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Treacherous Games slope claims victims

By Ossian Shine
February 14, 2006 01:09 IST
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The treacherous Olympic downhill slope skittled out two high-profile skiers on Monday and the oldest woman competitor quit the Winter Games after a crash in the luge.

While 52-year-old Anne Abernathy exited the Games with a fractured wrist, Germany's Evi Sachenbacher Stehle will be allowed to race in Tuesday's cross-country team sprint after a five-day suspension ended.

The 2002 relay gold medallist was given a five-day "start prohibition" after the International Ski Federation (FIS) ruled she could not safely compete due to an abnormally high red blood cell count.

"She had another test today and her level is under 16 so she's allowed to race. She said she had drunk more water than at any time in her life to bring the levels down," said a German Ski Federation spokesman Stefan Schwarzbach.

FIS is retesting eight competitors who were prevented from starting on Thursday and said all those checked so far were now allowed to compete.

CRASH COURSE

There was less good news for Carole Montillet-Carles, the 2002 Olympic downhill champion, and U.S. medal hopeful Lindsey Kildow, who both crashed in practice and were taken to hospital.

French team technical director Gerard Rougier said Montillet may not be in shape to defend her title on Wednesday.

"It's going to be hard. She is going to have ultra-sound on her stomach and have her back checked because of a vertebra problem," he told Reuters.

Kildow did the splits after losing control halfway down the course and was airlifted off the hill. X-rays showed no bone or back damage but the CTO hospital in Turin said she had minor head trauma and would stay under observation for 24 hours.

A third skier, Canadian Allison Forsyth, also crashed and was taken to hospital with tears to her knee ligaments.

The skiers were victims of a Fraiteve course which has been redesigned to make it harder after racers complained last year that it was not challenging enough.

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Croatia's
former slalom world champion Ivica Kostelic criticised the Olympic slopes for being too icy.

Over on the luge track, which has claimed a string of victims since it opened, Abernathy waved goodbye to her hope of competing in her sixth Olympics.

The U.S. Virgin Islands athlete, affectionately known as "Grandma Luge", fractured her right wrist and broke the right runner of her sled in a crash in training at the Cesana track on Sunday.

In Monday's first run, Italian Anastasia Oberstolz-Antonova, seen as the only woman who could challenge Germany's expected clean sweep in the singles luge, also crashed.

SURPRISE ONE-TWO

Russia briefly topped the medal standings when biathlete Svetlana Ishmouratova grabbed a surprise gold in the women's 15 km individual, missing just one target at the shooting range.

The 33-year-old Russian army captain won her first Olympic title with a time of 49 minutes 24.1 seconds while compatriot Olga Pyleva, the 2002 Olympic pursuit champion, came second.

The U.S. then displaced Russia at the top of the medals when Hannah Teter won the women's halfpipe snowboarding gold.

More medals are set to be decided in speed skating and figure skating later on Monday.

Organisers were happy with the Games so far as ticket sales continued to speed up to total 775,000 -- above budget -- and the International Olympic Committee said no athlete had tested positive for banned substances.

"There have been 161 tests," IOC communications director Giselle Davies told reporters. "Up to today there are no positive doping tests."

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Ossian Shine
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