Sun, Feb 19, 2006 - Page 24 News List

US upset by Sweden 3-2

CRUNCH TIMEThe Canadian women eased by Finland 6-0 as Sweden stunned the US after a shootout, and Canada will face Sweden in the hockey final tomorrow

AP , TURIN, ITALY

Resi Stiegler of the US reacts after finishing the second run of the women's combined slalom in Sestriere, Italy, Friday.

PHOTO: EPA

In Italy, it's Friday the 17th that's considered bad luck -- and it certainly was for US gold medal favorites, with the women's hockey team shockingly upset by Sweden and Lindsey Jacobellis squandering an almost certain win in the new snowboardcross event.

For the first time since international competition in women's hockey began in 1990, the US and Canada won't meet in the championship match.

Swedish goalie Kim Martin was pivotal in that, making 37 saves and stopping all four American attempts in a shootout, while Maria Rooth had two regulation scores and the clinching shootout goal in Sweden's 3-2 semifinal win.

"This is the greatest thing to happen to women's hockey in Sweden and everywhere around," said Martin, who led the Swedes to the bronze medal in Salt Lake City when she was only 15. "We knew we were getting better and better all the time. We needed to beat the US or Canada to show it."

Sweden now has a chance to do both. The defending champion Canadians easily beat Finland 6-0 to reach the final.

In another spectacular loss, Jacobellis was way ahead of her three opponents in the snowboardcross when she tried a "backside method grab" on her board while airborne on the penultimate jump.

The move put her off balance and she fell. While she scrambled to her feet, Switzerland's Tanja Frieden sped past to become the first women's snowboardcross gold medalist. Jacobellis settled for silver. Dominique Maltais of Canada took bronze.

At first, the 20-year-old American denied she was showing off. But she later admitted that maybe she got carried away.

"I was caught up in the moment," she said. "I was having fun. Snowboarding is fun. I was ahead. I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the crowd. I messed up. Oh well, it happens."

For tiny Estonia, the day carried no jinx.

Cross-country veteran Andrus Veerpalu plowed through fresh snow to retain his Olympic title in the 15km classical race and bring Estonia its third gold of the games. Kristina Smigun won the women's 10km classical race and 15km pursuit.

"We are a very small country, so it's a great day for the country," Veerpalu said.

Canada's Duff Gibson grabbed the third gold Friday, the seventh day of competition, leading Jeff Pain in a Canadian 1-2 finish in the men's skeleton.

In the process, Gibson -- at 39 years, 189 days -- became the oldest gold medalist in an individual men's event at a Winter Olympics.

On the ski slopes of Sestriere, Croatia's Janica Kostelic put herself in good position to defend her Olympic title by setting up a showdown with rival Anja Paerson in the women's combined -- if she's not too sick to start Saturday's downhill section.

Kostelic, who missed the downhill competition Wednesday because of illness, was second behind Austrian slalom specialist Marlies Schild in the first of two slalom runs Friday night. Paerson, the two-time defending overall World Cup champion from Sweden, was fourth.

Only one competitor made it down the hill at San Sicario before officials posptoned the downhill competition.

The race was rescheduled for Saturday, but Kostelic said she might not hold up that long.

"I'm very tired and I'm not 100 percent sure I'll start tomorrow."

In figure skating, Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio, back after three years off, wowed the crowd and the judges Friday night in the Olympic compulsory dance. With Italian flags waving throughout the packed arena, the 2002 bronze medalists waltzed their way back to the top -- at least through the first portion of the competition.

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