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Official: Judge 'pressured

Miller leads American medal stand parade

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- Five days into the Winter Games, it's impossible to keep the Americans off the medal stand -- or to avoid the growing controversy over the pairs figure skating decision.

On Wednesday night, the head of the French Olympic team said that a French figure skating judge was pressured to ''act in a certain way'' before she voted Monday to award the pairs skating gold to a Russian team.

However, Didier Gailhaguet denied any wrongdoing on the part of the French skating federation in what has become the biggest story of the Winter Games.

He described the judge, Marie-Reine Le Gougne, as ''honest and upright, but emotionally fragile.'' And he said she ''has been put under pressure, which pushed her to act in a certain way.''

But he denied that there was any ''collusion with the East European nations'' to ensure that Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze took the gold medal over Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier.

Questions of improper judging have centered on Le Gougne, one of five judges who favored the Russians despite the couple's obvious technical error. The head of the International Skating Union has said he was ''embarrassed'' by the ensuing furor.

In a highly unusual move, the International Olympic Committee ordered the figure skating union to quickly settle the judging dispute that has consumed the Winter Games for two days -- or else the IOC might settle things itself.

Back on the slopes, American Bode Miller -- whose first two runs in the combined offered faint hope of success -- roared through his final slalom trip to grab a silver medal -- the 10th medal in five days of competition for the U.S. team.

''I had a lot of mistakes out there,'' Miller told the crowd after his medal. ''I felt like I kind of let you guys down. I just wanted to prove something on that last run.''

Miller is an ex-snowboarder -- and while the U.S. team in his former sport has taken four medals, his ski silver was the first medal by an American male in Alpine since Tommy Moe won a pair in the 1994 Olympics.

The out of competition news was -- typically -- another flap over figure skating.

Miller's come-from-behind run came on a day dominated early by a Norwegian biathlete and a Swiss ski jumper, who became the first double gold-medal winners of the games.

Simon Ammann of Switzerland took the 120-meter gold, becoming only the only the second ski jumper in history to win gold medals on both hills in the same Olympics.

And Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won gold in the 10-kilometer biathlon sprint, making him the first biathlete to win three Olympic golds.

On the slopes, Miller struggled in the downhill and first slalom run. The left side of his body scraped against the snow following a fall in the downhill, and he slipped at a pair of turns in the slalom.

 

Bode Miller, of the USA, flies past a gate during his second slalom run on his way to a silver medal in the men's combined in Snowbasin, Utah Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2002 at the Salt Lake City Olympics. Miller blew away three skiers on the final slalom run _ beating the rest of the field by an amazing 1.16 seconds _ to become only the second American man to win an Alpine skiing medal since 1984.

AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati

He was 15th after the downhill and fifth overall heading into his last trip down the course. At the end, his go-for-broke run bested everyone but Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who took the gold. The bronze went to Benjamin Raich of Austria.

Aamodt's sterling Olympic career now includes two gold, two silver and two bronze medals.

Miller's silver extended the U.S. medal-winning string to five straight days, but Germany climbed to the top of the medals chart with 12 (4 gold, 6 silver, 2 bronze). The Americans were second with 10 (3-5-2), while Austria was third with 9 (1-1-7).

SKI JUMPING: Ammann -- a ski jumper with a striking resemblance to Harry Potter -- again came out of nowhere to grab a gold medal in the 120-meter jump. Three days earlier, he claimed gold in the 90-meter.

The 20-year Ammann had never even won a World Cup event before his sudden Salt Lake City success. He became only the second ski jumper in history to win gold medals on both hills in the same Olympics, joining Matti Nykanen of Finland.

Afterward, Ammann admitted that his nerves nearly got the best of him.

''I am trembling,'' Ammann said. ''I was so nervous. After takeoff, I was flying away. I felt this jump was really, really good. I can't believe it. I am the champion.''

Adam Malysz of Poland won the silver medal, and Matti Hautamaeki of Finland took the bronze.

SHORT TRACK SPEEDSKATING: Apolo Anton Ohno, perhaps the most hyped athlete of the Winter Games, stepped on the ice for the fist time in Salt Lake City and quickly advanced toward a gold medal -- one of four he could possibly win.

Ohno began his quest by finishing second in his 1,000-meter heat Wednesday night, good enough to push him to Saturday's quarterfinals. The 19-year-old later anchored the winning U.S. team in the semifinals of the 5,000 relay.

LUGE: Becky Wilczak's Olympic story didn't end with a medal, although it still had a happy ending. While the American luger finished fifth in singles, she received a hug and a smile at the bottom of the run from her father, Tom.

The elder Wilczak, 55, came to Utah from River Forest, Ill., despite a debilitating liver disease that left him in need of a transplant.

Germany swept all three luge medals, as Sylke Otto took the gold, with Barbara Niedernhuber getting silver and Silke Kraushaar winning bronze.

SPEEDSKATING: For Chris Witty, a two-time U.S. medalist in Nagano, her best wasn't good enough in the 500 meters. Despite a time just .01 off her personal fastest, Witty wound up 17th out of 31 skaters in the race, leaving her with no shot at a medal.

Canada's defending gold medalist, Catriona Le May Doan, was the fastest, setting a new Olympic record. There will be another 500 meters Thursday, with a combination of the two times deciding the winner.

WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Canada, the silver medalist in Nagano, beat Russia 7-0 for its second straight Olympic victory and a spot in the medals round. The loss dropped the Russians to 0-2, ending their medal hopes.

Sweden moved into the next round as well with a 7-0 victory over Kazakstan, ending their hopes of a Salt Lake City medal.

CURLING: The American men's team fell to 1-2 after a 9-8 loss to undefeated Germany (3-0). The U.S. team was leading until a late German comeback forced them into extra ends.



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