Wary lugers train as Swiss strike first gold

Sat Feb 13, 2010 6:49pm EST
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By Brian Rhoads

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Organizers shortened the world's fastest luge track for safety on Saturday after a crash killed a Georgian Olympian, as Swiss ski jumper Simon Ammann won the first gold medal at a Games plagued by warm, wet weather.

The Olympic men's luge competition at the Whistler Sliding Center was running from the lower women's start as an added precaution after the death of 21-year-old Nodar Kumaritashvili in a harrowing crash on Friday.

Luge Organizers also raised the walls at curve 16 exit where the first-time Olympian died and changed the ice profile as preventative measures, despite concluding there was no indication the accident was caused by a deficiency in the track.

Away from the luge, warm weather and a wet snow forced the delay of Alpine skiing men's downhill at the Winter Olympics -- and also helped delay host Canada's hopes of ending a jinx that has barred it from winning gold in two previous Games on home soil -- Calgary and Montreal.

Scheduled for Saturday, the event was put off until Monday due to bad course conditions and poor weather, an International Ski Federation spokeswoman said.

Canada had hoped for a speed skating medal, but that title went to Dutch world champion Sven Kramer, who stormed to gold in the 5,000 metres.

The Dutchman brought much-needed joyous scenes to the Games when he vaulted the fencing in front of the crowd and embraced his ecstatic orange-clad entourage once his win was confirmed.

Switzerland's Ammann won the first gold medal of the Games in the normal hill ski jumping. Slovakia's Anastazia Kuzmina won gold in the women's biathlon 7.5km sprint.   Continued...

<p>Simon Ammann of Switzerland celebrates as he won the individual normal hill ski jumping event at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, February 13, 2010. REUTERS/Michael Dalder</p>