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SKIING

Spain mourns Blanca Fernández Ochoa, the Olympian skier found dead in Madrid’s sierra

The body of former Spanish alpine skimedallist Blanca Fernández Ochoa was found Wednesday in a mountainous area near Madrid after days of searches for her by hundreds of police and volunteers, officials said.

Spain mourns Blanca Fernández Ochoa, the Olympian skier found dead in Madrid's sierra
Archive photo of Blanca Fernández Ochoa during her Olympic career.

The 56-year-old — won a bronze skiing for Spain in the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, becoming the country's first female Winter Olympic medallist — had been missing since she was last spotted on surveillance video at a shopping centre on August 24th.

Her car was later found at a parking lot near the start of a hiking trail in Cercedilla, a mountainous village near Madrid. The authorities said they are still investigating the cause of her death.

“Solidarity, support and human warmth have been felt these days in the mountains of Cercedilla. Security forces and many volunteers have taken part in the search for Blanca Fernández Ochoa. But nothing could be done. My affection to all her family,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted.

Hundreds of police, firefighters, forest rangers and volunteers, backed by helicopters, drones and tracking dogs, had taken part in the search for Fernández Ochoa.

Her family only alerted the authorities about her disappearance on August 29th because they said it was not unusual for her to go on hikes in the area, even without her phone, according to Spanish media reports.

Police on Saturday issued an appeal on social media for help from the public in locating Fernández Ochoa along with a picture of her, which drew media attention to her disappearance.

She was well known in Spain, where she had taken part in several TV reality shows after retiring from sports.

Her older brother, Francisco Fernández Ochoa, won a gold medal for skiing in the 1972 Winter Olympics in Japan. He is the first and only Spaniard to have won a gold medal at the Winter Olympics.   

There is a statue in his honour in Cercedilla.   

Until 2018 the brother and sister were the only Spaniards to have won medals at a Winter Olympics.

“It is a very sad day for Spanish sports,” Spain's secretary of state for sports, Maria Jose Rienda, said in a statement.

READ ALSO: Snowboarder from Ceuta wins Olympic medal for Spain

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SKIING

Austria avalanche kills three

An avalanche in the Salzburg region killed three people and injured two while they were skiing off-piste, Austria's Red Cross said Saturday.

Snow and avalanche protection fences seen on a clear day on mountains surrounding Lech am Arlberg, western Austria
Some mountains in Austria have snow and avalanche protection fences, like these seen on a clear day on mountains surrounding Lech am Arlberg, western Austria. ALEXANDER KLEIN / AFP

The accident happened Saturday about 2,400 metres (7,800 feet) up in the Lungau district, soon after 1:45 pm local time, Red Cross spokesman Anton Schilcher told the APA agency.

The snow buried eight of the group up to 4.5 metres deep, local emergency response official Christoph Wiedl told local media.

Two of the victims were already dead when their bodies were recovered, while the third died after being airlifted to hospital in Klagenfurt.

The two injured skiers were taken to hospital in the town of Tamsweg.

The skiers caught in the avalanche were from a group from the regions of Salzburg and Upper Austria.

In recent years, an average of around 20 people a year have been killed annually by avalanches in Austria.

The last two seasons were less deadly as the coronavirus pandemic reduced the number of skiers overall.

Avalanches killed four people in western Austria’s Tyrol region last February.

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