Spains missing Olympic medallist found dead

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Blanca Fernández Ochoa was well known in Spain after her career as a skier came to an end

The body of former Spanish alpine skier Blanca Fernández Ochoa has been found after days of searches involving hundreds of police and volunteers.

Ochoa, 56, was discovered in a mountainous area near Madrid. She had been missing since 23 August.

The authorities are now investigating the cause of her death.

She was the first Spanish woman to win a medal at the Winter Olympics, capturing bronze in France’s Albertville in 1992.

She was well loved in Spain and her late brother had won Olympic gold in skiing 20 years before her success. When her career came to an end she took part in reality TV productions such as Celebrity Island and a trampoline-jumping show.

“It is a very sad day for Spanish sports,” said María José Rienda, Spain’s secretary of state for sports. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez passed on his solidarity and love for her family.

The former skier’s daughter, Olivia Fresneda, reported her mother’s disappearance in late August.

On 1 September, a black Mercedes car Ochoa had last been seen driving was located near a village north-west of Madrid.

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Hundreds of police and volunteers were involved in the search operation

A public appeal was then issued at the request of her family.

The former skier, who was a keen hiker, had left home without her phone and not used her credit cards since she vanished, police sources told El País at the time.

Ochoa’s body was found by a tracking dog on Wednesday.

What could have happened?

The ex-skier was known to have loved hiking on the mountain, La Peñota, and police believe she had been dead for between seven and 10 days.

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The ex-skier’s son David had gone to Cercedilla to hear the news

A post mortem examination was being carried out but reports said there were no obvious signs that she had been hurt in a fall. Her body was found some 20m (65ft) from a path and some 90 minutes’ walk from where she had parked her car, at the foot of a hiking trail near the village of Cercedilla, north-west of Madrid.

A witness said he had seen her in Cercedilla, where a statue has been set up to her brother, who died of cancer several years ago. “Paquito” Fernández Ochoa was also a skier, who won Spain’s first Winter Olympic gold in 1972.

According to the witness, Blanca Fernández Ochoa told him she was going hiking up the mountain trial even though she did not have a backpack. Spanish media report that before leaving she kissed her brother’s statue and crossed herself.

She had moved in with her sister several months ago after a divorce and officials urged people not to speculate on what led to her death.

Who was Blanca Fernández Ochoa?

Born in Madrid in 1963, she took part in four Winter Olympics between 1980 and 1992.

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In an interview in 2014, she said skiing had become an “obsession” – but admitted she preferred playing golf since retiring.

She was one of five siblings who competed at the Winter Olympics for the Spanish skiing team.

Her brother, Francisco Fernández Ochoa, was the first Spaniard to win a gold medal at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan.

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