Austrians strike Olympic gold

TURIN (AP) – Benjamin Raich finally gave Austria its Olympic gold medal in men’s Alpine skiing at this year’s Winter Games. About an hour later, his teammate Michaela Dorfmeister won the second. The victories provided welcome relief for a nation whose Olympics have been overshadowed by a doping scandal swirling around its Nordic team. Raich, the overall World Cup leader, won the men’s giant slalom yesterday with a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 35.00 seconds to give the Austrian men’s team a gold medal in the next-to-last Alpine event. Hermann Maier, who won the giant slalom at his last Olympics in 1998 at the Nagano Games, took bronze, finishing 0.16 behind his teammate. Joel Chenal of France got the silver, 0.07 seconds slower than Raich. Raich, who won the last two World Cup giant slalom races before these Games, was fifth after the opening leg but won the gold with a brilliant second effort. «I am speechless, overjoyed. This makes me extremely happy,» Raich said. «The Olympic victory was my greatest goal.» Dorfmeister, who also won the opening downhill last week, crossed the finish line in 1:32.47, edging Janica Kostelic by 0.27 seconds. Alexandra Meissnitzer of Austria was third in 1:33.06. «I’m flying like an angel,» Dorfmeister said. «I go home from these Olympics with two medals and they are both gold. It’s unbelievable. It’s the top to finish my career like this.» Kostelic won her fourth Olympic gold medal Saturday in the women’s combined – her first three came four years ago in Salt Lake City. She also has won two silvers – both in the super-G – to become the most decorated woman in Olympic Alpine skiing history. She still has two events to go in Turin. The Austrian and American teams came into the Olympics as the best in the world, but the rivalry has flopped. Ted Ligety gave the United States its only gold in the combined. The Austrians, however, have fared much better, with Maier also winning silver in the super-G, Michael Walchhofer taking silver in the downhill, Rainer Schoenfelder getting bronze in the combined and Marlies Schild winning silver in the women’s combined. In yesterday’s giant slalom, Bode Miller finished tied for sixth and Daron Rahlves failed to complete the first leg. The last men’s race, the slalom, is scheduled for Saturday. The women still have the slalom and giant slalom, both of which Kostelic won in Salt Lake City. The United States women’s ice hockey team, which was upset in the semifinals, won the bronze medal by beating Finland 4-0. Katie King scored three goals. Sweden was to play defending champion Canada for gold later yesterday. Two-time world champions Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov of Russia lead the ice dance heading into the free program. There was also a medal to be won in team ski jumping. In women’s curling, Norway clinched a spot in the medal round with an 8-1 win over Denmark. Also in the morning session, Japan and Russia kept their medal hopes alive, beating Italy and Sweden by identical 6-4 scores. Women’s curling continued yesterday night. On the men’s side, Canada rallied to beat the United States of America 6-3, clinching the fourth and final spot in the semifinals along with Canada, Finland and Great Britain.

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