Swiss 1-2 as skimo celebrates its first yog champion

With cowbells clanging and her childhood friends screaming, Switzerland’s Caroline Ulrich crossed the line first in the women’s individual event to become ski mountaineering’s first Youth Olympic Games champion.

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“It was a very hard race,” Ulrich said. “The track was good but a little bit slippery so it was a long struggle for me but I am so happy now.”

Her victory meant the host nation won the first two gold medals of Games, after Alpine skier Amelie Klopfenstein (SUI) won the Super-G earlier on Friday morning.

The hundreds of local fans who joined international supporters on the testing Villars Winter Park course were then doubly rewarded when Ulrich’s teammate, Thibe Deseyn, pictured above trailing Ulrich, took the silver medal.

“It’s incredible,” Deseyn said. “It was the most important race of my life and also my best race.”

Ski mountaineering, known as skimo, is making its Games debut in Lausanne. The exhausting mix of uphill and downhill racing tests an athlete’s skiing, climbing and endurance. Of the 23 women’s starters, 22 completed the course.

France’s Margot Ravinel claimed the bronze medal. “I’m really happy to have given one of the first [Games] medals to France,” she said.

At the finish line to congratulate Ulrich were Lara Bayer and Maya Pilloud. The Swiss teenagers, distinctive in matching “onesie” cow costumes, have known the new champion since they were together in kindergarten.

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“She trains so hard so we are very happy for her,” Bayer said. “She has her mother and her family here also.”

And will there be a party tonight? “Yes,” answered Bayer and Pilloud together. A golden day deserves such a joyful end.