In the first medal to be decided on a wet, misty day, the men's
snowboard cross athletes soared over jumps, muscled rivals aside for
the inside line and crashed out spectacularly in a thrilling contest
narrowly won by Pierre Vaultier of France.
He edged out Russian Nikolay Olyunin in the final at the Rosa Khutor
Extreme Park, but not before there had been a delay following an
injury to Italian athlete Omar Visintin, who was carried off on a
The crash was a reminder of the dangers of competing on the edge,
and of how organizers are trying to strike a balance between keeping
the Games on track and making them safe.
It was at the skicross venue that Russia's Maria Komissarova broke
her back during training on Saturday. She had emergency surgery to
attach a metal implant to her spine, and has been flown to Germany
to be treated further at a specialist clinic.
The host nation will be desperate to keep events moving as Russia's
first Winter Olympics enters the final stretch.
The Games, which by some estimates are the most expensive ever
staged, is a source of great pride to Russia and its president,
Vladimir Putin, especially after vocal criticism over Russia's human
rights, spiraling costs and corruption.
The International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday that future
bidders may have to abide by a specific anti-discrimination rule
modeled on the Olympic Charter's Principle 6 if they are to be
awarded the Games.
Principle 6 says sport does not discriminate on any grounds,
including race, religion, politics or gender.
The IOC had to fend off criticism in the run-up to Sochi over
Russia's anti-gay propaganda law, which critics say curtails the
rights of homosexuals in the country.
There has been little sign of dissent against legislation introduced
last year, although in the most prominent act of protest so far, two
members of protest group Pussy Riot were detained by law enforcement
authorities on Tuesday.
Maria Alyokhina, one of the two held, said on Twitter that they had
been detained on suspicion of committing a crime, but did not give
But protests have been largely forgotten as thrills and spills on
ice and snow have captured the world's imagination.
Putin has been a regular presence at venues in Sochi on the coast
and up in the Caucasus Mountains, in a bid to project a more
friendly, open face to the West, with which he has often clashed
over issues ranging from Syria to Edward Snowden.
MAZE CLAIMS SECOND TITLE
On the 11th day of full competition at the February 7-23 Games,
favorite Tina Maze won her second gold of the Sochi Games in the
women's giant slalom.
The Slovenian, who shared downhill gold with Swiss Dominique Gisin
in an Olympic first, made the most of starting first in slippery
conditions to comfortably lead after the first run.
But it came down to hundredths of seconds in the end, as she just
edged out Anna Fenninger of Austria.
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Ninety skiers were on the start list for a race that traditionally
includes athletes from many non-Alpine nations.
Among those making up the numbers was violin virtuoso Vanessa Mae
representing Thailand. Racing under the name Vanessa Vanakorn, she
finished 26.98 seconds behind the leader after the first descent.
"I nearly crashed three times, but I made it down and that was the
main thing," the violinist, who took a wide berth round most of the
gates, told reporters.
"Just the experience of being here is amazing. I was worried I was
going to get lost (on the track), but I managed it."
ICE HOCKEY PLAYOFFS
For most Russians, the big contest of the day comes at the
futuristic Bolshoy Ice Dome, where the hosts face Norway in a
mid-afternoon qualification playoff.
Russian players have sought to reassure the passionate home support,
despite not qualifying automatically for the quarter finals of a
competition Russians would love to win more than any other.
"In principle, it makes no difference," said Russia's Alex Ovechkin
of the extra game. "Each team is now in the peak of its form. Of
course, we'd want to play one match less, but this way we'll stay in
Canada and the United States are fancied above Russia, but a gold
for the host nation in a final being played just hours before the
closing ceremony on Sunday would provide the fairytale end to the
Russia lie second in the overall medals table behind Germany,
although their five golds are matched by the Netherlands, United
States, Norway, Switzerland and Belarus.
In the women's ice hockey contest, the two superpowers of the sport — Canada and the United States — will meet, as predicted, in
In other medal events on Tuesday, Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer
seeks to add the 10,000 meters title to his 5,000 gold and extend
the remarkable run of success the Netherlands have enjoyed at the
The United States, meanwhile, are still seeking their first speed
skating medal after an embarrassing switch of suits midway through
The weather has stalled Frenchman Martin Fourcade's bid to win a
third Sochi gold, twice forcing the postponement of the men's 15km
mass start. They will try again on Tuesday.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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