Miller Shut Out in Final Olympic Event
DEBBIE ELLIOT, host:
We're about to give results now from some of the last events at the winter Olympics in Turin. The games wrap up tomorrow. American Apolo Anton Ohno has taken the gold medal in men's 500 meter short track speed skating. He lead from start to finish in an upset over South Korea's Ahn Hyun-Soo. In the men's slalom, high hopes were riding on the U.S. skiers, who have won only two Alpine medals at the games, but it was an ugly day on the race course with half of the top skiers falling or hooking gates. Ugly for everyone except the Austrians. NPR's Chris Arnold has more.
CHRIS ARNOLD reporting:
When you showed up at the race course today, you could tell something was different. The lines through security were longer there were Italians without tickets packed along the fences behind the officials seating areas. The reason: the current Italian hero of slalom, Giorgio Rocca was in the house. The start house, that is. During this winter's World Cup season, Rocca came in first place in five out of seven slalom races, putting him way ahead of any other skier in the rankings. He's a soft-spoken muscular ski racer and the Italian people adore him.
Rocca just became a father at the start of the World Cup season and the media proclaimed his new baby a good luck charm for Rocca. Rocca burst from the start today and skied a very strong first half of the course. The sun was shining on the Alps, covered with fresh snow. I seemed to be a golden hour for Italy. But then, Rocca caught the outside edge of his right ski on a turn, his skis knocked together, and he went sprawling.
After his run, Rocca told reporters the snow was quote "hard and soft, hard and soft. I just made a mistake. But he still felt the adoration of the Italian fans.
Mr. GIORGIO ROCCA (Italian Olympic Team, Alpine Skiing): I know the people are with me, love me when I win and when I lose.
ARNOLD: Soon after Rocca skied, Benjamin Reich of Austria nailed a very fast run, but then American Ted Ligety skied down and was just .02 second behind him, making it still very much anyone's race. The video review, though, showed that Ligety had skied over a gate and failed to get his ski around it so he was disqualified. Having won a gold medal already in the men's combined event softened the blow for Ligety who was a favorite to medal here again today.
Mr. TED LIGETY (U.S. Olympic Team, Alpine Skiing): I still have one gold, so I'm not so mad. I mean, I'm just gonna go from here with a lot of confidence going to Korea and Japan and hopefully have some good race series over there.
ARNOLD: And then it was Bode Miller's turn. While other top skiers at least flamed out in style, Bode Miller was the most underwhelming. He skied through just a few turns, straddled the gate, and just pulled off the course knowing he was disqualified. Miller did a little dance with his ski poles and made a goofy face and a quick exit. It was an appropriate bookend to the U.S.'s performance at this Olympics. This was the Olympics the U.S. team with their slogan, Best in the World, hoped to challenge the Austrians' dominance of the sport. But that definitely did not happen.
The Austrians won all three medals today. Benjamin Raich took the gold, Reinfried Herbst, who got silver, was actually asked to leave the Austrian team recently for lack of results and had to fight tooth and nail to get back on it, so today was very special for him.
Mr. REINFRIED HERBST (Austrian Olympic Team, Alpine Skiing): (through translator) The outcome now is this: that I am here and that we are here, all three of us, is so unbelievable and I am so happy, I don't really know what to say.
ARNOLD: After these Olympics, with 14 Alpine medals, the best in the world at skiing are still the Austrians. Chris Arnold, NPR News, Sestriere.
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