PYEONGCHANG, March 10: Slovakian skier Henrieta Farkasova won the first gold medal of the Pyeongchang Paralympics today and the USA clinched a hat-trick of victories as sporting action got under away at Games marked by a rapid inter-Korean thaw.
Medals were up for grabs in alpine skiing and biathlon. Russian athletes, competing under a neutral flag after a mass doping scandal, clinched two golds while France also won two.
The Paralympics opened Friday with a glittering ceremony that mixed spectacular light shows and fireworks with traditional Korean performances and modern pop music.
North Korea was in focus as the country�s first two athletes to ever compete at a Winter Paralympics paraded into the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium under their own country�s flag.
It was the latest stage of a detente on the Korean peninsula that began at last month�s Winter Olympics, and culminated with this week�s announcement that US President Donald Trump had agreed to meet the North�s leader Kim Jong Un.
Slovakia�s Farkasova was the first to take gold, skiing to victory in the women�s vision-impaired downhill category, accompanied by her guide Natalia Subrtova.
She completed the course at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre in 1min 29.72sec, beating second-placed Millie Knight of Britain and her guide Brett Wild by 0.86sec.
It was Farkasova�s sixth Paralympic gold, and she hailed her victory as �great, amazing�.
�Hopefully we can inspire through our achievements and (show) others to strive and do their best,� she said.
The USA, who have the biggest team at the Paralympics with 69 athletes, got off to a good start, wining three golds, one silver and a bronze.
In the biathlon � which combines skiing and shooting � the Americans took gold and silver in the women�s sit ski, with Kendall Gretsch coming first and Oksana Masters second.
Gretsch said her victory was �pretty unexpected�.
�It�s my first Paralympics, first race, so it�s just a great way to kick off the week and hopefully (there�s) more to come,� she said.
American Daniel Cnossen, a former US Navy Seal, took gold in the men�s sit ski.
Andrew Kurka from Team USA won gold in the men�s sitting downhill skiing, with Japan�s Taiki Morii clinching silver.
In an echo of last month�s Winter Olympics, 30 Russian athletes are competing as neutrals after the country was banned over allegations of state-sponsored doping.
Russian biathletes Ekaterina Rumyantseva, competing in women�s standing, and Mikhalina Lysova, in the women�s vision-impaired category, both won gold today.
Marie Bochet and Benjamin Daviet clinched France�s first golds, in women�s standing downhill skiing and men�s standing biathlon respectively.
The North Korean athletes at the Games are two cross-country skiers, Kim Jong Hyon and Ma Yu Chol.
They had originally been expected to march alongside their South Korean counterparts at Friday�s opening but a row over how their �unification flag� should appear halted the plan.
But it is only a minor sticking point in the rapid Olympics-driven rapprochement between the North and South, who are still technically at war.
At last month�s Winter Olympics opening, athletes from the two Koreas marched together and Kim Jong Un�s sister attended the ceremony. � AFP