Brilliant Mayer claims downhill gold

 Austrian Matthias Mayer conquered the treacherous Rosa Khutor run at Russia's Winter Olympics on Sunday to win the men's downhill, while the host nation eyed its first medal of the Games in the inaugural figure skating team event.

On the second day of full competition on Russia's Black Sea coast, Mayer claimed one of the Games' biggest titles as pre-race favourites American Bode Miller and Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal failed to make the podium.

Organisers said many ticket holders were not getting into venues because they were turning up too late, explaining some of the thousands of empty seats at the skating and skiing events.

But at least the focus was on the Olympics rather than threats of militant attacks and an international outcry over Russian legislation banning gay propaganda among minors which overshadowed the buildup.

President Vladimir Putin, who has staked his reputation on a successful Games, won support from an unlikely quarter when lesbian Austrian ski jumper and gay rights advocate Daniela Iraschko-Stolz said public reaction to the law was exaggerated.
The 30-year-old Iraschko-Stolz married her lesbian partner last year, becoming a rare Austrian athlete to come out openly as gay.

Russia has been criticised for legislation it says is needed to defend minors. Activists say it fuels anti-gay violence.

Asked whether she was worried about the law, Iraschko-Stolz replied: "No, on the contrary, I think everything is being blown up bigger than it is. I had a very good welcome like every other athlete: there were absolutely no problems."

Mayer, the son of 1988 super-G silver medallist Helmut and just 23-years-old, edged out Italy's Christof Innerhofer by 0.06 seconds on an overcast day in the Caucasus mountains. "It's crazy. It's the greatest thing you can achieve as a sportsman – unbelievable," he said.

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