Opening Day for 2012 YOG
The sun shone on Innsbruck this first day of competition for the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games. Events Saturday put every venue into use across the Innsbruck region.
Except for a glitch with the ice machine at the curling venue, Innsbruck 2012 CEO Peter Bayer tells Around the Rings that opening day of the Games was running smoothly.
"I am here with my family," he offered as proof, holding toddler son Marlon in his arms at the ski jump arena in Seefeld Saturday morning, accompanied by his wife.
"The crowd here is giving a good atmosphere," he added. Upwards of 3,000 people were at the venue to watch a group of 14 teenagers become the first to compete in women’s ski jumping at an Olympic Games.
The event was added last year to the program of the 2014 Winter Games, making it automatically included in the Winter YOG, and thus its true debut at the Olympics.
Sara Takanashi of Japan won the gold, the 15-year-old easily topping Katharina Althaus of Germany, who took silver and Ursa Bogataj of Slovenia, bronze medalist.
They, along with the rest of the day’s winners, will receive their medals at the first of nine evening celebrations to be held on a stage in the Old Town.
Daughter of French Champion Wins First Winter YOG Gold Medal
Claiming the first gold medal at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games, Estelle Alphand, daughter of former French ski racing great, Luc, took top honors in the super-G ahead of Norwegian Nora Grieg Christensen.
"I’m very happy and it’s amazing to be the first gold medal winner here," said the 16-year-old who attends school in Albertville. "It’s a big accomplishment for me."
Estelle’s father, Luc, was a three-time Olympian and three-time World Cup downhill champion. The popular Frenchman, who turned to car racing a after retirement from skiing, also won the famed Hahnenkamm in Kitzbuehel in 1995.
When asked about future goals and dreams, Estelle responded, "It’s just the beginning. Maybe I will become a real Olympic champion."
Ager Redeems Herself in Super-G
Less than 24-hours after forgetting the words to the athletes oath at Friday evening’s opening ceremony, 16-year-old Austrian ski racer Christina Ager finished third in the women’s super-G.
Ager,who resides in nearby Söll, ended the race 0.28 seconds behind winner Estelle Alphand of France.
All smiles in the finish area, Ager joked with friends and coaches while becoming an instant celebrity, particularly among the Austrian media.
Recounting Friday evening’s mishap at Bergisel Stadium, Ager said, "I stood out there and looked around and saw so many people."
"I had never seen so many people and I forgot my text," she said.
Ager then uttered the word "Scheisse" in front of the jam-packed stadium eliciting laughter from the crowd.
"I didn’t want to say that," said Ager with a big smile.
"Of course, all my friends wrote me by sms after and said ‘Oh, that was so cool’ – its not easy to speak in front of 20,000 people. It happened."
Alpine Gold for Morocco
Starting two hours after the women, the men’s super-G benefitted by the sun, whichpoked through the clouds to liven the energy and atmosphere at the Patscherkofel venue.
Taking advantage of a well-lit course and optimal conditions, Adam Lahamamedi won the first Winter Olympic medal in history for the North African nation of Morocco.
"To represent my country Morocco it’s amazing and to be first today means so my much to me and to show that Morocco could be good at skiing," said Lamhamedi, who has a Canadian mother and Moroccan father.
The 16-year-old racer trains in Quebec but has skied in Morocco’s High Atlas Mountains in summer.
Lahamedi, the lone representative of his nation at the Winter Youth Olympic Games carried Morocco’s flag at Friday night’s opening ceremony.
"You feel all the emotion walking in the stadium. It was so beautiful," he said.
Lahamedi’s Moroccan father Mohammad was at the finish Saturday to witness the historic achievement.
"We have many champions in Athletics like Hicham El-Guerrouj, but this is the first medal in skiing," said Mohammad.
"In snow it is the first medal for Africa and for an Arabic country."
Moroccan Olympic Committee secretary general, Nour-Eddine Ben Abdennbi added, "I don’t think the people of Morocco will sleep for two days."
Curling Postponed after Ice Machine Mishap
As a result of a failure of the ice grooming machine, which affected the surface cooling procedure for about two hours early Saturday morning, the ice at the Curling venue – Exhibition Hall in Innsbruck – was inadequate to hold four Saturday morning matches.
The four dual-gender contests in the round robin competition were rescheduled for Tuesday afternoon. Afternoon matches were unaffected.
Written and reported in Innsbruck by Ed Hula and Brian Pinelli.
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