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U.S. finally breaks through in bobsled

Ohno goes 0-for-2 in speedskating

Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Olympic number for Saturday -- lucky and unlucky -- was two.

As in two medals for the U.S. men's bobsledders, a silver and a bronze, breaking a 46-year run of Winter Games futility.

As in Apolo Anton Ohno's 0-for-2 in his last pair of Olympic races, leaving the 19-year-old short-track speedskating sensation with two medals in his first-ever games.

As in two runs in the men's slalom -- one too many for U.S. skier Bode Miller, who started his second run in -- where else? -- second place before ending up 25th.

Ending an era of Winter Games failure that stretched from Elvis to Britney, the two American bobsled teams swept to silver and bronze medals that few would have predicted before the opening ceremony two weeks ago.

While Miller and Ohno were disappointed, the bobsled teams were ... delirious, out of their minds with glee. They climbed into the stands, high-fived the fans, hugged each other in celebration.

Although the gold medal went to Germany 2, driven by Andre Lange, second place -- not to mention third -- was every bit as sweet to the Americans.

''We came out here wanting a medal of any color -- it didn't matter,'' said Todd Hays, driver of silver-medal winning USA-1. ''What an amazing ending.''

USA-1, piloted by ex-college linebacker Hays, was in third place before a fourth and final run that earned the silver. USA-2, with captain Brian Shimer in his fifth and final Olympics, led his squad from fourth into a bronze.

''After 16 years, this is a fairy tale ending,'' said Shimer. Asked if he might reconsider retirement, the 39-year-old was adamant: ''That's it. I would never come back after that finish.''

Hays said he nearly passed out when it became clear that the Olympic monkey was finally off their sled.

It was the first U.S. men's bobsled medal since the four-man team took bronze at Cortina, Italy, in 1956.

The bobsled results solidified the American hold on second place in the overall medals race.

With just two gold medals left to hand out Sunday, Germany continued to lead all countries with 35 medals (12 gold, 16 silver, seven bronze). The Americans were second with its best-ever 33 medals (10-12-11), followed by Norway with 22 (11-7-4).

SHORT-TRACK SPEEDSKATING: Ohno, one of the Winter Games most-hyped performers, came up short in both his races on the penultimate night of the Olympics. He wound up with a gold and silver, rather than the four golds that he sought.

In the 500 meters, the 19-year-old was disqualified after collision with Japanese skater Satoru Terao. And later, in the 5,000-meter relay, the Americans finished last among the four competing teams.

''This is my first games, and I got two medals,'' Ohno said after the relay loss. ''Nothing is better than that.''

The Canadians, led by double-gold medalist Marc Gagnon, won the relay. Italy won the silver, and China won the bronze.

Though the spotlight was on Ohno, teammate Rusty Miller grabbed a bronze medal in the 500 meters. The gold went to Gagnon, whose teammate Jonathan Guilmette took the silver.

In the women's 1,000 meters -- it's true, it's true -- Yang Yang (A) of China won the gold medal, Yang Yang (S) of China won the bronze, and Ko Gi-hyun of South Korea won the silver.

MEN'S SLALOM: Bode Miller was battered and beaten.

Miller, the U.S. skier who had already won a pair of silver medals in his first two races, staggered to a 25th place finish Saturday in the men's slalom. It ended his personal Olympic winning streak at 10 days -- he first medaled on Feb. 13.

Miller, second following his first run, might have grabbed a third medal if he opted for a conservative trip down the treacherous course that sent several skiers sprawling.

But Miller, true to form, went for broke -- and wound up busted.

He twice veered off the course, dashing his chances at a medal. Miller, who took silver in the giant slalom and the combined, finished nearly 12 seconds behind gold medalist Jeann-Pierre Vidal of France.

''If I had backed off and I came down in fifth place or sixth place, I think I would have been really disappointed,'' Miller said. ''I was going for the win.''

Sebastien Amiez of France won the silver, and Alain Baxter won bronze, becoming the first British skier to win an Alpine medal.

From Scotland, Baxter is known as ''The Highlander.''

MEN'S HOCKEY: The Russians not only showed up for the bronze medal game, they won it.

One day after a bitter 3-2 loss to the Americans, the Russians bounced back with a 7-2 thumping of heavy underdog Belarus. The Russians, led by a pair of goals from Alexei Kovalev, scored five answered goals after Belarus evened the game at 2-2 in the second period.

Russian coach Slava Fetisov, who had bitterly ripped the referees after the semifinal loss, shook hands and hugged his coaches after the win. The Russians, who have now won 12 Olympic hockey medals, had threatened to skip the game over their complaints about biased Olympic officiating.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: Just as his Web site proclaims, Johann Muehlegg is the ''king of Solider Hollow.'' Muehlegg, a German who became a Spanish citizen in 1999, won his third gold medal of the games in the 50-kilometer classical race.

''Now I am feeling very tired,'' Muehlegg said. ''I'm not sure if I will be able to celebrate these gold medals.''

Muehlegg -- known as ''Juanito'' in his adopted country -- switched affiliations after a 1999 falling out with the German ski federation.

He emerged as the dominant skier at the Soldier Hollow course in these Olympics.

Russian Mikhail Ivanov won the silver, while Estonia's Andrus Veerpalu took the bronze.

Muehlegg earlier won gold in the 30K freestyle and 10K pursuit. Only Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, with four golds, and Croatia's Janica Kostelic, with three, have done as well as Muehlegg.

SPEEDSKATING: Two-time defending gold medalist Claudia Pechstein of Germany, in a world record performance, took the gold in the women's 5,000 meters.

It was her second gold of the games, and made her just the second speedskater to ever win three consecutive Olympic titles. American Bonnie Blair won the 500 in 1988, '92 and '94.

Pechstein, 30, now has seven career Olympic medals, including four golds.

Finishing second in the 12 1/2-lap race was Gretha Smit of the Netherlands, who briefly held the world record until Pechstein's unparalleled trip around the Utah Olympic Oval.

Clara Hughes of Canada took bronze.

It was the eighth world record in 10 events at the Salt Lake City Games, topping the previous mark of seven set at the 1988 Calgary Olympics.



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