U.S. claims bronze in slalom snowboarding

Friday, February 24, 2006

Swiss win gold in the event for the second straight day.

TURIN, Italy -- As they so often do in this Swiss-dominated era of parallel giant slalom, clanging cowbells announced the winner.

This time, the clanging was pleasing to American ears as well, as the bronze went to Rosey Fletcher, the first U.S. woman to climb on the podium in the Olympics' final snowboarding event.

Three-time defending world cup champion Daniela Meuli of Switzerland gave her country and its red-clad, raucous, flag-waving Alpine fans a second gold in as many days. Philipp Schoch won the men's event Wednesday, with brother Simon winning silver.

Fletcher had a .24 lead over Meuli after the first semifinal run, but the American's board went out from under her when the pair switched courses, allowing Meuli to coast into the final round.

It was a similar story in the championship race, as German Amelie Kober crashed and slid into the safety fence just as it appeared she might overtake Meuli.

In the bronze-medal race, Fletcher took a 1.5-second lead in the first run after Austrian Doris Guenther went down. Fletcher still needed to make that lead stand up when she switched to the red course, which had been the slower and more treacherous course throughout the event.

Racing cautiously, Fletcher allowed Guenther to make up ground on the top of the course, but then the American put it in overdrive on the bottom and won easily.

It was a huge victory for the U.S. team, as the 30-year-old Fletcher and 22-year-old Michelle Gorgone were considered long shots to make it to the medal stand.

Gorgone never made it to the finals, getting spun around coming past a gate on her qualifying run, a mistake that cost her too much time.

Russian captures biathlon

Russia upset two-time defending Olympic champion Germany in the women's 4x6km biathlon relay, and they did it without banished star Olga Pyleva.

Anna Bogaliy started in place of Pyleva, the only athlete caught so far in the tightest drug net in Winter Olympics history. Bogaliy gave her team a big lead at the first exchange and the Russians never trailed.

The Americans took 15th place, finishing more than 9 minutes off the pace in Rachel Steer's final Olympic race. America's best female biathlete, Steer is retiring at age 28 after the World Cup season concludes next month.

Swiss women win curling

The Swedish women's curling team rock 'n' rolled its way to another heavy medal -- this one Olympic gold.

Stars of a head-banging, leather-and-chains music video back home, the Swedes played a conservative game to beat Switzerland 7-6 with a double-takeout on the last stone of an extra end. Earlier, Canada beat Norway 11-5 in eight ends to take the bronze.

Switzerland rallied from a 6-4 deficit in the 10th and final end of regulation to force the extra end, or inning.

U.S. men shut out in aerials

As promised, Jeret "Speedy" Peterson tried his trademark trick -- the Hurricane -- on the aerials course, but a bobble on the landing did him in.

He finished seventh on a night when the world's best simply weren't making mistakes.

Han Xiaopeng of China won gold, Dmitri Dashinski of Belarus took silver and Vladimir Lebedev of Russia won bronze after coming in as only the 30th-ranked aerialist in the world.

Thus ended a disappointing Olympics for the American freestyle team on the mountain. After winning three golds in 1998 and three silvers in 2002, the entire team leaves Italy with only one medal -- the bronze won by Toby Dawson in men's moguls.

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