Norway’s Johaug wins first gold of Beijing Winter Olympics

Norway’s Therese Johaug received the primary gold medal of the Beijing Winter Olympics on Saturday, storming forward of the competitors.

Norway’s Therese Johaug celebrates after profitable within the girls’s skiathlon 2×7,5km occasion through the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Video games on 5 February 2022. Image: Jewel Samad/AFP

BEIJING – Norwegian cross-country skier Therese Johaug received the primary gold medal of the Beijing Olympics on Saturday as sport moved centre stage after a troubled build-up dominated by coronavirus and rights considerations.

Johaug was a snug winner of the ladies’s 7.5-plus-7.5-kilometre skiathlon in what is anticipated to be the primary of many cross-country snowboarding medals for Norway at these Video games.

Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a 20-year-old Uyghur who was chosen by China as one in all two athletes to gentle the cauldron in Friday’s opening ceremony, completed forty third within the skiathlon race.

Yilamujiang’s inclusion in a ceremony watched by a worldwide tv viewers positioned her on the centre of long-time controversy over rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang area.

Campaigners say China has incarcerated a minimum of a million folks from principally Muslim minorities, notably Uyghurs, in “re-education camps” in Xinjiang.

America, Britain, Canada and Australia are amongst international locations staging a diplomatic boycott of the Video games over China’s rights report, and notably the destiny of the Uyghurs.

Requested whether or not the inclusion of a Uyghur competitor in a ceremony that includes a number of generations of Chinese language athletes met the Worldwide Olympic Committee’s normal of political neutrality, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams stated she had “each proper” to take part.

“As you’ll know from the Olympic Constitution, we don’t discriminate towards folks on the place they’re from, what their background is,” he stated.

“I feel the idea of getting all of the generations there was a extremely wonderful one.”

MESSAGE OF PEACE

The snowflake-themed opening ceremony within the “Chicken’s Nest” was dazzling however much less spectacular than the extravaganza that introduced the curtain up on the Beijing Summer season Olympics in the identical stadium 14 years in the past.

Earlier than Chinese language President Xi Jinping declared the Video games open, IOC chief Thomas Bach appealed to “all political authorities throughout the globe”, urging them to “give peace an opportunity”.

“In our fragile world, the place division, battle and distrust are on the rise, we present the world – sure, it’s potential to be fierce rivals whereas on the similar time residing peacefully and respectfully collectively,” Bach stated.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, at loggerheads with the US and far of Europe over the build-up of troops on the Ukrainian border, was among the many leaders who attended the ceremony.

Xi, underneath whose rule China has adopted a much more muscular perspective internationally in comparison with 2008, was given a rapturous welcome by the socially distanced crowd sporting face masks.

The Video games will run till February 20 and are happening inside an enormous “closed loop” bubble designed to thwart the virus.

The practically 3,000 athletes and tens of hundreds of help workers, volunteers and media have been reduce off from Beijing’s normal inhabitants.

There have been greater than 350 COVID-19 instances within the bubble, amongst them an unknown variety of athletes.

Germany’s three-time Olympic nordic mixed champion Eric Frenzel will miss his first occasion on Wednesday as a result of he examined optimistic for coronavirus on arrival in Beijing, his group stated.

China, the place the virus emerged in late 2019, has pursued a no-nonsense zero-COVID coverage and adopted the identical strategy to the Video games, with everybody contained in the bubble examined day by day and required to put on a masks always.

MEDAL RACE BEGINS

Later Saturday, Canadian freestyle skier Mikael Kingsbury will try and win the gold medal for a second consecutive Olympics within the bone-shaking moguls occasion underneath floodlights in Zhangjiakou, simply exterior Beijing.

Then on Sunday, Norwegian skier Aleksander Aamodt Kilde is the favorite within the high-speed males’s downhill, historically one of many highlights of a Winter Olympics.

Kilde’s American girlfriend Mikaela Shiffrin in the meantime admitted she can be upset to go away Beijing with out a medal, however warned it was inconceivable to have a flawless Video games.

Shiffrin is among the headline acts at Beijing 2022 as she pursues a 3rd gold after triumphing in slalom on the 2014 Sochi Video games and big slalom 4 years later in Pyeongchang.

“I’ve by no means in my life had three weeks the place I had no regrets and no disappointment,” Shiffrin stated. “On the Olympics it’s inconceivable to have the proper two weeks.”

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