Hermann Maier will bring two gold medals and memories of one horrific crash back from the Nagano Games. So far, Alberto Tomba has only gotten the crash part down.
With fans chanting "Her-mann, Her-mann," the Austrian daredevil raced twice down an icy slope to win the men's giant slalom. It was the second straight gold for "The Herminator" since he flew upside down off the downhill course last week in his Olympic debut.As usual, Maier went all out, even though he didn't need to on his second run. It paid off, though he nearly lost control several times as he lengthened a nearly half-second lead after the first run to win with a time of 2 minutes, 38.51 seconds.
"I skied to the limit on a wonderful, fast track," Maier said. "I am not a hero. I am happy. Two together is unbelievable in my first Olympics."
Tomba, the swashbuckling Italian skiing hero, looked the way Maier did in his first race, crashing in the snow. After waiting 13 days to race, he lasted only 18 seconds before hooking a ski on a gate and skidding into a bright green safety net.
The two-time Olympic giant slalom champion will now have to wait until Saturday's slalom to try to medal in his fourth straight Olympics.
Tomba's fans were hardly fazed, though, cheering their hero even as he glided cautiously to the bottom of the hill.
"He already has five Olympic medals," one said.
Stefan Eberharter of Austria finished second in 2:39.36 and Michael Von Gruenigen of Switzerland won the bronze in 2:39.69.
- SKIING: Hilde Gerg was lifted in the air by teammate Katja Seizinger, arguably the world's best women skier, after a brilliant second run that gave her victory over Italy's Deborah Compagnoni by a slim six-hundredths of a second.
Kristina Koznick of Burnsville, Minn., failed in her bid to become the first American to medal in the women's slalom since 1972. She was a distant ninth after the first of the day's two runs, then straddled the gate and was disqualified just before the finish of the second.
- SHORT TRACK: America's best hope for a medal in the women's 500-meter race never made it past her first-round heat. Amy Peterson, a bronze medalist in Lillehammer, finished a half-second out of first place in her heat. The gold medal went to Canada's Annie Perreault; Yang S. Yang of China won the silver and Chun Lee-kyung of South Korea the bronze.
- FIGURE SKATING: A day after her medal chances were dashed when she fell in the short program, Nicole Bobek fell a dozen times in practice before skating over to her coach and sobbing. Things were happier for Kwan and Lipinski, who practiced confidently with the knowledge they are 1-2 going into Friday's long skate that will decide the gold medal.
- BIATHLON: Germany's Ursula Disl already owned five Olympic medals, but there was something missing - none of them were gold. That changed today when Disl and her teammates won the 4x7.5-kilometer biathlon medal despite a dropped pole and spotty shooting.
- NORDIC COMBINED: Tens of thousands packed the ski jump area on a brilliantly sunny day, expecting to see Japan start toward its third straight Nordic combined team gold medal. But Japan's team produced only one jump over 90 meters, leaving the two-time defending Olympic champions in fifth place after the ski jumping portion of the competition.