February 25, 2006

Austria sweep slalom medals

By Clare Fallon

SESTRIERE, Italy (Reuters) - Austria swept the medals in
the men's slalom which closed the Alpine skiing program at the
Turin Olympics on Saturday with Benjamin Raich winning his
second gold medal.

Olympic rookie Reinfried Herbst took the silver with Rainer
Schoenfelder adding a second bronze to the one he picked up in
the combined event.

Raich became the first man to win the two technical events
at the same Games since Italian Alberto Tomba in Calgary in
1988. Tomba was a spectator in the finish area on Saturday.

It was only the third time in Olympic history that a
country had swept the board in a men's Alpine race.

Austria took all the medals in the 1956 giant slalom and
Norway filled the combined podium at the 1994 Games in

"We could not count on this kind of situation, even though
we've been damn fast this season, but for it to go like this --
one, two, three -- right at the end, that's a dream," Austrian
coach Toni Giger told ORF television.

Raich finished with an overall time of 1:43.14, 0.83
seconds ahead of Herbst and just over a second clear of

Finland's Kalle Palander, second after the first leg, set a
fast time in the second run before being disqualified for
straddling a gate.

After racing fast enough to become Finland's first male
Olympic medallist in Alpine skiing, Palander swiped the snow
angrily with his ski pole as he watched a replay of his error
on the giant screen and realized he was out.

Pre-race favorites Bode Miller of the United States and
Giorgio Rocca of Italy both failed to finish the first leg.

Overall World Cup champion Miller, empty-handed after five
events, straddled a gate after 18 seconds. Rocca, the World Cup
leader in the discipline, lasted 34 seconds before falling.

Frenchman Jean-Pierre Vidal, the 2002 champion, did not
defend his title after breaking his arm in training on Friday.

Kentaro Minagawa had hoped to become only the second
Japanese to win an Olympic Alpine medal after setting the third
fastest time in the first run.

He was pushed off the podium by the Austrians, however, and
finished in joint fourth place with Swede Andre Myhrer.