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Historic Achievements on Next to Last Day of Winter Olympics - 2002-02-24

Some historic achievements took place Saturday on the next-to-last day of the 19th Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, Utah. But the specter of drugs reared again late in the day. A French skier won the slalom while and American bobsledder found redemption at the end of his career. However a Spanish skier's gold medals could be in jeopardy.

No French skier had won the Olympic men's slalom title since Jean Claude Killy in 1968, but Saturday French athletes took both the gold and the silver medals. Jean-Pierre Vidal had the fastest run and held on to win the gold medal. American Bode Miller slipped on the course and lost valuable time. Vidal said Miller might have succumbed to pressure. "I made a really good first run. And he knew that if he wanted to win today he must make a really, really good second run. And I think with the pressures and the difficult slope, he went out," he said.

Spanish skier Johann Muehlegg became the only cross-country skier to win three gold medals at the Salt Lake City Games when he won the men's 50-kilometer classic style cross-country race. The German-born skier won the 30-kilometer freestyle and the 10-kilometer pursuit events earlier in the Games. However his medals could be in jeopardy when it was reported early Sunday he tested positive for a banned performance-enhancing drugs.

At Utah Olympic Park, Germany won the four-man bobsled event ahead of two American sleds. But American drivers Todd Hays and Brian Shimer stole the spotlight by winning the first U.S. Olympic medals in the event since 1956. For Shimer, a five-time Olympian in his last race, the bronze medal was the crowning achievement of his career. "I sit here and reflect on my career. You know we have had a lot of ups and downs," he said. "But for it to end this way, you know it is just a dream come true.

At The Utah Olympic Oval in Kearns, German speed skater Claudia Pechstein won her third consecutive gold medal in the women's 5,000-meters race on her 30th birthday.

Meanwhile at the Salt Lake Ice Center, Marc Gagnon of Canada won the short-track 500-meters race. Teammate Jonathan Guilmette won the silver. Canada also won the men's 5,000-meter relay gold medal. The women's 1,000 meters title went to Yang Yang [A] of China.

Russia won the bronze medal in men's ice hockey with a 7-2 win over Belarus. Alexei Kovalev scored two goals to lead the Russians to their second Olympic medal since the collapse of the former Soviet Union.

The gold medal is at stake when the U.S. men's ice hockey team takes on Canada Sunday on the final day of competition. The women's 30-kilometer cross country gold medal will also be awarded and the 19th Winter Olympics will end with the closing ceremonies Sunday night.

Germany leads the medals standings with 35 medals, 12 of them gold. The United States is in second place with 33 medals, including 10 golds. Norway is third with 22 medals, including 11 golds.