Canada's wait for a home Olympic gold medal finally came to an end after Alex Bilodeau , their freestyle skier, claimed victory in the men's moguls. Bilodeau won a gold medal at Cypress Mountain with a score of 26.75, ahead of Dale Begg-Smith, the Canadian-turned-Australian and defending champion, who took silver with 26.58. America's Byron Wilson was third with 26.08. It had been a frustrating wait for Canada to get an Olympic gold on home turf after only winning silver and bronze medals at the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal and the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary. A jubilant Bilodeau vowed: "The party is just starting for Canada. There are so many good golds to come and I'll try to keep a bit of voice for them.
"It is too good to be true and I don't think I realise yet [what it means]. "At the top [of the course] I said 'I'm ready'. I went out and I knew what to do." Bilodeau dedicated his gold to watching older brother Frederic, who suffers from cerebral palsy. "My brother is my inspiration," he added. "He has grown up with a handicap that puts everything into perspective." Begg-Smith, a self-made millionaire who switched his allegiances to Australia after a dispute over the amount of time he was spending on his internet business, looked like making Canada wait another day for a home gold when he led the standings with just Bilodeau and France's Guilbaut Colas still to descend.
But, by producing the fastest run of the competition after more or less matching Begg-Smith in scoring for his turns and jumps, the top prize was Bilodeau's. Germany's Felix Loch emerged as the winner of a men's luge competition overshadowed by the tragic death of Georgia's Nodar Kumaritashvili in a training accident. Loch claimed gold ahead of teammate David Moller at the Whistler Sliding Centre with Italy's Armin Zoggeler, who took the title in Turin four years ago, having to settle for bronze. The German pair made their power tell after the decision, in the wake of Kumaritashvili's death, to drop the racers' average speeds by lowering the start-gate to the usual women's start and change the profile of the ice on the bend where the Georgian's crash occurred.
Earlier on Sunday Vincent Jay, of France, took the men's 10km sprint biathlon title. Jay stormed to the gold on his Olympic debut in a time of 24 mins, 7.8 secs with Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen taking the silver 12.2 seconds adrift. Jakov Fak, the Croatian who claimed the bronze medal, was a further 1.8secs behind. Jay was among the early starters and benefited when snow showers made conditions more testing for the pre-race favourites. Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, the Norwegian biathlon great with five Olympic gold medals to his name, saw his bid for another hit by four penalties. He could only finish 17th, one minute and 41.1 seconds behind Jay. Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic won the women's 3,000m in the speed skating in a time of 4mins 02.53secs. Germany's Stephanie Beckert claimed the silver in 4:04.62 with Kristina Groves taking a bronze for Canada in 4:04.8.4.
Sablikova is also the favourite for the 5,000m race later in the Games. France's Jason Lamy Chappuis won the Nordic combined gold medal with an overall time of 25mins 47.1secs. Johnny Spillane took the silver for the United States and Italy's Alessandro Pittin won the bronze medal. The USA's women launched their ice hockey campaign with a 12-1 win over China, while Finland got the better of Russia 5-1 in their preliminary round match. Lindsey Vonn, the American Alpine skier who has been troubled by a shin injury, was able to complete a full slalom training session on the slopes yesterday.
China's Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao led the way with a score of 76.66 after the short programme of the pairs figure skating competition at Pacific Coliseum. Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany were lying second after scoring 75.96 with Russians Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov in third on 74.16. * With agencies