Body of Spanish Olympic Skier Found in Mountains Outside Madrid

Spanish Olympian Blanca Fernandez Ochoa found dead

Spanish Olympian Blanca Fernandez Ochoa found dead

Twelve days after she disappeared without a trace, and after four days of intense searching, Olympic champion Blanca Fernández Ochoa has been found dead, news agency EFE confirmed on Wednesday, citing sources close to the investigation.

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 Fernandez, Spain's first female Winter Olympic medalist.

"I think she must have gone to the family's favorite area", she said. But the search was called off after its discovery.

She had not taken her cellphone, however, and family members grew concerned when they lost contact with her, their worry growing when her Mercedes was found September 1 parked at a popular hiking spot in Cercedilla in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountains, about an hour northwest of Madrid.

In 1992 Fernandez Ochoa became the first Spanish woman to win a medal at the Winter Olympics, taking home bronze in the slalom in Albertville, France. The force said on Twitter that the massive search operation included drones, helicopters and specialist teams.

"Solidarity, support and human warmth have been felt these days in the mountains of Cercedilla".

Blanca's sister Dores Fernandez Ochoa is seen arriving near the Hotel Cirilo in Cercedilla, which acts as the base of the search.

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Police on Saturday issued an appeal on social media for help from the public in locating Fernandez Ochoa along with a picture of her, which drew media attention to her disappearance.

Fernandez was last spotted on surveillance video at a shopping centre on August 24.

In the days since her disappearance, her family, with son David reportedly joining the search, had congregated in the mountains, hoping that Fernandez would be found safe.

'It is a very sad day for Spanish sports, ' Spain's secretary of state for sports, Maria Jose Rienda, said in a statement.

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

News about Fernandez's death brought reactions from National Basketball Association star Pau Gasol, the Real Madrid organisation, Formula 1 driver Carlos Sainz and others who praised her as a legend of Spanish sports. He finished first in slalom at the 1972 games.

"A great reference", said figure skater Javier Fernandez, whose bronze medal a year ago at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics was the first for a Spaniard since Fernandez's feat in 1992. He died of lymphatic cancer in 2006.

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