Taste of gold
Eberharter wins giant slalom, Bode Miller secondPosted: Thursday February 21, 2002 3:52 PM
Updated: Thursday February 21, 2002 6:32 PM
PARK CITY, Utah (AP) -- Stephan Eberharter of Austria finally captured an Olympic gold medal when he won the men's giant slalom Thursday.
The Austrian came into the Games as the favorite in three events, having dominated the World Cup season. But he had to settle for silver in the Super-G and bronze in the downhill last week.
Eberharter fell sideways in the snow in the finish area and stayed on the ground for several moments in exhaustion and relief at finally having won a gold.
"My dream has come true but I wasn't under pressure, I already had two medals," Eberharter said. "But to do it in the toughest event, in which you need two good runs, makes me especially happy."
"I let the skis run in the first run and in the second I didn't make any big mistakes," the 32-year-old Austrian said.
Eberharter covered the tough, steep course in a combined time of 2 minutes, 23.28 seconds for the two runs.
Bode Miller of the United States had the fastest second run to clinch his second silver medal of the Games in 2:24.16, jumping from seventh place. He also had a silver in the combined event.
Lasse Kjus of Norway took the bronze in 2:24.32, also his second medal of the Games. Kjus won a silver in the downhill last week and now has five Olympic medals overall.
Miller became the first American man ever to win a medal in the giant slalom.
"When I crossed the finish line I knew I couldn't have skied any better," said Miller, who nearly fell just before the end and crossed the finish line virtually sitting on his skis. "I didn't really care how I finished. I just knew I didn't have anything left."
Eberharter took a big lead of .74 seconds into the second run and although he was slower than Miller, the margin had grown to .88 seconds.
By finally capturing his first gold, Eberharter emerged from the shadow of fellow Austrian Hermann Maier. Even Maier never won more than two medals in a single Olympics.
Maier, who beat Eberharter for the giant slalom gold in Nagano four years ago, is still recovering from a motorcycle crash in August that nearly cost him a leg.
Eberharter joins Kjetil Andre Aamodt (1994), Jean-Claude Killy (1968), Toni Sailer (1956) and Henri Oreiller (1948) as the only men to win three Alpine medals in one Olympics.
Miller, lacking his usual gusto, was just seventh fastest on the first run in the morning. He seemed to get a poor start on the course's flat opening section, and was unusually tame on certain parts of the slope.
But his all-or-nothing style came through on the final run, propelling him to a medal. Miller, the only American to win a medal in Alpine skiing at these Games, is favored in Saturday's slalom.
He made up much of his time in the middle of the course, where
his exceptional speed made the difference.