Downhillers on hold as Fourcade launches Olympic charge

US Redmond Gerard competes in a run during the final of the men’s snowboard slopestyle at the Phoenix Park during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 11, 2018 in Pyeongchang. / AFP PHOTO / Martin BUREAU

Teenage snowboarder Red Gerard won the first Olympic medal for the United States of Friday but Canada’s Mark McMorris stole the show with an inspirational bronze medal.

Gerard, 17, became the youngest US men’s Olympic champion since 1928 with victory in slopestyle, with Canada’s Max Parrot taking the silver.

In another gold medal performance Simen Hegstad Krueger led a Norwegian podium sweep as he took gold in the men’s skiathlon. Charlotte Kalla won the women’s event for Sweden on Saturday.

But McMorris staked an early claim for the most inspirational story at the Pyeongchang Winter Games with his bronze medal finish just 11 months after a near-fatal crash.

His triumph came after an earthquake triggered an alert, high winds disrupted events and a fire warning was issued on a day of more sub-zero cold that left athletes and spectators shivering.

McMorris was fighting for his life after breaking 17 bones and suffering a collapsed lung and ruptured spleen in a snowboarding accident last year.

“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 high 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 put off, the women’s 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.

The men’s downhill will now be raced on Thursday.

Later Sunday French biathlon champion Martin Fourcade opens his campaign for multiple Olympic honours.

France’s most decorated winter Olympian with four medals including two golds, Fourcade 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 with speedskating, luge and freestyle skiing still to come 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 speedskating Dutch idol Sven Kramer can race into the record books as the first male to win three gold medals in a specific skating event.

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.

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