kuzmina won the women's 7.5-kilometer biathlon sprint. She hit nine of 10 shots and finished in 19 minutes, 55.6 seconds on the course that had to be sprinkled with fertilizer to harden the snow that had been pelted for days with rain and sleet.

Germany's Magdalena Neuner took the silver, finishing 1.5 seconds behind Kuzmina, and Marie Dorin of France won the bronze.

The top American, Sara Studebaker, finished 45th, more than two minutes behind.

If you weren't among those watching the opening ceremony Friday night, plenty of your friends probably did. The Nielsen Co. says an estimated 32.6 million people watched Friday's opening ceremony - a 48 percent jump from the 2006 Games from Turin and approaching the 34.2 million who watched the opening in Beijing.

Only the Lillehammer games of 1994 - better known as the Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan Olympics - had a larger U.S. audience for its opening ceremony.

After trucking all that snow onto Cypress Mountain, officials aren't taking any chances of messing it up.

So with rain pelting the course, snowboardcross training runs yesterday were called off to preserve the course for races Monday and Tuesday.

The reigning silver medalists from Sweden beat Switzerland 3-0 in the first match of the women's hockey tournament.

Goalie Kim Martin, the star of Sweden's semifinal upset of the U.S. in Turin, preserved the shutout with several sharp saves in the third period against a Swiss team that has risen to prominence since the last Olympics and features Northeastern University's Florence Schelling in goal.



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