U.S. medal hopes crash and burn

Posted: Wednesday, February 07, 2001

ST. ANTON, Austria -- The spectacle belonged to the North Americans, the sweep to the Austrians and skiing history to Kjetil-Andre Aamodt.

The Norwegian captured his third straight gold medal in the combined event Tuesday -- his 14th medal at a world championships or Olympics, a record for men.

''Fourteen medals is something I can be proud of but I hope I can keep winning more,'' he said.

Michaela Dorfmeister gave Austria its first gold at the championships, leading a sweep by the powerful home nation in the women's downhill.

The Americans and the Canadians provided some of the scariest -- moments, with one crash ending the championships for U.S. skier Bode Miller.

After the two slalom runs Monday night, Aamodt entered the downhill leg with a .14-second lead over two Austrian slalom specialists.

''I had the feeling I had the gold medal after the slalom but I had to stay concentrated,'' he said.

The best downhiller in the combined field, Aamodt needed only the fourth fastest downhill time to cruise to victory on a course rutted by mild weather.

The combined is decided by adding the downhill time to the two slalom runs. The system usually favors slalom specialists.

Aamodt won in 2 minutes, 58.25 seconds. Mario Matt of Austria took the silver in 2:58.93. Paul Accola earned the bronze, recording the fastest downhill leg for a combined time of 2:59.53 and giving Switzerland its first medal.

''It means a lot to me to win this year,'' said Aamodt, who hasn't won a World Cup race this season.

Aamodt now has nine world championship medals, in a third-place tie with Pirmin Zurbriggen of Switzerland. Five of them are golds, another male record.

Dorfmeister rewarded the home country with a victory in 1:36.20.

''During the race I didn't think I was going so well, but it seemed to be enough, even though things didn't go so well in training,'' said Dorfmeister, who hugged her mother after the race. ''At the start I looked up and said, 'watch over me today.'''

She won her only World Cup downhill at this site in 1996.

''St. Anton has always been a good slope for me,'' said Dorfmeister, her eyes filling with tears.

Renate Goetschl, who had beaten Dorfmeister for the gold medal in Vail, Colo., two years ago, won the silver in 1:36.34. Selina Herreger, the last racer to gain a spot on the Austrian team, took the bronze in 1:36.37.

The North Americans had a horrific day.

Emily Brandon of Canada crashed and may have torn ligaments in her left knee. Caroline Lalive of the United States failed to finish her third straight race.

The top American woman was Kirsten Clark in 12th place, with Megan Gerety finished 17th.

Miller, fourth after the slalom leg, hit a rut midway down the course and slammed into the ground, bouncing into the safety netting. He hurt his left knee and will see a specialist in Vail.

Teammate Casey Puckett also lost control, flying through the air before being catapulted into the nets.

''It happened so fast,'' said Puckett, who hurt his thumb. ''I felt like I was attacking, but I don't think there was any way to avoid what happened.''

The only American finisher in the combined was Jakub Fiala in 12th place.

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