Austria claim emotional first gold medal of Youth Winter Olympics
Sunday, 15 January 2012
January 15 - Austrian starlet Elisabeth Gram made history by winning the host country's first gold medal of the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in ski halfpipe here before dedicating the victory to her late mother.
The event saw ski halfpipe make its Olympic debut after it was officially confirmed on the Olympic programme last year and it was fitting that Gram, who took up freestyle skiing at the age of 11 as a way to help cope with the death of her mother, took the first ever Olympic gold medal in the discipline.
The 15-year-old Tyrolean native claimed a superb 84.75 points to win the gold in front of a delighted crowd ahead of Norway's Tiril Sjaastad Christiansen who took silver with a score of 79.25 and France's Marine Tripier Mondancin who secured bronze with 69.50 points.
But despite expressing her delight with the win, Gram admitted her road into the sport was paved with sadness.
"When my mum died, I focused on slopestyle and last year in spring I focused on halfpipe," she said.
"Skiing is like a therapy for me.
"I can forget all the hard things in my life and it's everything I want to do."
Gram's victory came as she linked a straight-edge safety with a 540, then finished with her signature hand-plant.
"It's my special trick," said Gram of her impressive hand-plant.
"That's my trick and if I do it everyone knows, 'Yeah that's Lizzy.'
"This is just a really great day."
Christiansen admitted that she was disappointed to miss out on gold following a late crash but she put in a superb display given that she skied with a cast on her right hand after breaking her thumb in training this week.
"I just felt something was wrong and, boom, there I was laying in the pipe," she said.
"It sucks to think maybe if I landed it I would have gotten a Gold medal but I try not to think about it."
In fourth place was Canada's Shannon Gunning on 62.00, while in fifth place was the British Opening Ceremony flag bearer Katie Summerhayes after she claimed 55.00 points.
"I'm really pleased with how my two runs went, it's a great feeling to be out representing Great Britain and to be in the final is a dream come true," said Summerhayes.
"The competition here is great, all the skiers are so good but the atmosphere is so nice, we're all friends and we all ski better as a result.
"All my family and some of my old coaches were up in the crowd supporting me and to see so many GB flags waving was a great feeling."
In the men's event, Kai Mahler of Switzerland claimed the first ever men's ski halfpipe Olympic gold medal with 95.00 points to finish ahead of French silver medallist Lauri Kivari who claimed 90.00 points and American Aaron Blunck who won bronze with 87.50 points.