VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Germany’s Maria Riesch snatched the women’s super combined crown on Thursday after American Lindsey Vonn lost control and blew her chances of a second gold in as many days at the Vancouver Winter Olympics.
Riesch was all smiles as she claimed her first Olympic medal at Whistler mountain while her best friend Vonn was left thumping her fist into the snow after crashing on the concluding slalom leg.
Norwegian biathlete Tora Berger secured her country’s 100th Winter Olympic gold, the first nation to reach that landmark, as the Vancouver and Whistler venues basked in a second straight day of crisp sunshine.
Vonn, who won the downhill on Wednesday, had been ahead after the first downhill run and was on course to at least finish on the podium in the combined when she clipped a gate and lost her balance within sight of the finish line.
Vonn’s American team mate Julia Mancuso stayed on her skis to finish second to add another silver to her second place in the individual downhill while Sweden’s Anja Paerson took the bronze after surviving a high-speed crash the previous day.
Norway became the first nation to reach the magical 100th gold milestone in winter sports when the 28-year-old Berger surged clear of her rivals to win the lung-bursting 15km individual biathlon pursuit, which combines cross-country skiing with rifle shooting.
Berger completed the course in 40 minutes 52.8 seconds, more than 20 seconds clear of Kazakhstan’s Elena Khrustaleva, who took the silver medal, and Darya Domracheva of Belarus, who had to settle for the bronze.
Berger’s success provided Norway with their second gold medal in Vancouver after Marit Bjoergen won the women’s cross-country sprint classic on Wednesday, lifting the Scandinavian powerhouse to sixth place on the medals table at the start of the sixth full day of competition.
The United States led the standings with five golds after scooping up three on Wednesday. Germany moved to outright second with four golds after Riesch’s win.
Another four golds were up for grabs on Thursday, including the men’s individual figure skating, one of the glamour events of the Olympics.
Russia’s Yevgeny Plushenko was bidding to become the first man in more than half a century to successfully defend the men’s title after he won in Turin in four years ago.
He held a narrow lead over American Evan Lysacek and Japan’s Daisuke Takahashi after Tuesday’s short program and has vowed to risk all by attempting to nail a quadruple jump in Thursday’s free program.
“Without the quad it’s not men’s figure skating,” he said.
Riesch’s gold medal was the first by a German woman in Alpine skiing at the Olympics since Katja Seizinger and Hilde Gerg won three titles between them at the 1998 Nagano Games.
The 25-year-old finished a disappointing eighth in the individual downhill but was perfectly placed to win the combined after finished second, just 0.33 behind Vonn, after the Thursday’s opening run on a shortened downhill course.
As the reigning slalom world champion, she was always likely to catch Vonn, who was still suffering a painful shin injury that almost ruined her chances of competing at the Games.
Editing by Miles Evans