It was a night of spills for the Aussies in Sochi, with the nation’s most successful Winter Olympian Dale Begg-Smith crashing out during qualifying in the men’s moguls and speed skater Daniel Greig tumbling out of contention in the men’s 500m.
Australia, however, looks to have unearthed its best alpine skiing talent since Zali Steggall with 18 year-old Greta Small finishing in a creditable 15th in the super combined event.
Small, from Perth, but who spends nine months a year in Austria, had a good slalom run in the event, coming 12th.
The downhill, which was raced first, wasn’t quite as good as she recorded the 29th fastest time after a difficult start.
But the combined effort placed her 15th in the ultra-competitive alpine world.
It was all the more remarkable given she was the youngest competitor in the field and, with the support of her family, funds much of her own skiing.
Small has a jam-packed program in Sochi, completing the full compliment of alpine disciplines with the downhill, super G, slalom and giant slalom to come.
Steggall won Australia’s first individual Winter Olympics medal when she claimed slalom bronze at the 1998 Games in Nagano and went on to become world champion in the same discipline a year later.
Defending Winter Olympics halfpipe gold medallist Torah Bright sent a scare through the Australian camp, crashing in training two days before for the event.
Bright fell and quickly called it a night, leaving the course with team doctor, Peter Braun and several Australian officials.
The initial prognosis was that there wasn’t much damage done, her helmet intact and the three-Games veteran set to compete in the halfpipe at an Olympics for the third time.
Bright joins Holly Crawford, Stephanie Magiros and Hannah Trigger in the event on Wednesday.
Nate Johnstone, Scotty James and Kent Callister will compete in the men’s event on Tuesday.
Who won what
Speed skating – short track – 1500m
Canada’s Charles Hamelin claimed his third Olympic gold with victory in the 1500m with China’s Han Tianyu taking silver and Victor Ahn giving hosts Russia their first ever Olympic short track medal with bronze.
Hamelin, 29, previously won gold in the 500m and the 5000m relay in the 2010 Vancouver Games.
“It’s not my best distance, but I had a really good start and was able to control the race afterwards,” said Hamelin, wearing a new high-tech spandex suit.
It was a fifth Olympic medal for Ahn, formerly known as Ahn Hyun-Soo, who won gold in the 1000m, 1500m and 5000m relay for South Korea in 2006, before switching nationalities after failing to qualify for Vancouver.
Biathlon – 12.5km pursuit
France took its first gold of the Sochi Olympics when Martin Fourcade won the biathlon pursuit but Norwegian legend Ole Einar Bjoerndalen narrowly missed out on an outright Winter Games medals record.
Bjoerndalen started the race equal with Norwegian cross country ski great Bjoern Daehlie on the all-time record of 12 medals won for the Winter Olympics.
But despite showing good ski speed, Bjoerndalen missed targets in the second prone and both standing shootings to come in fourth in 34:14.5 just 1.7sec behind France’s Jean Guillaume Beatrix in third.
“I think I had the chance to win. When I missed the shot, I knew that was the end for me. I was not strong enough on the shooting,” said Bjoerndalen who still has four more events to race in Sochi to get the 13-medal record.
Fourcade, who took his first gold to add to his silver in the mass start at Vancouver in 2010, dominated the race from the mid-stage and even had the time to clench his first in triumph after a clear final shooting.
He finished in 33:48.6, 14.1sec ahead of Ondrej Moravec of the Czech Republic who came in second for silver.
Speed Skating – 500m
Michel Mulder saw off a fierce challenge from his Dutch teammates to win the 500m speed skating gold as the Netherlands swept the podium.
Mulder, 27, won with a combined time from his two races of 69.31sec, beating compatriot Jan Smeekens by just 0.01sec in a thrilling climax to the competition.
“When I crossed the line I just didn’t know. Then I saw that I had won and I couldn’t believe it,” said Mulder
Ronald Mulder, the twin brother of Michel, took bronze in a time of 69.46sec.
Freestyle skiing – moguls
Alex Bilodeau retained his men’s moguls title with a stunning score of 26.31 as Canada continued to dominate the discipline.
Just as they had done in the women’s moguls, Canada also took silver through Mikael Kingsbury, with a score of 24.71.
On Saturday, sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe took gold and silver in the women’s event.
Alexandr Smyshlyaev (24.34) gave Russia some joy and prevented a Canadian clean sweep by pipping Marc-Antoine Gagnon (23.35) for bronze.
Alpine skiing – Super-combined
Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch defended her super-combined gold, proving she was the woman to beat in the discipline.
The 29-year-old, who also won the world title last year, posted a total time of 2min 34.62sec after one downhill and one slalom run.
She finished ahead of Austria’s Nicole Hosp at 0.40sec and US favourite Julia Mancuso, who made a key mistake half way through the course to finish third at 0.53 despite leading after the morning’s downhill.
“It was a big fight and it wasn’t easy because the snow was tough and bumpy,” said Hoefl-Riesch.
“The hill was steep at the start, which I found especially difficult. It didn’t feel great, but I skied fast enough. I was able to keep my skis going and didn’t break too much in the turns.”
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