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Olympics: US Snowboarders, German Luge Highlight Day 3 - 2002-02-12


An impressive Olympics winning streak in men's luge has ended, and another continues in pairs figure skating. Americans also swept the medals in men's halfpipe snowboarding.

America's so-called Generation-X Olympians gave the United States its first sweep of a Winter Olympics event since 1956, when it was achieved in men's figure skating.

Ross Powers, a bronze medallist when snowboarding was introduced at the last Olympics in Nagano, captured the gold this time. His American teammates Danny Kass and J-J Thomas took silver and bronze, respectively.

As rock music blarred in the background, Powers said it probably was the best day of his life. "Having a sweep for the U.S. is huge. Having Danny and J.J. right there [with me] -- like, it's awesome. I'm so stoked [excited]," he says. "And after everything that happened on September 11, to have us sweep like that, I think it's the first time in a long time. It's huge for sure."

Also huge was Italian luge racer Armin Zoeggeler's gold medal victory over three-time defending champion Georg Hackl of Germany. Hackl was trying to become the first-ever Winter Olympian to win the same event four straight times.

Hackl said he was not disappointed in getting the silver medal. "The gold medal was won by the best man, and we all are sportsmen," he said. "We are athletes, and we do accept that, and the best should win, and the best has won. Sure, when you talk about Olympic history -- okay, statistically speaking, it might have been nice. But, you know, here again, I didn't really think about that. This is the sport I really care about. There can only be one winner, and sure enough, this would have been unique. But, here again, it doesn't matter to me."

The luge bronze medal went to two-time silver medalist Markus Prock of Austria. Adam Heidt was fourth, the best-ever finish by an American in singles luge.

Two biathlon titles were decided. Norway's Ole Einar Bjorndalen lost some points on the shooting range and relied on a superb skiing performance to win the men's 20-kilometer gold medal. German Andrea Henkel upset the favorites from Norway and Sweden to capture the women's 15-kilometer title.

Disaster struck Canada at the speedskating arena, where World sprint champion Jeremy Wotherspoon fell on the first leg of the two-day, 500-meter contest. That leaves American Casey FitzRandolph -- fastest in the first heat -- and Japan's world champion Hiroyasu Shimizu to fight it out for the Olympic title later Tuesday.

The women's downhill ski race was postponed until Tuesday because of high winds at the top of the course.

The last gold medal of the day was awarded in pairs figure-skating. Russians continued their domination of the event, winning for the 11th straight Olympics, but barely.

Despite an obvious stumble at the beginning of their program, Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze won gold, edging Canadians Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. Shen Xue and Zhoa Hongbo got the bronze for China's first medal of the games.

The largest Winter Olympics in history got a bit bigger Monday, with the addition of another nation. There are now 78 countries represented here, as men's cross-country skier Arturo Kinch, of Costa Rica, entered two events (7.5 km sprint and 10-km free pursuit). The total athlete count is now 2,527.

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