The curse of the Winter Olympics struck again, with heavy clouds over the birthplace of the ancient games frustrating efforts to light the flame for Turin using the sun's rays yesterday.

Bad weather also disrupted the ceremony for the Sydney 2000 Summer Games, as well as the past two Winter Olympics -- in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Nagano in 1998.

Officials had to make do with a backup flame lit during Saturday's rehearsal beside the 2,600-year-old Temple of Hera in this lush, riverside sanctuary in the western Peloponnese. Greek soap opera actress Theodora Siarkou, in the white gown and sandals of an ancient high priestess, lit that backup flame by using a concave mirror to focus the sun's heat on a silver torch -- after praying to the ancient sun god, Apollo.

In a cypress tree-ringed clearing where the heart of modern Olympics founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin is buried, Siarkou handed the flame to the first in a chain of more than 10,500 torchbearers.

The relay through Greece and Italy -- with forays into France, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia -- will end at Turin Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremonies on Feb. 10.

* GOLF: Fred Funk, who had to wear a skirt for one hole on Saturday after being outdriven by Annika Sorenstam, won the Skins Game with a total of $925,000 and 15 skins, clinching a record-setting victory when Tiger Woods missed an eight-foot birdie putt on No. 18.

Funk, 49, became the oldest Skins Game winner with a two-putt birdie on 18 that gave him the final $550,000 and six skins. He won all $700,000 available yesterday.

"I played good, but still, it's the timing," said Funk, who won $150,000 and three skins with a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-4 12th, the day's third hole. "There just weren't that many putts made."

* SOCCER: Manchester United, playing its first game since the death of George Best, rallied for a 2-1 win at West Ham in the English Premier League in London.

Wayne Rooney and John O'Shea scored early in the second half for United. Before the game, Bobby Charlton and ex-West Ham player Trevor Brooking led tributes to Best, who died on Friday at age 59.

Rooney, 20, who has drawn comparisons to Best, helped United come back after West Ham's Marlon Harewood scored after 52 seconds.

"I knew all the comparisons [to Best] were going to be coming out and quite rightly, but that's the kind of club we are anyway," United Manager Alex Ferguson said.

* HOCKEY: Avalanche left wing Steve Konowalchuk will have surgery on his right wrist and will be out the rest of the season.

The Avalanche assistant captain was injured Nov. 21 in a game against Calgary.

* PRO BASKETBALL: Mavericks forward Josh Howard will miss the team's two-game trip to Toronto and Milwaukee after injuring his ankle in Saturday's loss to Memphis.

The injury came as Howard was asserting himself as a strong front-court complement to star Dirk Nowitzki.

* FOOTBALL: Former Wyoming place kicker Sean Fleming made a 36-yard field goal in the second overtime to help the Edmonton Eskimos beat the Montreal Alouettes, 38-35, in the 93rd Grey Cup.

"We persevered. We fought back. I absolutely love these guys," said Eskimos Coach Danny Maciocia.

In the first round of only the second overtime game in Grey Cup history, Montreal's Anthony Calvillo threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Dave Stala. Edmonton's Ricky Ray countered with an 11-yarder to Jason Tucker.

* GYMNASTICS: With four gold medals, four silvers and a bronze, the American women's gymnastics team was on top of the world in Australia. Led by Nastia Liukin, Chellsie Memmel and Alicia Sacramone, the American women produced their best performance in a world championships, winning nine out of 15 medals.

* COLLEGES: The Maryland and American women's volleyball teams earned berths in the 64-team NCAA tournament.

Maryland (27-4) will play in a four-team regional hosted by Louisville, the tournament's ninth seed; the Terrapins will face Kentucky (17-11) in the first round on Friday. American (25-9) will play in a four-team regional hosted by top-seeded Nebraska; the Eagles will face Duke (23-7) in the first round on Saturday.

-- From News Services

and Staff Reports

The first Olympic torchbearer receives the flame from Greek actress Theodora Siarkou, who had to enact a backup plan.