Carly Brox (left) and Ciana Cerrouti, both of the Lake Placid Skating Club, prepare to do a half jump as part of their practice for the Empire State Winter Games figure skating competition this week. The Games began Thursday.

Alpine skiers Sean Madden and Cecily Decker, both of Saranac Lake, became the first gold medalists of the 2012 Empire State Winter Games when the local racers won the boys' and girls' giant slalom, respectively, Thursday, at Whiteface Mountain.

Decker's overwhelming triumph against a field of 48 athletes continued a torrid streak this winter. She recently captured the J3 Eastern Regional Championships, in slalom and giant slalom, on the same Draper's Drop course. Decker preceded those wins with a silver medal in the Hovey Memorial giant slalom, also at Whiteface Mountain.

She posted two runs totaling one minute, 29.5 seconds Thursday, good enough for a 4.5-second victory over Tara Seigle of Cold Brook. The battle for second was exciting — Saranac Lake's Macy Fischer was 0.1 behind Seigle in 1:34.2 to finish third.

Madden, like Decker, trains at Whiteface and bested the field of 47 competitors to grab gold in 1:26.4 for the two heats. He was followed by a pair of Old Forge racers, Dan Heroux and West Tickner. The closely contested race saw Heroux record a time of 1:26.8, with Ticker checking in with 1:26.9.

The events were held in conjunction with the Lake Placid High School Winter Carnival.

The two slalom races will be held at Mt. Pisgah today.

The Games officially kicked off Thursday night in Lake Placid with an Opening Ceremony in the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena.

The ceremony included a parade of athletes in 16 sports, and the dais was replete with local, county, and statewide political figures, representative of the government entities that banded together to save the ESWG when they were struck from the state's budget in November 2010.

More than 1,000 athletes registered for the Games.

Actor James Tolkan and Youth Olympic Games athlete and former ESWG bobsledder Codie Bascue of Whitehall were the featured speakers at the ceremony.

The ESWG officially began with the lighting of the cauldron. After being carried for two days through the Adirondack region, Elisa Lynch, an adaptive athlete in alpine skiing, brought the torch into the arena. Lynch handed the burning symbol to 17-year-old luge racer, ESWG competitor and Youth Olympic Games participant Raychel Germaine.

The Roswell, Ga. resident climbed the steps and lit the cauldron as Randy Douglas, chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors chairman proclaimed, "Let the Games begin."

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