Pyeongchang (South Korea) (AFP) – Teenage snowboarder Red Gerard became the first Winter Olympics champion born this millennium on Sunday as high winds caused disruption at the Pyeongchang Games.
Gerard, 17, also became the youngest US men’s Olympic champion since 1928 with his victory in slopestyle, with Canada’s Max Parrot taking the silver.
In another golden performance, Simen Hegstad Krueger led a Norwegian sweep in the men’s skiathlon. Charlotte Kalla won the women’s event for Sweden on Saturday.
But Canada’s Mark McMorris staked an early claim for the most inspirational story of the Games with his slopestyle bronze — just 11 months after a near-fatal crash.
His medal came on an eventful day after an earthquake triggered an alert, winds disrupted events and a fire warning was issued on a day of more sub-zero cold that left athletes and spectators shivering.
Following a snowboarding accident last year, McMorris was fighting for his life after breaking 17 bones and suffering a collapsed lung and ruptured spleen.
“I don’t want to think too much about the past today, but I appreciate the fact I’m here on my snowboard,” he said.
“Whatever the outcome was today, just me being pumped on being able to ride a snowboard.”
Earlier Sunday, strong winds forced the postponement of the showpiece men’s downhill alpine skiing race, and a shallow 4.6 magnitude earthquake jolted parts of eastern South Korea. Officials later warned of a high risk of fire due to the tinder-dry conditions in the region.
– Strong contender –
After the downhill was postponed until Thursday, the women’s slopestyle snowboarding also fell victim to the wind, as the qualifying session was scrapped with riders going straight into the final on Monday.
Later Sunday, French biathlon champion Martin Fourcade opens his campaign for multiple Olympic honours.
Fourcade, France’s most decorated winter Olympian with four medals including two golds, is a strong contender to take a first gold medal in Pyeongchang in the biathlon sprint.
Standing in his way is Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Bo, the 26-year-old who has been battling him for honours from the start of the season, with the Frenchman gaining an edge heading into the Games.
“It’s a duel that motivates me,” said Fourcade, the 29-year-old French army officer. “I see it as an obligation to perform better because I know that I need to do my best in order to beat him.”
Six gold medals in total are up for grabs Sunday including speed skating, luge and freestyle skiing, as well as the biathlon.
Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the defending champion, is back and heads a strong field in the women’s freestyle skiing moguls.
In luge, Germany’s Felix Loch can become the sport’s first four-time gold medallist as the final two runs of men’s singles are contested.