Maelle Ricker shines but it's a "black day" for some

Wed Feb 17, 2010 1:58pm EST
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By Mary Milliken

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada's Winter Olympics came under further fire on Tuesday after a slew of problems -- some man-made and others purely down to Mother Nature -- threatened to take the focus away from a memorable home triumph.

Snowboarder Maelle Ricker won Canada's second Olympic gold medal on Day Four, a first for its women on home soil, by carving her way through a rain-soaked cross course where humiliating wipe-outs were the order of the day.

The 31-year-old's triumph was one of the few bright spots for Winter Games host Canada, coming under increasing criticism for its handling of weather-wracked events and equipment mishaps like unreliable ice resurfacing machines.

Malfunctions affected athletes, fans and possibly even medals. Timing errors were reported in biathlon skiing, prompting one official to call it "the blackest day ever".

More fog and snow up at Whistler mountain forced the postponement of the men's super combined slalom until Sunday and a major reshuffling in the men's Alpine skiing events.

On Cypress Mountain, the lightning rod for weather-related complaints after the warmest January on record, more than a dozen women snowboarders' careered off a course likened to "mashed potatoes" by American favorite Lindsey Jacobellis. She fell and failed to make it into the medal final.

While Games organizers said there was little they could do about the weather, they still faced a barrage of questions over mishaps and, far worse, the death of a Georgian luger in a horrific training crash on Friday.

UNSTABLE GROUND   Continued...

<p>Canada's Maelle Ricker races en route to the gold medal during the women's snowboard cross final at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 16, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>