Sunday, February 24, 2002
Miller wins only U.S. Alpine medals
PARK CITY, Utah -- Bode Miller's two medals can't hide yet another bust by U.S. Alpine skiers at the Winter Olympics.
Miller got silvers in the giant slalom and the combined event, the first medal by an American man in either, and was heading for another medal in Saturday's slalom until he flopped on the final run.
But no other American got close to an Alpine medal. Only one woman cracked the top 10. Other than Miller, no U.S. man was in the top seven of a race.
It was an all-too-familiar story for a team that hoped an Olympics on home slopes would lead to a record medal haul.
U.S. women's coach Marjan Cernigoj said the Olympics followed the same pattern as the 2001 world championships, where the U.S. women also were shut out.
"If you don't get a medal first in the speed events, where you really have a chance, then the screw tightens every day just a little bit more," he said. "What disappointed me at the end here was the fear of failure overcame the desire for success."
Since 1984, a span covering five Olympics, only two U.S. men have won Alpine medals -- Miller and Tommy Moe, who won two at the 1994 Lillehammer Games.
The U.S. woman were shut out of Alpine medals here for the first time since the 1988 Calgary Games, and the retirement of Picabo Street deprives the squad of its only proven winner.
Caroline Lalive and Kristina Koznick were considered medal contenders, but both had trouble getting down the mountain.
Lalive fell in the downhill, the combined and the super giant slalom, making it nine straight races in the Olympics or world championships she has failed to finish. Koznick, a favorite in the slalom, fell near the bottom of the first run.
Kirsten Clark also came into the games with medal hopes, but finished 12th in the downhill, 14th in the Super G and 26th in the giant slalom.
"I feel terrible. It was a disappointing Olympics for me," Clark said. "It's the Olympics, it's home soil, but it didn't work out."
Bill Marolt, president of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, tried to look ahead, saying the Americans "have a core of women that over a period of time is going to be a really, really great team."
He refused to say whether coaches will be retained.
"Any future decisions will be made after we've had a chance to evaluate where we are," Marolt said Saturday. "I don't think it's fair to anybody to make any decisions until you have the time to evaluate where you are and what's going on."
Miller single-handedly got two-thirds of the way to Marolt's prediction that Americans would win three Alpine medals.
Miller rallied from far back to capture silver in the combined event, and another dramatic second-run dash moved him from seventh to second in the giant slalom.
But he was far from the most successful skier at the Salt Lake City Games.
Stephan Eberharter won three medals -- gold in the giant slalom, silver in the Super G and bronze in the downhill -- to finally emerge from the shadow of Austrian teammate Hermann Maier.
Norwegians Kjetil Andre Aamodt and Lasse Kjus won two medals apiece. Aamodt won gold twice, in the combined event and the Super G, giving him a record seven Olympic medals in Alpine.
Sweden's Anja Paerson and Austria's Renate Goetschl won two medals apiece in women's events, but the biggest winner of all was Janica Kostelic.
The 20-year-old Croat won an unprecedented four medals, and joined Jean-Claude Killy and Toni Sailer as the only Alpine skiers with three golds in an Olympics.
Perhaps the most emotional victories came from a French team still mourning the loss of team leader Regine Cavagnoud, killed in an October training accident.
The French won two golds and four medals overall in Alpine skiing, their biggest medal haul in the sport since the 1968 Grenoble Olympics in which Killy swept to three gold medals on home slopes.
"Regine skied for pleasure. She's a great inspiration for us," said Jean-Pierre Vidal, who won the men's slalom. "We're very close on the French team. After Regine's death, we all got together and vowed to keep a passion for skiing."