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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » Sweden shine, gloom for Canada

Sweden shine, gloom for Canada

February 23, 2006 11:54 IST

Sweden stamped their mark on the Winter Games in Turin on Wednesday with Alpine skier Anja Paerson winning the women's slalom and cross-country athlete Bjoern Lind helping the country equal their previous best ever medal haul.

Paerson's first Olympic gold medal, won in thick fog and despite an injury, gave Sweden their fourth gold of the Games and their 10th medal in all.

With a 5-4 victory over Norway to reach the women's curling final to the sound of Swedish heavy metal band Hammerfall and a 6-2 defeat of the Swiss in the ice hockey quarter-finals, Sweden shone brightly on day 12.

But there was hockey gloom for titleholders Canada who lost 2-0 to Russia and for the United States who succumbed to Finland 4-3.

Paerson summed up her Swedish joy, saying: "I have been through such a hard time and now I have done it. To be Olympic champion was my dream."

Like Sweden, the Austrians have notched up a bumper medal haul, despite their Games being marred by a doping scandal swirling round their biathlon and cross country teams.

The medal tally stood at 19 on Wednesday night, including eight golds, after Austrians Nicole Hosp and Marlies Schild took silver and bronze behind Paerson, who won gold despite being injured. Germany lead on 22, including nine golds.

Croatia's Janica Kostelic, who sealed her title as the most successful woman Olympic Alpine skier in history in Turin, was forced down the slalom table into fourth.

Her Olympics now look over. Tired, she said she would be unlikely to race in Friday's giant slalom, the last women's event of these Games.


Away from the piste, Olympic officials said 10 Austrian athletes would have to wait for the results of doping tests, taken during a night raid on Saturday.

"Laboratory analysis is not yet complete. Analysis by the lab needs to be done very thoroughly and efficiently. This is not easy work," said Giselle Davies, director of communications for the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Austrian Ski Federation head Peter Schroecksnadel said the hold-up was probably because the results were negative and the IOC was embarrassed after making such a big deal about them.

"We still don't have results ... I think it means they're all negative. If they were positive they would have published them immediately, no? After all that hassle," Schroecksnadel said at the women's Alpine ski slalom race.

The Austrians have criticised officials for disrupting their training schedules with the raids, triggered by a tip-off that a coach, banned from the Olympics over a blood doping affair four years ago, was meeting Austrian athletes.

The IOC said it would launch a disciplinary investigation into why the Austrians snubbed the ban on coach Walter Mayer. He is now in a psychiatric hospital in Austria after crashing into police cars and, according to local media, mentioning suicide.

Austria has launched a investigative commission headed by Dieter Kalt, chief of the Austrian Winter Sport Federation. Leo Wallner, president of the Austrian Olympic Committee, said he hoped it would help "restore the integrity" of the team.


The medals for the two Austrian women in the slalom were welcome but the day was Paerson's, who had hurt her knee when she leaned back as she warmed up.

"I was almost crying after my injury in the warm-up and now this is really unbelievable," she told reporters after executing her trademark belly flop across the snow of the finish area.

Earlier, Lind gave his country a record equalling third cross-country skiing gold medal. He won his second gold in the individual sprint.

Canada also had something to boast about. Chandra Crawford won in the sprint -- Canada's first cross-country skiing gold medal of the Games. On the ice, Cindy Klassen took gold and Kristina Groves silver in the 1,500 metres speedskating.

But a 7-5 defeat by Switzerland in the women's curling semi-finals was hard to bear for a country said to be home to 94 percent of the world's curlers.

Worse was to come for Canada when the men's ice hockey team lost their crown, beaten in the quarter-finals by the Russians but the male curlers did make it through to the final on Friday when they will play Finland.

Switzerland rejoiced again when Evelyne Leu rose best out of the fog in the freestyle skiing aerials and the Schoch brothers, Philipp and Simon, took one and two in the snowboarding parallel giant slalom.

"We spoke briefly before the final and ... told each other to enjoy the race," Philipp said. "We just said 'let the best man on the day win' and today that was me -- so sorry, Simon!"


Elizabeth Piper
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