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Tuesday September 3, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

The body of former Spanish alpine skier Blanca Fernández Ochoa has been found after days of searches.

Ms Fernández, 56, was discovered in a mountainous area near Madrid after a search involving hundreds of police and volunteers.

She had been missing since 23rd August.

Ms Fernández was the first Spanish woman to win a medal at the Winter Olympics after she took bronze in the Albertville Games in France in 1992.

Tributes have been paid.

"The solidarity, support and human warmth in the Cercedilla mountain range has been touching," Spain's acting prime minister, Pedro Sanchez.

"The emergency services and numerous volunteers have got involved in the search for Blanca Fernandez Ochoa but it wasn't meant to be. I send my thoughts to all her family."

"It is a very sad day for Spanish sports," said María José Rienda, Spain's secretary of state for sports.

"Sad for the news of the death of an important athlete in the history of Spanish sport," said the tennis player, Rafa Nadal.

"Pioneer in our country in her sport."

"Lots of encouragement and strength to your daughter and family in these sad and difficult times.

"RIP Blanca Fernandez Ochoa."

"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."

Spanish two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso called Fernandez a "legend" in Spanish sports.

Fernando Alonso pays tributeFernando Alonso pays tribute



















"A great reference," said figure skater Javier Fernandez, whose bronze medal last year at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea was the first for a Spaniard since Fernandez's feat in 1992.

Some soccer clubs also released statements on her death, including Valencia and Real Madrid.

Real Madrid pays tributeReal Madrid pays tribute











She was last seen on 23rd August after leaving the Aravaca area of Madrid.

She said she was going hiking.

The police issued this recent photo of the former Olympian.

Blanca Fernandez OchoaBlanca Fernandez Ochoa - photo Policia Nacional

Officials said on Sunday that a black Mercedes A-Class car that Ms Fernández was last seen driving had been located in a town near the Spanish capital.

The search was centred on the area around the town, Cercedilla, which is the Sierra de Guadarrama. 

Spanish police searchSearch teams - photo Policia Nacional

Around 150 volunteers joined 300 professionals from the emergency services in combing the mountainous area.

The police said only adults experienced in mountain hiking and with their own supplies were asked to help out. 

Helicopters, dogs, mounted police, high mountain specialists and the Red Cross were involved in the search operation.

The authorities also used drones over terrain that was difficult to access.

Her body was foud by a sniffer dog and it is believed she died from injuries sustained in a fall.

Spanish police searchThe search is stepped up - photo Policia Nactional

Blanca Fernández Ochoa took part in four Winter Olympics between 1980 and 1992.

She won bronze in the slalom in the 1992 games at Albertville in France.

In a recent interview she said her bronze medal was a "great source of pride for women's sport.....At the time that medal felt like gold to me."

During her World Cup career she had four victories, 20 podiums and 69 top-ten finishes.

Blanca Fernandez OchoaBlanca Fernandez Ochoa

"The International Ski Federation would like to express its deepest condolences to the friends and family of former Spanish Olympic Alpine racer Blanca Fernández Ochoa, 56, who passed away on a hiking expedition in her native Spain," the worldwide body said in a statement.

Her brother, Francisco Fernández Ochoa, was the first Spaniard to win a Winter Olympic gold medal.

He stood on top of the podium at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Japan.

A statue in his honour was erected in Cercedilla, his home town, two weeks before his death from cancer at the age of 56 in 2006.

Statue in CercedillaStatue in Cercedilla - photo Raulasturias, Creative Commons licence

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