Winter Olympics: Gooch flu scare dismissed as skiers lose out

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The Independent Online
Fears that the British speed skater Nicky Gooch had become the first athlete in Nagano to be stricken by a flu bug sweeping the Japanese Alps were dismissed yesterday.

"He just has a slight cold," said a British team spokesman, Mark Howell. "Several of the team are sniffling." Gooch, one of Britain's medal hopes at the Winter Games, will compete in the 500 metres and 1,000m short track races which begin next week.

The International Olympic Committee has warned athletes about a flu bug after more than 1,000 people in the area were stricken by a virus. It causes high fever, pain in the joints and stomach ache.

British skiers made a bad start to the Alpine events when James Ormond and Andrew Freshwater both went off after missing gates on the first run of the men's combined slalom. Ireland's Paul-Patrick Schwarzacher-Joyce made it to the bottom but 12 seconds slower than the first-run winner, Mario Reiter of Austria.

Austria's Hermann Maier, a favourite for five events, is unlikely to win the combined title after making a bad mistake which left him three seconds off the pace.

Russia's Artur Dimitriev produced a classic display, along with Oksana Kazakova, to become the first man to win the Olympic pairs figure-skating titles with different partners.