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Spain: Woman's Body Identified As Missing Olympic Skier

Αssociated Press

Police and medics wait near a woodland area in Cercedilla, just outside of Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019. A search squad of hundreds is combing a mountainous area outside Madrid 11 days after former alpine ski racer and Olympic medalist Blanca Fernandez Ochoa went missing.(AP Photo/Paul White)

MADRID — Spanish police found the body of former alpine ski racer and Olympic medalist Blanca Fernandez Ochoa in a mountainous area near Madrid on Wednesday after days of searching for her.

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.

Unidentified police sources confirmed to Spanish news agency Europa Press the body was Ochoa's.

She won a bronze skiing for Spain in the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville and became a household name.

"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."

Αssociated Press

FILE - In this Friday, Feb. 26, 1988 file photo, Spanish skier Blanca Fernandez Ochoa speeds down the slope during the first run for the Olympic slalom competition, at Mt. Allan in Nakiska, Alberta. A search squad of hundreds is combing a mountainous area outside Madrid 10 days after former alpine ski racer and Olympic medalist Blanca Fernandez Ochoa went missing. Spain's National Police said Fernandez was last spotted on surveillance video at a shopping center on Aug. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Dieter Endlicher, File)

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

Spanish politicians tweeted condolences. Spain's caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, tweeted his "warmest affection" for Fernandez's family.

"Without a doubt she was one of our pioneers," tennis player Garbine Muguruza said on Twitter. "An example to every woman."

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

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

Αssociated Press

FILE - In this Friday, Feb. 26, 1988 file photo, Spanish skier Blanca Fernandez Ochoa speeds down the slope during the first run for the Olympic slalom competition, at Mt. Allan in Nakiska, Alberta. A search squad of hundreds is combing a mountainous area outside Madrid 10 days after former alpine ski racer and Olympic medalist Blanca Fernandez Ochoa went missing. Spain's National Police said Fernandez was last spotted on surveillance video at a shopping center on Aug. 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Dieter Endlicher, File)

Some soccer clubs also released statements lamenting Fernandez's death, including Valencia and Real Madrid.

Police declined to confirm the body's identification to The Associated Press, saying formal procedures had to be followed before an official announcement was made. But the search was called off after the discovery of the body.

Fernandez was last spotted on surveillance video at a shopping mall on Aug. 24.

More than 200 police officers on foot and horseback, firefighters, forest rangers and hundreds of volunteers had combed the steep pine-forested area for days looking for Fernandez.

By: Aritz Parra, Associated Press