Accessibility links

Breaking News

Olympics Day 12: A Record Breaking Day for US Athletes - 2002-02-21

The United States won two of the five gold medals awarded at the Winter Olympics on Tuesday. One of them came with a world record.

American speed skater Derek Parra, the surprise silver medallist in the men's 5,000 meters, on the first day of competition here, added a gold medal in his specialty - the 1500 meters. And he did it in a world record time of 1:43.95. The old mark (1:45.40) had been held by South Korea's Lee Kyu-Hyuk.

Dutchman Jochem Uytdehaage, who beat Parra in the 5,000, got the silver medal, and also bettered the old mark. He was 0.62 slower than Parra. Norway's Adne Sondral got the bronze.

For Parra, it was hard to describe how he felt being the first double American medallist at these Olympics

"I don't know where I'm at emotionally. It's just kind of - having seen my family here, my wife is here - for her to see this, just everything that's happened up to this point has just been - I don't know, it's hard to explain. You give up so much, and you're hoping for a moment like this, and it happens," he said.

United States bobsledders also had their special moment in the sport's debut for women at the Olympics. Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers won the gold, speeding to the best two runs to take victory ahead of the two German sleds.

Flowers, a former collegiate track and field star, became the first African-American to win a Winter Games gold medal.

"What can I say? This is a dream come true for me. We had great competition, and I am so blessed to be here, and to win a gold medal for your country is awesome," she said.

It was the first Olympic bobsled medal for the USA in 46 years. It also put the Americans' total medal count at 21 for these games, one more than the U.S. Olympic Committee had hoped for, before the games began.

In men's freestyle aerials skiing, Ales Valenta won the Czech Republic's first gold medal here. He beat out Utah resident Joe Pack. The bronze medal went to World champion Alexei Grichin of Belarus. Defending Olympic champion Eric Bergoust of the United States led the field after the first jump, but fell on his landing in the second jump, and ended up 12th.

And in a cross country skiing event that made its debut - the 1.5 kilometer sprints - Norway's Tor Arne Hetland won the men's gold, and Russian Julija Tchpalova took the women's gold.

Norway leads all nations with nine gold, while Germany has eight gold and the most total medals with 28. The USA has six gold.

American Michelle Kwan, the reigning silver medallist, placed first in the women's short program Tuesday night. Russian Irina Slutskaya is in second position, and American Sasha Cohen is third. The free skate to determine the medals is set for Thursday night.