Finn Christian Jagge of Norway seemed an unlikely choice to beat
LES MENUIRES, France (AP) _ Finn Christian Jagge of Norway seemed an unlikely choice to beat Alberto Tomba in his event at the Olympics.
Even Jagge didn’t expect it.
″It’s an incredible feeling to beat Tomba at the Olympics,″ Jagge said after winning the gold medal in the men’s slalom Saturday.
After Jagge skied 1.07 seconds faster than anyone on the first run - 1.58 faster than defending slalom champion Tomba - he was well placed for the upset victory.
But the muscular Italian, in sixth-place after the first run, barged into the lead on the second run before Jagge went on the course again. The Norwegian held his nerve and won by 0.28.
″I didn’t see Tomba’s (second) run, but I heard that he was ahead,″ Jagge said. ″I tried not to think about it. I was 1 1/2 seconds ahead (from the first run), and I didn’t think I could lose all that.″
The 25-year-old Jagge, who once said he learned to ski before he learned to walk, beat Tomba in a World Cup slalom at Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, in December.
Swiss Paul Accola and Frenchman Patrice Bianchi are the only other skiers to beat the Italian in World Cup slalom races this season.
″Tomba is a great skier,″ Jagge said. ″I think Alpine skiing must be happy to have such a great skier.″
But Jagge has overcome difficulties to make his mark in the sport.
His achievements in the World Cup since 1986 have been modest. He even considered retiring in 1989 after tearing ligaments in his right knee.
But this season he has shown more consistency: placing second at Sestriere, Italy; third at Kranjska Gora, Yugoslavia; fourth at Breckenridge, Colo.; fifth at Park City, Utah; sixth at Wengen, Switzerland; and seventh at Kitzbuehel, Austria; as well as claiming victory at Madonna.
Now Jagge is a key member of an emerging Norwegian team that has won two gold and two bronze in the Alpine skiing events at this year’s Games.
Kjetil Andre Aamodt won gold in the super-giant slalom with teammate Jan Einar Thorsen taking the bronze. And Aamodt also collected bronze behind Tomba’s gold in the giant slalom.
Jagge’s first slalom run of 51.43 seconds Saturday was the only run inside 52 seconds.
″I skied a perfect first run, and I piled up a very important lead,″ the Norwegian said.
″I felt some pressure in the second heat, also because I knew that Alberto could have fought back. I managed to hold onto a narrow margin because I skied well.
″The course was not very difficult,″ he said. ″I would say it was easy, but the pressure of an Olympic race is tremendous.″