PY6EONGCHANG-American teenager Chloe Kim and Austrian ski ace Marcel Hirscher lit up the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Tuesday on a day of drama that included the first doping scandal of the Games.

Snowboarder Kim, 17, snatched the first of the day's eight gold medals in the women's halfpipe, while World Cup maestro Hirscher ended his long wait for a debut Olympic title.

But Japan's short-track speed skater Kei Saito, 21, was at the centre of the first doping scandal in Pyeongchang after testing positive for a banned diuretic. Saito, who has left the athletes' village, was provisionally suspended pending an investigation. He protested his innocence and vowed to clear his name.

"I want to fight to prove my innocence because I don't remember (taking the drug) and it's incomprehensible," he said in a statement. While Kim's brilliant run in the halfpipe stole the show, gold medals also went to Sweden and Norway in cross country skiing, and Italy in short-track speedskating. Canada beat Switzerland to win the mixed doubles curling, while the Dutch maintained their perfect record in speedskating with a double in the men's 1,500m.

On the slopes, Austrian star Hirscher cemented his legacy as the best skier of his generation with victory in the combined event.

Hirscher, 28, has been the outstanding skier in his slalom speciality for years, with 55 career World Cup wins. But one prize had always eluded him -- an Olympic gold medal. His previous best was a slalom silver from Sochi four years ago.

After playing down his chances ahead of the race at blustery freezing Pyeongchang, this time he nailed it.  "All the people expected me to win a gold medal, especially in Austria, my home country, where skiing is big," he said. "Everyone is saying, 'Nice career, but an Olympic gold medal is still missing'. This is perfect, unbelievable."

For Kim, her debut Olympics turned golden as she romped to snowboarding halfpipe victory. Born in the United States to Korean parents, Kim burst into tears as the enormity of her achievement sunk in. The teenager, who has melted the hearts of home fans in Pyeongchang, justified her status as the hot favourite with an eye-popping top score of 98.25.

Pumping her fists after finishing with back-to-back 1080 spins, Kim revealed that her number one fan -- her Seoul-based grandmother -- had been in the crowd cheering her on. "I actually only found out my grandma was at the bottom before my second run," she said. "So I thought 'this one's for Grams!'"

Also celebrating gold was Stina Nilsson, who won the women's cross country sprint classic for Sweden. In the men's event, Johannes Klaebo of Norway won gold on his Olympic debut. Italy got their first gold of the Games through Arianna Fontana in the 500m women's short-track speed skating. South Korean multi-medal hope Choi Min-jeong finished second but was disqualified.

In speed skating, the Dutch claimed their fourth gold medal with a one-two in the men's 1,500m through Kjeld Nuis and Patrick Roest. Germany celebrated a one-two in the women's luge, with Natalie Geisenberger pipping Dajana Eitberger to retain her Olympic title.

In curling, Canada's Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris danced with delight after hammering Switzerland 10-3 to take the inaugural Olympic mixed doubles title.

Calls to save combined race from axe

Newly crowned Olympic champion Marcel Hirscher led calls Tuesday to save the alpine combined, with rumours the event might have seen its last Winter Games. The combined comprises a downhill followed by a slalom raced on the same day, and is generally seen as the ultimate test for skiers.

But it has suffered in recent years, with the number of combined events scheduled on the World Cup circuit now standing at just two a season. The event is due to be stopped altogether in the 2019-2020 World Cup season, while its inclusion at the 2022 Beijing Games is at the mercy of an International Olympic Committee decision.

"They want to stop the alpine combined, (but) it's not good to put away this discipline with a lot of history," said Hirscher, who stormed to combined gold ahead of French duo Alexis Pinturault and Victor Muffat-Jeandet at Jeongseon on Tuesday.

But slalom specialist Hirscher said the combined should revert to being a "super-combined", where the downhill is replaced by a super-G, meaning a lighter schedule for both organisers and racers, as less training is needed. "In my opinion, it would be better, especially during the World Cup season, to make it with super-G, because it costs you just one day," the 28-year-old Austrian said.

"With downhill, it costs you at least four days -- three training days plus one race day. I can't do this because I need my slalom training during the week. I don't have enough time."

Hirscher was backed up Pinturault, who called the combined "a very historic discipline". "It would be a shame if they decided to stop this discipline for the next Olympics," the French racer said.

"It would be something missing because it's the only discipline where the best downhill guys can compete against the best technical guys. It's the only race where you can see the best skier in each discipline." Pinturault went on to argue that differences between the masters of speed and technique respectively were coming closer together.


 "It looks like the technical guys are coming closer to downhiller and the downhillers are getting closer to slalom guys on the slalom," he said, lamenting that the race might be halted when racing was currently at such a high level.

Bronze medallist Muffat-Jeandet added: "It could be the last combined of the Olympics. We don't know, but for me it's a little bit a shame because combined is all about skiing: skiing at speed with jumps in the downhill and then the technical side in the slalom."

The International Ski Federation, in a bid to attract more fans, has started to introduce city events featuring parallel slaloms: two racers going head-to-head in a knock-out system on slopes constructed in city centres. "It's not more skiing than combined," Muffat-Jeandet said. "But if it's the last Olympic combined I'm pretty happy to get my medal, especially with Alexis."





Home favourite Choi Min-jeong was disqualified for interference as Italy's Arianna Fontana took the honours in women's short-track skating 500m.



Austria's Marcel Hirscher underlined his status as the best skier of his generation with a first, long-overdue Olympic gold in Men's alpine skiing combined



Germany celebrated a one-two with golden girl Natalie Geisenberger pipping Dajana Eitberger to retain her Olympic title in women's luge singles.



Sweden's Stina Nilsson claimed her first Olympic title when the won ahead of Maiken Falla of Norway in women's cross-country sprint.



American teenage sensation Chloe Kim romped to women’s snowboarding halfpipe gold -- before bursting into tears as the enormity of her achievement sunk in at age 17.