Americans Swarm the Medal Stand
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Five days into the Winter Games, it’s impossible to keep the Americans off the medal stand _ or to avoid the growing controversy over the pairs figure skating decision.
Bode Miller, whose first two runs in the combined offered faint hope of success, roared through his final slalom trip to grab a silver medal _ the 10th medal in five days of competition for the U.S. team.
``I had a lot of mistakes out there,″ Miller told the crowd after his medal. ``I felt like I kind of let you guys down. I just wanted to prove something on that last run.″
Miller is an ex-snowboarder _ and while the U.S. team in his former sport has taken four medals, his ski silver was the first medal by an American male in Alpine since Tommy Moe won a pair in the 1994 Olympics.
The out of competition news was _ typically _ another flap over figure skating. An American referee who oversaw the scoring at Monday night’s pairs competition leveled charges about the scoring, the head of the International Skating Union said.
``I have an allegation and a denial,″ ISU head Ottavio Cinquanta said when asked about reports that one judge was pressured to vote for the gold-medal winning Russian pair.
Miller’s come-from-behind run came on a day dominated early by a Norwegian biathlete and a Swiss ski jumper, who became the first double gold-medal winners of these Winter Games.
Simon Ammann of Switzerland took the 120-meter gold, becoming only the only the second ski jumper in history to win gold medals on both hills in the same Olympics.
And Ole Einar Bjoerndalen won gold in the 10-kilometer biathlon sprint, making him the first biathlete to win three Olympic golds.
On the slopes, Miller struggled in the downhill and first slalom run. The left side of his body scraped against the snow following a fall in the downhill, and he slipped at a pair of turns in the slalom.
He was 15th after the downhill and fifth overall heading into his last trip down the course. At the end, his go-for-broke run bested everyone but Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who took the gold. The bronze went to Benjamin Raich of Austria.
Aamodt’s sterling Olympic career now includes two gold, two silver and two bronze medals.
Miller’s silver extended the U.S. medal-winning string to five straight days, but Germany climbed to the top of the medals chart with 12 (4 gold, 6 silver, 2 bronze). The Americans were second with 10 (3-5-2), while Austria was third with 9 (1-1-7).
_ FIGURE SKATING: Yes, it’s the quadrennial Winter Games skating controversy. It’s not Tonya and Nancy _ nobody’s taken a whack to the knee yet _ but this one is lingering, too.
Two days after Russians Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze took the gold medal over Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, the head of the International Skating Union said he was ``embarrassed″ by the furor around the decision.
ISU boss Cinquanta said, without going into detail, that ``certain allegations″ were made by American referee Ronald Pfenning about the controversial judging. The decision that gave the Russians gold swung on a single vote after a Canadian routine that many believe had given them the Olympic title.
But at this point, the Russians remain the winners and the Canadians can only complain. The Canadian Olympic Association sent Cinquanta a letter Wednesday requesting an independent inquiry, and the ISU promised a rare ``internal assessment.″
_ SKI JUMPING: Ammann _ a ski jumper with a striking resemblance to Harry Potter _ again came out of nowhere to grab a gold medal in the 120-meter jump. Three days earlier, he claimed gold in the 90-meter.
The 20-year Ammann had never even won a World Cup event before his sudden Salt Lake City success. He became only the second ski jumper in history to win gold medals on both hills in the same Olympics, joining Matti Nykanen of Finland.
Afterward, Ammann admitted that his nerves nearly got the best of him.
``I am trembling,″ Ammann said. ``I was so nervous. After takeoff, I was flying away. I felt this jump was really, really good. I can’t believe it. I am the champion.″
Adam Malysz of Poland won the silver medal, and Matti Hautamaeki of Finland took the bronze.
_ BIATHLON: Bjoerndalen hit all 10 targets to take the gold in the 10-kilometer biathlon sprint, just two days after his victory in the 20K biathlon.
Bjoerndalen feared his late starting position would wipe out his shot at back-to-back golds.
``I never thought I would win today,″ Bjoerndalen said. ``I started so late. I don’t like starting this late.″
Bjoerndalen, an Olympic veteran, became the first biathlete to capture three gold medals in a career; his resume also includes two silvers. Germany’s Sven Fischer was second in the 10K, while Austria’s Wolfgang Perner won the bronze.
_ LUGE: Becky Wilczak’s Olympic story didn’t end with a medal, although it still had a happy ending. While the American luger finished fifth in singles, she received a hug and a smile at the bottom of the run from her father, Tom.
The elder Wilczak, 55, came to Utah from River Forest, Ill., despite a debilitating liver disease that left him in need of a transplant.
Germany swept all three luge medals, as Sylke Otto took the gold, with Barbara Niedernhuber getting silver and Silke Kraushaar winning bronze.
_ SPEEDSKATING: For Chris Witty, a two-time U.S. medalist in Nagano, her best wasn’t good enough in the 500 meters. Despite a time just .01 off her personal fastest, Witty wound up 17th out of 31 skaters in the race, leaving her with no shot at a medal.
Canada’s defending gold medalist, Catriona Le May Doan, was the fastest, setting a new Olympic record. There will be another 500 meters Thursday, with a combination of the two times deciding the winner.
_ WOMEN’S BIATHLON: There was one more double medalist _ but this one settled for bronze.
Magdalena Forsberg of Sweden finished third in the women’s 7.5-kilometer sprint, giving her two Salt Lake City bronze medals. Kati Wilhelm won the gold medal, while Uschi Disl of Germany won the silver and won the bronze.
_ WOMEN’S HOCKEY: Canada, the silver medalist in Nagano, beat Russia 7-0 for its second straight Olympic victory and a spot in the medals round. The loss dropped the Russians to 0-2, ending their medal hopes.
Sweden moved into the next round as well with a 7-0 victory over Kazakstan, ending their hopes of a Salt Lake City medal.
_ CURLING: The American men’s team fell to 1-2 after a 9-8 loss to undefeated Germany (3-0). The U.S. team was leading until a late German comeback forced them into extra time.