Searchers hunt missing Spanish Olympian in mountain area

Police 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)
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Hundreds of searchers, helped by helicopters and drones, combed a mountainous area outside Madrid Tuesday, 10 days after the last known sighting of former alpine ski racer and Olympic medalist Blanca Fernández Ochoa.

Spain’s National Police said Fern├índez, 56, has been missing since she was last spotted on surveillance video at a shopping center on Aug. 24.

Her car was later found in Cercedilla, a mountainous village and resort popular with hikers where Fern├índez’s family has deep roots.

According to Spanish media, the relatives only alerted authorities about her disappearance on Aug. 29 because it wasn’t unusual for the former alpine ski champion to go on multiple-day hikes in the area, even without her phone.

A police spokesman for the Madrid province who wasn’t authorized to be named in media reports said that authorities are looking into “various investigation threads.” He declined to elaborate.

On Tuesday, more than 200 police officers on foot and on horse, firefighters, forest rangers and hundreds of volunteers searched the steep pine-forested landscape of gullies and peaks. They were aided by more than 100 tracking dogs, helicopters and at least seven drones, police said.

Fern├índez won a bronze in the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, becoming Spain’s first female Winter Olympic medalist.

Her elder brother, Francisco Fernández Ochoa, a 1972 gold medalist, has a statue in his honor in Cercedilla.q