With Alberto Tomba watching his last Olympic race from a hotel room, orange-haired Hans-Petter Buraas of Norway won the men's slalom to wrap up the weather-plagued Alpine skiing at the Nagano Games.
Buraas, a 22-year-old snowboarding enthusiast who has dyed his hair white, then green, then orange-red this season, rallied on the second run to win in a total time of 1 minute, 49.31 seconds.Norwegian teammate Ole Christian Furuseth won the silver medal in 1:50.64 and first-run leader Thomas Sykora of Austria dropped to third in 1:50.68. Sykora's bronze gave Austria eight of the 15 men's Alpine medals.
The first run of the slalom included a moderate earthquake that rattled a temporary press room near the finish area.
Bothered by back and groin injuries from his fall two days earlier in the giant slalom, Tomba dropped out of the slalom after a slow first run Saturday (Friday night EST) that left him in 17th place.
Tomba, bidding to become the first Alpine skier to win a medal in four consecutive Winter Games, shook his head in dismay after finishing the first run almost two seconds behind leader Sykora.
"He was still troubled by back pain and he has a light groin strain from the spill he took," said Robert Brunner, an Italian ski team official. "He wanted to finish his fourth Olympics with a medal."
Tomba, who left the ski area for his hotel without speaking to reporters, tumbled off the course on the first run of Thursday's giant slalom, falling hard on his back.
Tomba's fourth Olympics lasted just 75 seconds. He crashed 18 seconds into the giant slalom, and completed the first run of the slalom in 57 seconds.
Tomba was the 1988 Olympic champion in the slalom and won silver medals in slalom at the 1992 and 1994 games. He also has two gold medals in the giant slalom.
But he never has skied well in Japan. At the 1993 world championships in Morioka, he slid off the course on the first leg of the slalom and missed the giant slalom because of food poisoning.
Buraas finished the first run trailing Sykora by 22-hundredths of a second, but completed the second run nearly 1.6 seconds faster than the Austrian - who is the reigning World Cup slalom champion, but struggles in big races.
The first run on Mount Yakebitai took place in thick fog and stinging sleet, just the latest batch of lousy weather to hit the Alpine events. A light snow fell during the second run.
Reigning world champion Tom Stiansen of Norway was fourth in 1:50.90. The top seven places in the race were taken by Norwegians and Austrians.
A huge crowd that included Emperor Akihito cheered wildly as Kiminobu Kimura made his two runs. Kimura, who had a third-place finish in a World Cup slalom this season, was considered Japan's best hope for an Alpine medal since Chiharu Igaya won silver in the 1956 slalom at Cortina.
But, despite a chorus of horn-blowing fans and a sign reading "Go! Go! Kimura," he managed a time of just 1:52.15 to finish 13th.
When asked what hue he'll color his hair to celebrate his victory, Buraas - who broke the tip on one of his skis during the second run - stroked his long locks and replied, "Maybe I'll cut my hair tomorrow."
Stiansen joked that Buraas may be on a snowboard at the next Olympics.
"He's a crazy guy," Stiansen said. "He's very cool and calm and relaxed."
Matt Grosjean of Aliso Viejo, Calif., was 15th in 1:52.56. Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., did not finish the second run.
Chip Knight of New Canaan, Conn., fell midway down the course and did not complete the first run. Andy LeRoy of Silverthorne, Colo., missed a gate and also did not finish the first run.