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Uphill Gold

FEBRUARY 11, 2002. Italian cross-country skier Stefania Belmondo won the first gold medal of the Olympic Games on Saturday, surmounting equipment failure for a brilliant final charge.

Another woman, snowboarder, Kelly Clark, took the first U.S. gold Sunday with a run including a soaring, spinning McTwist and a 720 degree rotation as her minidisc headphones played a Blink 182 tune.

A more enduring first was recorded in Thailand that same day, as Varangghana Vanavichayen, renamed Dhammarakhita, became the first woman there to be ordained a Buddhist monk.

The 56-year-old divorced mother of two, ordained by a Sri Lankan woman monk, faces an uphill battle for acceptance in her country which only recognizes male monks. Seven other female monks from Sri Lanka, Tibet, Indonesia and Taiwan attended the ceremony.

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