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Updated: February 16, 2010 16:20 IST

Double gold delight for Switzerland

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Didier Defago of Switzerland reacts after receiving the gold medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
AP Didier Defago of Switzerland reacts after receiving the gold medal at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.

Switzerland celebrated two skiing golds at the Winter Olympics when Didier Defago captured the men’s downhill and Dario Cologna swept to a men’s cross-country victory on Monday.

It was China’s night on the ice with gold and silver in the figure skating pairs event, while a speed skating gold went to South Korea — its first outside of short track — and there were wins for Sweden in cross-country and the United States in snowboard cross.

A downhill victory had been a long time coming for the Swiss, but Defago ended the wait at Whistler when he won the first gold for the nation in the flagship alpine ski race since Pirmin Zurbriggen at the 1988 Calgary Games.

If Defago’s win was rare, Cologna’s was historic: a first Olympic gold for the Swiss in cross-country.

Cologna, 23, who became the first Swiss to win the overall World Cup last year, skied away from all rivals on the second half of the 15km freestyle race at Whistler Olympic Park.

Pietro Piller Cottrer of Italy took silver and Lukas Bauer of the Czech Republic captured bronze.

Following Simon Ammann’s ski jump victory on Saturday, Switzerland now have three golds at the Games.

In the men’s downhill at Whistler Creekside, the Swiss challenge had been expected to come from Didier Cuche or Carlo Janka but it was 32-year-old Defago with a perfect run who snatched the honours.

Defago posted 1 minute 54.31 seconds on the Dave Murray course, 0.07 seconds ahead of Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, with Bode Miller of the United States 0.09 seconds back.

Current World Cup downhill leader and top favourite Cuche meanwhile was sixth while 2009 World Cup downhill champion Michael Walchhofer of Austria finished 10th, one spot ahead of Janka.

China captured figure skating gold and silver at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum when Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo won the pairs event.

The married three-time world champions, who returned from retirement to go for a first Olympic gold, did just enough to edge compatriots Pang Qing and Tong Joan in the Pacific Coliseum.

Germany’s reigning two-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy had to settle for bronze.

Charlotte Kalla clinched the opening gold of the day when she led from start to finish to give Sweden a first women’s 10-kilometres cross-country skiing win at the Olympics in 32 years.

Kalla, 22, beat the 2006 champion Kristina Smigun-Vaehi of Estonia and Norwegian Marit Bjoergen at Whistler Olympic Park.

At the Richmond Oval, Mo Tae-Bum celebrated his 21st birthday by winning South Korea’s first winter Olympics gold medal outside short track skating when he dominated the 500 metres speed skating.

The former junior world champion triumphed ahead of Japanese duo Keiichiro Nagashima and Joji Kato.

Seth Westcott of the United States defended his 2006 Olympic title by winning the men’s snowboard cross in a thrilling final at Cypress Mountains.

Westcott, 33, edged Canada’s Mike Robertson by half a snowboard length, with France’s Tony Ramoin third.

Meanwhile Georgian athletes and officials took part in a memorial service in Vancouver for luger Nodar Kumaritashvili who was killed in a training crash at the winter Olympics on Friday.

Kumaritashvili’s body was being flown home to Georgia on a flight via Germany. The 21-year-old Olympic athlete is to be buried in his hometown of Bakuriani.

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