Remember Harry Potter lookalike who won 2 golds in Salt Lake? He’s 1st winner in Vancouver

By Jaime Aron, AP
Saturday, February 13, 2010

1st gold in Vancouver goes to 2002 double winner

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The first gold medalist of the 2010 Winter Games is the guy who won two golds in Salt Lake City eight years ago.

If the name Simon Ammann doesn’t ring a bell, maybe this will: He’s the Swiss ski jumper who looked a lot like Harry Potter.

Now 28 — and no longer a double for the boy wizard — Ammann is again the best in the world. He won the individual normal hill title Saturday for the honor of being the first of 86 champions to be crowned at the Vancouver Games.

The first Olympic record was set by Dutch speedskater Sven Kramer in winning the 5,000 meters.

Kramer’s time of 6 minutes, 14.60 seconds shaved six-hundredths of a second off Jochem Uytdehaage’s record set at altitude in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Another first was expected to come Saturday night — the first gold won at home by Canada.

The host nation was shut out in Montreal at the 1976 Summer Games and in Calgary at the 1988 Winter Games. Now, moguls skiers Jenn Heil and Krsti Richards, and speedskater Charles Hamelin all have a good chance of setting off a spirited rendition of “O Canada.”

Competition at the 21st Winter Olympics opened Saturday with all eyes and heavy hearts on the Whistler Sliding Center. Sliders resumed training on a repaired and slightly reconfigured track the day after a 21-year-old luger from the republic of Georgia died following a crash on the last turn of a training run.

They also all started from a new spot farther down the track in hopes of slowing speeds and improving control.

The men have been moved to the women’s start ramp, while women and doubles are shifted to the junior start ramp. Officials say this was done to help with the “emotional component” of athletes, and the IOC says it is “completely satisfied” with how things have been handled.

The early results lived up to expectations. All 36 sliders were below 90 mph after routinely going more than 95 mph earlier in the week. Germany’s Felix Loch was fastest in training at 89.2 mph — well off his track record of 95.68 set during a World Cup event last year.

American luger Tony Benshoof, who hurt his foot when he slammed into a wall Friday, was first down the course Saturday morning.

After taking a deep breath, the three-time Olympian navigated all 16 turns without incident. The final turn, where Nodar Kumaritashvili crashed, now has a higher wall and there’s now padding on the steel poles along the finishing curve. Modifications also were made to the surface of the ice.

The men’s downhill was supposed to be the first medal of these games, but it was postponed because of warm, wet weather in Whistler. That put the ski jumpers at the head of the list.

Ammann’s victory was decisive — he posted the longest jumps in both rounds. His score of 276.5 points far beat his 269 from Salt Lake. At Turin in ‘06, Ammann went out in the first of two rounds, finishing 38th.

Polish veteran Adam Malysz took silver and Austria’s Gregor Schlierenzauer bounced back from a disappointing first jump to earn bronze in his Olympic debut.

With Vice President Joe Biden watching, none of the three U.S. ski jumpers made it to the final round. Peter Frenette and Nick Alexander tied for 41st, while Anders Johnson was 49th.

In the speedskating, a trio of Americans failed to crack the top 10 but they dominated the next 10. Chad Hedrick finished 11th, with Shani Davis 12th and Trevor Marsicano 14th.

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