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Street's final run

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- This is it for Picabo Street. She'll have to ski from behind and beat the world's best in her final bid for another Olympic downhill medal.

Same goes for figure skaters Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman, who enter the pairs free skate Monday within sight of the podium but as long shots to win against the powerful Russians and Canadians.

The Americans could have a tough third day of competition, although luge racer Adam Heidt was a surprising fourth midway through the two-day competition Sunday. He's trailing the three best lugers in the business.

Curling and biathlon get under way, and American medals in either sport would come as big surprises.

Other events include the men's snowboard halfpipe and speedskating qualification heats in the men's 500 meters. The men's hockey tournament continues with preliminary-round games.

Women's hockey teams begin their preliminary games but the defending gold medalist Americans, undefeated in 31 games on a pre-Olympic tour, don't drop the puck until Tuesday.

Street had the fastest training time Saturday on the women's Wildflower downhill course.

lowed by teammate Caroline Lalive. Then on Sunday, Austrians Renate Goetschl won and teammate Michaela Dorfmeister was second.

Dorfmeister is the World Cup points leader, followed by Goetschl. Reigning downhill world champion Hilde Gerg of Germany placed fourth in training, dropping Street to seventh.

''I didn't want to walk out of here with the heat on my shoulders like I did yesterday,'' Street said.

Street, who won a downhill silver medal at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics and gold in super-G four years later in Nagano, has been preparing for the Salt Lake City downhill for two years.

She moved to Park City during her rehabilitation after surgery following a crash in March 1998, an accident the broke her left leg and shredded her right knee.

Street often describes her fondness for the mountain. She has hiked up Wildflower and last spring she won a race there against a world-class field.

''I've got as good a chance as anybody at taking the gold,'' Street said. ''It's in my back yard. I'm comfortable. I couldn't ask for anything more.''

She didn't qualify to defend her Nagano super-G gold, but Street thinks that's an advantage in downhill because it's her only race.

''I don't have to hold back,'' she said. ''I can really risk everything I have to risk. I'm going to let it all hang out because I have everything to gain.''

In pairs figure skating, Ina and Zimmerman were in fifth place after the short program. To medal, they'll need a flawless free skate and a slip by third-place Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China.

Zimmerman was asked if he and Ina can perform better in the free skate.

''We're going to have to,'' he said.

The gold looks like a showdown between Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia and Canadian world champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

The spotlight in men's luge is on superstars Georg Hackl of Germany, Armin Zoeggeler of Italy and Markus Prock of Austria.

Zoeggeler is a three-time World Cup champion while Prock has won three world titles. Hackl, meanwhile, is trying to become the first Winter Olympian to win the same event four times.

''How can you bet against him?'' American luger Tony Benshoof said. ''Hackl has the unique ability to rise to any occasion.''

The U.S. men snowboarders will try to follow Kelly Clark's gold in the women's halfpipe, the first American gold in Salt Lake. The American contenders are 19-year-old Danny Kass and Ross Powers, a bronze medalist in Nagano.

Alaskan Jay Hakkinen, who finished 42nd in Nagano, is considered the top American in the 20-kilometer biathlon race. Germans Frank Luck or Sven Fischer are likely to set the pace.



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