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French Skiers Win Men's Slalom Gold, Silver - 2002-02-24


The final alpine ski race of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, the men's slalom, was held Saturday at the Deer Valley Resort.

French skiers won the gold and silver medals in an event that produced some surprising results, with the weather being a big factor.

Though there was cloud cover, the temperature soared to 9 degrees Celsius, making the snow quite slushy and difficult for making the sharp turns required in slalom skiing.

Of the 77 skiers who started the first run, 27 either fell or missed gates. Five of the top 15 skiers from the first run fell or failed to complete their second runs, including American favorite Bode Miller, who had been in second position.

Jean-Pierre Vidal of France had the lead after the opening run and won the gold medal even though he was only seventh fastest in the second run. It had been 34 years since a French skier had won an Olympic gold medal in the slalom.

Vidal said the conditions were a big factor . "You must adapt your skiing to the snow, also to the run, because sometimes there are big turns, sometimes, little turns," he said. "Sometimes you must use a lot of speed, and you must always adapt your skiing. And also in the second run, there was a big hole (in the snow by one of the gates), and I had to adapt my technique in all situations."

Vidal said he believed American Bode Miller felt the pressure to try to win the slalom gold. Miller said he went all out in the second run, and that he would rather fall going for the gold than finish 4th or 5th. He ended up 25th. With a medal, Miller would have become the first American to win three alpine medals at an Olympics after winning two silvers here earlier.

Getting the silver behind Vidal was his French teammate Sebastian Amiez. The bronze went to Alain Baxter of Britain. It was the first-ever Olympic alpine medal for a British skier, and the Scotsman was somewhat shocked. "I didn't realize it for a long time. I was in the tent taking my boots off," he said. "I knew Sebastian had a medal. And it's pretty hard to explain. You know, I thought I'd blown it after the first run, being two seconds behind. But I managed to ski well enough. I was right in the middle of the top group (first 15), and yeah, I did it."

Overall in alpine skiing at these Olympics, Janica Kostelic of Croatia was the big star, winning three gold to tie the all-time best held by Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy and Austrian Toni Sailer. And she won a record total of four, as she also earned a silver medal. The top male alpine skier here was Kjetil Andre Aamodt, who won two gold medals for Norway.

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