Hey, that's no skier! Wild lynx makes an appearance at Vancouver Olympics downhill skiing course
Skiers and lugers heard the call of the wild in the form of a critter apparently oblivious to the safety concerns of officials at Olympic venues.
An orange-and-black spotted lynx sauntered across the downhill course during the men's opening training session Wednesday. Two days earlier, one of his -- her? -- brethren was spotted outside the perimeter of the luge track during afternoon training.
The lynx is a large cat native to North America. And take it from a Canadian -- downhiller Manuel Osborne-Paradis -- the lynx is no cuddly outdoor friend when you're speeding down an icy slope at 70 mph.
"Get out of the way," he said. "Oh, wow. You do not want to get close to that."
The downhill session was already on hold because of fog, and no skiers linked with the lynx. Still, officials issued a warning over the race radio in case someone was on the course. The lynx had its own agenda and hopped over the barriers lining the course and back into the forest.
At the Whistler Sliding Center, luge forerunners were on the track preparing the ice for the Olympians at the time of the sighting. A local conservation officer was summoned, and it was decided there was no reason to stop the action on the course.
John Gibson, venue press manager at the Whistler Sliding Center, offered this reassurance: The creature was not a cougar.
"That was all planned. It's to show people Canadian nature," cracked Mike Kertesz, the International Ski Federation official in charge of the finish area.
Ski racing is no stranger to wildlife. A few years ago at a World Cup downhill in Val Gardena, Italy, a deer loped onto the course and ran next to Italian star Kristian Ghedina for the final part of his run. Ghedina made the deer his personal logo for the rest of his career.
-- Associated Press
More Olympics news at The Times' Ticket to Vancouver blog.
Top photo: A lynx walks past ski gates near the finish area of the downhill course in Whistler on Feb. 10. Credit: Gero Breloer / Associated Press
Bottom photo: A combination of three photos (just think of it as a flip book minus the pages) of the lynx as it exits the course. Credit: George Frey / European Pressphoto Agency