Zoeggeler stuns Hackl in luge

Monday, February 11, 2002

AP Sports WriterSALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Break out the vino, there's a new luge king.

Italy's Armin Zoeggeler went into Monday's final round with the lead, then added to it with a track record on the morning's first run. A solid final ride, the last of the event, secured the gold, dethroning three-time Olympic champion Georg Hackl of Germany.

Hackl, who set the track record Sunday night, was trying to become the first Winter Olympian to win the same event four straight times. He got silver, though, making him the first winter athlete to medal in five consecutive Olympics. Hackl edged Zoeggeler for gold at the 1998 Nagano Games.

Bronze went to Hackl's top rival, Markus Prock of Austria, a 10-time World Cup champion who in his first run Monday broke Zoeggeler's track record.

Adam Heidt of Northport, N.Y., was fourth, just missing out on winning the first singles medal for the U.S. team since luge became an Olympic sport in 1964.

Instead, the first big red, white and blue moment Monday came from curling, where the American men scored a 10-5 first-round upset over Sweden, winner of two of the last five world titles.

The only other medal to be decided by midday Monday was the women's 15-kilometer biathlon, surprisingly won by Germany's Andrea Henkel.

Liv Grete Poiree of Norway won silver and Sweden's Magdalena Forsberg, the greatest female biathlete, missed twice at the last shooting station to take third. The top American, Rachel Steer, was 31st.

The U.S. team fared better in men's halfpipe snowboarding, filling four of the 12 spots in the Monday afternoon final. Jarret Thomas, Danny Kass, Ross Powers and Tommy Czeschin were the second through fifth qualifiers.

The women's downhill was to have been run Monday, but high winds delayed Picabo Street's quest to become the first American woman to win three Olympic skiing medals by at least one day.

Later Monday, the men's 20-kilometer biathlon and pairs figure skating were to be decided.

The first weekend went great for the host nation, starting with a rousing opening ceremony that featured a solemn tribute to a torn flag and a "miraculous" lighting of the flame courtesy of the 1980 U.S. hockey team. TV ratings were the highest from any Olympics.

Most importantly, the $315 million security force had a gold medal-caliber performance.

Competitions went smoothly, with a fair share of surprises -- and NFL-style parity: The first nine events were won by different countries.

Americans wasted no time getting started toward their goal of 20 medals, picking up silvers Saturday from mogul skier Shannon Bahrke and speedskater Derek Parra, then snowboarder Kelly Clark struck gold Sunday.


-- WOMEN'S HALFPIPE: With the song "This is Growing Up" pumping through her headphones, 18-year-old Clark helped her sport come of age with a victory that instantly gave snowboarding more credibility than the X-Games could ever provide.

"Snowboarders have their reputations," Clark said. "But my doing this, especially in the U.S., says a lot. Maybe it will shine a light on snowboarding, and people will look at it in a different way."

Soaring and spinning higher and faster than her foes, Clark was so spectacular the French judge gave her a perfect 10.0, knocking Doriane Vidal of France to second. Fabienne Reuteler of Switzerland won the bronze.

American Shannon Dunn, the 1998 bronze medalist, finished fifth and teammate Tricia Byrnes was sixth.


-- MEN'S DOWNHILL: After swooshing through the ultra-steep downhill course, Austria's Fritz Strobl -- a 29-year-old police officer who'd never won a medal in a major competition -- called his wife and two young sons with some big news: He snared the gold.

"I was just thinking of racing down the course, not of winning," said Strobl.

Lasse Kjus of Norway finished second and Stephan Eberharter, the Austrian expected to win, was third. American medal hopeful Daron Rahlves finished 16th.

"It's a tough one to swallow," Rahlves said.


-- SPEEDSKATING: The Utah Olympic Oval is living up to its speedy reputation.

Parra set a world record in the 5,000 meters Saturday, then saw the Netherlands' Jochem Uytdehaage smash his mark to take the gold.

On Sunday, Germany's Claudia Pechstein won the gold by breaking her own world record in the 3,000 meters by more than 1 1/2 seconds. Renate Groenewold of the Netherlands was second and Canada's Cindy Klassen third.

Anni Friesinger, who had won every 3,000 race during the World Cup season, was fourth. American Jennifer Rodriguez finished seventh despite breaking her own national record.


-- FIGURE SKATING: The pairs competition goes into its free skate program Monday with the Russian duo of Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze leading the way.

After Saturday night's short program, world champions Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada were in second and Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo of China were in third.

Americans Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman were fifth and Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn were 11th.


-- MEN'S HOCKEY: Slovakia, which might have proven dangerous in the final round with all its NHL stars, won't be around to find out.

A 6-6 tie with Latvia on Sunday and a 3-0 loss to Germany on Saturday eliminated the Slovaks from the preliminary round. Austria is also out, following a 4-2 loss to Latvia and a 3-2 loss to Germany.

That leaves Germany (2-0) playing Latvia (1-0-1) on Tuesday night for a spot in the eight-team final round.

In the battle for the other finals berth, Belarus won its opener over Ukraine 1-0 on a power-play goal by Oleg Mikulchik, who last played in the NHL six years ago, and France tied Switzerland 3-3.


-- FREESTYLE MOGULS: Here's what Bahrke did to win the first U.S. medal of these games: A leaping, full revolution with the tips of her skis crossed, all while looking back toward the top of the hill.

That move, called a helicopter iron-cross, put her in first until Kari Traa of Norway passed her for the gold. Defending Olympic champ Tae Satoya of Japan took bronze.


-- NORDIC COMBINED: Todd Lodwick put in perspective his seventh-place finish, the best ever by an American.

"A lot of Norwegians, they don't have a clue how to throw a football. It's pathetic," he said.

Samppa Lajunen of Finland won the two-day event that combines ski jumping and cross-country racing, dropping countryman Jaakko Tallus, the first-day leader, to second. Austria's Felix Gottwald got bronze.


-- SKI JUMPING: Germany's Sven Hannawald was thinking gold. He'd just made the longest jump of the day on the 90-meter hill and the only challenger left was a 20-year-old coming off injuries.

Then Simon Ammann turned those thoughts to silver with a final jump that earned Switzerland its first ski jumping medal since 1972.

"He came out of nowhere," said American Alan Alborn, who finished 11th.

Poland's Adam Malysz was third.


-- WOMEN'S CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: The first medal of the Salt Lake City Games went to Italy's Stefania Belmondo in the 15-kilometer cross-country race.

The victory came 10 years after her first Olympic gold.

"It's incredible," said Belmondo, a five-time Olympian who won six other medals between the golds.

Americans Nina Kemppel, Barbara Jones and Kristina Joder finished 30th, 44th and 54th.

The men opened with a 30-kilometer race won by Johann Muehlegg of Spain. Austria's Christian Hoffmann was second and teammate Mikhail Botvinov third. The best U.S. hope, Justin Wadsworth, did not finish.

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