Thu, Feb 16, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Lucky Ligety secures gold

ROUNDUPWith Bode Miller disqualified in his first run in the slalom, American teammate Ted Ligety won the event after Benjamin Raich of Austria slid off the course

AP , TURIN AND PINEROLO, ITALY

Ted Ligety of the US during the slalom portion of the men's combined in Sestriere Colle, Italy, on Tuesday.

PHOTO: AP

American hopes for gold in the Alpine combined seemed to evaporate when Bode Miller straddled a gate in his first slalom run. Ted Ligety rescued them with a come-from-way-behind win.

After building up a commanding lead in the downhill section of the Alpine combined, Miller was disqualified in the first of two slalom races that complete the event.

But in one of the biggest shocks of the Turin Games, Miller's fellow countryman Ligety rose from a sluggish downhill to twice negotiate the treacherous slalom course for victory.

His path to the podium was eased by the disqualification of Miller and -- right near the end -- title favorite Benjamin Raich of Austria sliding off course and failing to finish.

"It's incredible. I can't believe it [happened] in combined because I'm not very good in downhill," Ligety said.

Elsewhere, Sweden swept the men's and women's golds in the cross-country team sprints, Sven Fischer gave Germany it's second biathlon gold of the games in the 10km sprint and Sylke Otto led a far-from-surprising German sweep of the medals in the women's luge.

Svetlana Zhurova won the women's 500m, giving Russia its first Olympic speedskating gold medal since 1994.

Not so great

Despite the drama in the Alps, the arrival of embattled Canadian ice hockey general manager Wayne Gretzky threatened to overshadow the sports.

Gretzky is embroiled along with his actress wife Janet Jones in a betting scandal in the US. Gretzky denies any wrongdoing and said he would not talk about the scandal in Turin, where he aims to guide the Canadians to a repeat of their Salt Lake City gold.

"Quite frankly, this is the last time I'm going to talk about it," said Gretzky. "I've stood forward each and every day, and I'll talk hockey all day long, take any questions about the hockey team or the Olympic games. But, quite frankly, it's over and done with."

In the absence of defending Alpine combined champion Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who pulled out injured, Miller -- reigning silver medalist in the event -- powered to the lead after the downhill stage, while Raich struggled to 10th place.

But about three-quarters of the way through his first slalom run Miller, who ended a disappointing fifth in the downhill final on Sunday, pinned a red gate with his left ski and the post popped up between his feet, ending his challenge.

"It's not the first time I've hooked a tip," Miller said. "I've straddled probably more times than most people have finished the slalom."

With Raich failing on the second slalom run, the way was clear for slalom specialist Ligety.

"I would prefer to win standing up to him," Ligety said.

The 21-year-old from Utah had a combined time of 3 minutes, 9.35 seconds, for the downhill and two slalom runs. Ivica Kostelic of Croatia won the silver medal, 53-hundredths of a second behind the American. Rainer Schoenfelder of Austria took bronze.

biathlon

In the 10km sprint, two-time defending Olympic champion Ole Einar Bjoerndalen faltered, giving the Germans their second men's biathlon gold of the games.

Bjoerndalen came to Turin as a favorite in all five events after sweeping all four gold medals in 2002. After taking silver in his first outing -- the 20km on Sunday -- he slumped to 12th in the 10km.

Otto retained her women's luge crown in 3 minutes, 7.979 seconds, hoisting her hands as she slid across the finish. Silke Kraushaar and Tatjana Huefner were second and third. There have been 36 medals awarded in women's Olympic luge history; 27 have been won by Germans.

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