Gold for Kim, Hirscher as first doping case rocks Olympics


PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — American teenager Chloe Kim and Austrian ski ace Marcel Hirscher lit up the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Tuesday on a day of drama that included the first doping scandal of the Games.

Snowboarder Kim, 17, snatched the first of the day's eight gold medals in the women's halfpipe, while World Cup maestro Hirscher ended his long wait for a debut Olympic title.

But Japan's short-track speed skater Kei Saito, 21, was at the center of the first doping scandal in Pyeongchang after testing positive for a banned diuretic.

Saito, who has left the athletes' village, was provisionally suspended pending an investigation. He protested his innocence and vowed to clear his name.

"I want to fight to prove my innocence because I don't remember (taking the drug) and it's incomprehensible," he said in a statement.

While Kim's brilliant run in the halfpipe stole the show, gold medals also went to Sweden and Norway in cross country skiing, and Italy in short-track speedskating.

Canada beat Switzerland to win the mixed doubles curling, while the Dutch maintained their perfect record in speedskating with a double in the men's 1,500m.

On the slopes, Austrian star Hirscher cemented his legacy as the best skier of his generation with victory in the combined event. Hirscher, 28, has been the outstanding skier in his slalom specialty for years, with 55 career World Cup wins.

But one prize had always eluded him — an Olympic gold medal. His previous best was a slalom silver from Sochi four years ago. After playing down his chances ahead of the race at blustery freezing Pyeongchang, this time he nailed it.

"All the people expected me to win a gold medal, especially in Austria, my home country, where skiing is big," he said. "Everyone is saying, 'Nice career, but an Olympic gold medal is still missing'. This is perfect, unbelievable."

For Kim, her debut Olympics turned golden as she romped to snowboarding halfpipe victory. Born in the United States to Korean parents, Kim burst into tears as the enormity of her achievement sunk in.

The teenager, who has melted the hearts of home fans in Pyeongchang, justified her status as the hot favorite with an eye-popping top score of 98.25.

Pumping her fists after finishing with back-to-back 1080 spins, Kim revealed that her number one fan — her Seoul-based grandmother — had been in the crowd cheering her on.

"I actually only found out my grandma was at the bottom before my second run," she said. "So I thought 'this one's for Grams!'"

Also celebrating gold was Stina Nilsson, who won the women's cross country sprint classic for Sweden. In the men's event, Johannes Klaebo of Norway won gold on his Olympic debut.

Italy got their first gold of the Games through Arianna Fontana in the 500m women's short-track speed skating. South Korean multi-medal hope Choi Min-jeong finished second but was disqualified.

In speed skating, the Dutch claimed their fourth gold medal with a one-two in the men's 1,500m through Kjeld Nuis and Patrick Roest. Four races, four gold medals for the Dutch speedskaters at the Olympic Oval.

Kjeld Nuis earned the latest on Tuesday, setting off at a blistering pace and sweeping past the early target of teammate Patrick Roest to win the men's 1,500 meters.

"This is no longer normal," Nuis said of his country's dominance in Olympic speedskating. The Dutch have now won eight of 12 medals at the Pyeongchang Games, keeping them on the stunning medal pace set at the 2014 Sochi Games when they finished with 23 out of 36.

Behind Nuis, the 22-year-old Roest raced with the ruthless abandon of an Olympic rookie and took silver, 0.85 seconds off the pace. Nuis won in 1 minute, 44.01 seconds. The home crowd also had something to get excited about because 18-year-old Kim Min-seok took bronze.

Germany celebrated a one-two in the women's luge, with Natalie Geisenberger pipping Dajana Eitberger to retain her Olympic title.

German luge queen Geisenberger defended her Olympic gold medal in the women's singles in style on as her nation extended its stranglehold over the event to 20 years.

The 30-year-old policewoman roared home to victory ahead of silver medal-winning compatriot Dajana Eitberger, claiming her third Olympic title with a flawless pair of runs at Pyeongchang's Olympic Sliding Centre.

Canada's Alex Gough grabbed a nerve-jangling bronze, banishing the heartbreak of two fourth place finishes at Sochi.

The German one-two returned the smiles to the faces of the luge superpower's camp, which was crestfallen on Sunday after defending men's champion Felix Loch crashed out of the medals with a horror final run.

In curling, Canada's Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris danced with delight after hammering Switzerland 10-3 to take the inaugural Olympic mixed doubles title.

Canada claimed gold with a 10-3 blowout win over world champions Switzerland. The victory placed Morris and Lawes in elite company, the Canadians adding their names to a short list of four curlers who have won two Olympic gold medals.

Lawes, a member of Canada's gold medal women's team in Sochi and Morris, part of the men's gold medal foursome at the 2010 Vancouver Games, got the Pyeongchang Games off to a rocky start dropping their opener but that would be their only blemish on an otherwise spotless run to the gold medal.

Jenny Perret and Martin Rios added an Olympic silver to their world championship title while the husband and wife team of Aleksandr Krushelnitckiy and Anastasia Bryzgalova took the bronze for Olympic Athletes from Russia. — Agencies