Le Pays De France - New Zealand win historic Winter Olympics gold but pandas run out

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New Zealand win historic Winter Olympics gold but pandas run out
New Zealand win historic Winter Olympics gold but pandas run out

New Zealand win historic Winter Olympics gold but pandas run out

"Super-proud" snowboarder Zoi Sadowski Synnott made history on Sunday after winning New Zealand's first ever Winter Olympic gold but the men's downhill skiers were forced to wait 24 hours for their chance.

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Seven golds were up for grabs on the second full day of competition in the Chinese capital.

Seven became six when the main event of the day, the men's downhill -- one of the most closely watched events at the Winter Olympics -- was postponed until Monday because of gusty winds.

Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde -- one half of skiing's golden couple with Mikaela Shiffrin -- will be hot favourite.

Sadowski Synnott, 20, held her nerve under brilliant blue skies to take the women's snowboard slopestyle title with the last run of the competition and make history.

"Honestly it's absolute disbelief but it probably means more to me to win New Zealand's first Winter Olympic gold," said Sadowski Synnott, who was born in Sydney and moved to New Zealand when she was six.

"It makes me super proud to be a Kiwi."

Sadowski Synnott, who spent Covid lockdown back in New Zealand jumping on a trampoline to help her aerial awareness, launched into a massive jump with her final trick to earn a winning score of 92.88.

She was mobbed at the finish by American Julia Marino, who was relegated into silver with 87.68, and bronze medallist Tess Coady of Australia.

New Zealand had previously won one silver and two bronze medals at the Winter Olympics -- including a third-place finish for Sadowski Synnott in the Big Air competition at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.

- More than medals -

Cross-country skier Alexander Bolshunov became the first Russian to win an Olympic title at these Games -- but not for Russia. Punished for mass doping at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, the Russians must compete under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

Such was his dominance of the 15-kilometre-plus-15-kilometre skiathlon, Bolshunov had time to wave at the TV cameras long before the race had finished.

Other golds on offer Sunday were in freestyle skiing, luge, ski jumping and speed skating.

Georgian luge athlete Saba Kumaritashvili failed to make the final of the men's competition -- but he was competing for more than medals.

His cousin Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed in the same sport at the 2010 Vancouver Games when his luge sledge flew off the track in training, hours before the opening ceremony.

"I think about Nodar -- I think about him all the time," said Kumaritashvili.

"After Nodar, I didn't want luge to die in Georgia, I wanted to keep it going. I wasn’t afraid. I wanted to be in the Olympics to race."

Japan's Ryoyu Kobayashi won ski jumping gold on the men's normal hill, holding his nerve while his main title rivals lost theirs.

Meanwhile, organisers admitted they had failed to produce enough panda souvenirs to keep up with demand.

Bing Dwen Dwen, a cuddly panda on ice skates, is the official mascot of the Beijing Games -- but people in China are being turned away disappointed from gift shops.

Zhao Weidong, a spokesman for the local organising committee, blamed the shortage on the Lunar New Year holiday in China.

"Many of the workers at the factory are taking their holiday leave back home so the supply of licenced products has been affected by that," he said.

"We are now making efforts in coordinating the production and supply of Bing Dwen Dwen."

The Beijing Games are taking place in a vast "closed loop" designed to thwart the coronavirus.

There have been more than 363 positive cases in the bubble since January 23, according to the latest official figures, among them an unknown number of competitors.

The nearly 3,000 athletes are cocooned along with tens of thousands of volunteers, support staff and journalists and everyone inside the bubble must wear face masks and take daily Covid tests.