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Day 4: France Takes Womens Downhill Gold - 2002-02-13

France won its first-ever Winter Olympic women's downhill ski gold medal Tuesday, while the United States captured gold in speed skating at the 19th Winter Games.

France had never won an Olympic gold medal in women's downhill skiing, and its last medal in a women's Alpine discipline was Maielle Goitschel's silver medal in the slalom in 1968.

All that changed Tuesday, when Carole Montillet captured the gold medal in the downhill in 1:39.56. World Cup downhill leader Isolde Kostner of Italy won the silver medal. The bronze medal went to Renate Goetschl of Austria (1:40.39).

The race was postponed Monday, and delayed two hours Tuesday because of high winds at the top of the course. American Picabo Street ended her Olympic career by finishing 16th.

Meanwhile, at the men's moguls skiing event, Finland's Janne Lahtela improved on his silver medal performance from four years ago in Nagano, Japan, by capturing the gold medal in the men's moguls skiing. Lahtela ended with a total of 27.97 points, and said he could hardly believe that he captured the coveted prize. "I didn't believe it myself," he said. "It is an amazing feeling. I didn't really look at any other skiers' runs, and I did not really think about what they were doing . I was really focused on what I was doing, and did what I had to."

American Travis Mayers took the silver medal behind the Finn. Frenchman Richard Gay took the bronze. 1998 gold medallist Jonny Moseley of the United States finished fourth, even though he completed his controversial "dinner roll" jump, a twisting move that pushes the boundaries of the rules.

Moseley said after the competition that he was satisfied with his performance, even though he did not get a medal. "I thought I stuck two sweet dinner rolls today," he said. "And the personal satisfaction I have from today is excellent. I feel so good. I feel like I have won myself."

U.S. speed skater Casey FitzRandolph won the gold in the men's 500-meter event, edging 1998 champion Hiroyasu Shimizu of Japan by only .003 of a second. "I feel I definitely was lucky this week, and I mean .003 of a second is not a lot of time," he said. "And to come out on the right end of that is more than just my effort. There is maybe a little bit of help from upstairs [God]."

Another American, Kip Carpenter, took the bronze medal. FitzRandolph became the first American man to win the Olympic 500-meters title since Eric Heiden in Lake Placid 22 years ago.

In the Nordic events, Andres Veerpalu of Estonia won his country's first Olympic medal by taking gold in the men's 15-kilometer classical style. Frode Estil of Norway won the silver. Another Estonian, Jaak Mae, won the bronze.

Bente Skari of Norway won the women's 10-kilometer classical style race. Olga Danilova of Russia was second and Julija Tchepalova won the bronze medal.

In men's figure skating, three-time world champion Alexei Yagudin of Russia has the lead after the short program, which makes up one-third of the score. Japan's Takeshi Honda is in second place, with American Timothy Goebel third.

Yagudin's countryman and rival Yevgeny Pluschenko fell while attempting his quad jump, and is in fourth place. American Todd Eldredge fell while attempting a jump, and is in ninth place. The long program is Thursday.

Medals will be awarded Wednesday in six events -- the men's Alpine combined event, 10-kilometer biathlon and K-120 ski jumping. Women's medals will be awarded in the seven-point-five kilometer biathlon, luge, and 1,500 meters short-track speed skating.