Spain: Woman’s body identified as missing Olympic skier

International

Police and medics wait near a woodland area in Cercedilla, just outside of Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. A search squad of hundreds is combing a mountainous area outside Madrid 11 days after former alpine ski racer and Olympic medalist Blanca Fernandez Ochoa went missing.(AP Photo/Paul White)

MADRID (AP) — Spanish police found the body of former alpine ski racer and Olympic medalist Blanca Fernández Ochoa in a mountainous area near Madrid on Wednesday after days of searching for her.

Police said a tracking dog near a peak in the forested area came across a woman’s body, which friends said was believed to be 56-year-old Fernández, Spain’s first female Winter Olympic medalist.

Unidentified police sources confirmed to Spanish news agency Europa Press the body was Ochoa’s.

She won a bronze skiing for Spain in the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville and became a household name.

“I remember Blanca with fondness,” said Alberto Tomba, a three-time Italian Olympic skiing champion. “I raced for many years with her brother, Luis. It’s a terrible loss.”

In addition to the bronze medal in Albertville, Fernández had 20 World Cup podium finishes in her career.

Spanish politicians tweeted condolences. Spain’s caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, tweeted his “warmest affection” for Fernández’s family.

“Without a doubt she was one of our pioneers,” tennis player Garbiñe Muguruza said on Twitter. “An example to every woman.”

Spanish two-time Formula One champion Alonso called Fernández a “legend” in Spanish sports.

“A great reference,” said figure skater Javier Fernandez, whose bronze medal last year at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics was the first for a Spaniard since Fernández’s feat in 1992.

Some soccer clubs also released statements lamenting Fernández’s death, including Valencia and Real Madrid.

Police declined to confirm the body’s identification to The Associated Press, saying formal procedures had to be followed before an official announcement was made. But the search was called off after the discovery of the body.

Fernández was last spotted on surveillance video at a shopping mall on Aug. 24.

More than 200 police officers on foot and horseback, firefighters, forest rangers and hundreds of volunteers had combed the steep pine-forested area for days looking for Fernández.

____

AP Sports writers Tales Azzoni in Madrid and Andrew Dampf in Rome, and Barry Hatton in Lisbon, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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