Austrian Wins Ease Sting of Drug Suspicions The strong Austrian alpine ski team put on a dominating performance today in the mountains at the Winter Olympics. In the men's giant slalom, World Cup leader Benjamin Raich won a gold medal and teammate Hermann "Hermannator" Maier took bronze.
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Austrian Wins Ease Sting of Drug Suspicions

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Austrian Wins Ease Sting of Drug Suspicions

Austrian Wins Ease Sting of Drug Suspicions

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.

It was another disappointing day for Bode Miller and the United States ski team at the Winter Olympics, but it was a gratifying one for the Austrians. That country could use some good news after weekend doping raids on their cross country and biathlon teams. The Austrians are the dominant force in Alpine skiing. They're pretty much the New York Yankees of the Alps.

In a day alone, they won a total of four medals in the men's and women's Alpine races. NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD: Before this Olympics, Bode Miller told reporters that he didn't think medals were important. The ever-provocative Miller said that the ideal Olympics for him would be to do some inspirational skiing but not win any medals. Well, be careful what you wish for. At least the no medals part is coming true.

When he stayed in the course, Miller has actually been very strong. Last week he was in first place after the downhill portion of the men's combined event, only to then miss a gate in the next part of the race and get disqualified. And he skied well today in the giant slalom, too.

Miller had one very fast run here that, for a short time, put him in the lead to the delight of many in the crowd. But it was not fast enough. Soon after Miller had his final run, the Austrians stormed down the hill after him. They and some other top skiers knocked Miller back to sixth place.

The gold medal went to Benjamin Raich, of Austria. Joel Chenal of France took silver, and Hermann Maier took third. They call Maier the Hermannator. He's a big muscular Austrian who worked as a bricklayer after being bumped out of the Austrian National Ski Academy as a teenager. And he's indestructible.

In 1998, Maier came out of nowhere at the age of 25 to win three World Cup titles and two Olympic gold medals, despite a dramatic crash in the Olympic downhill. Maier cart wheeled down a mountainside going 65 miles an hour, crashing through two safety fences, but got up and walked away.

He did not walk away from a motorcycle accident in 2001. Maier was so badly injured doctors almost amputated his right leg. It was unclear if he'd ever ski again, and his injuries kept him out of the 2002 Olympics. So this year was his Olympic comeback, and on top of his bronze today, he won a silver this past weekend in the Super G.


HERMANN MAIER: It's a great feeling. Especially to be back here at my second Olympic games, and to be here it was my biggest goal. And now, to win a medal, it's perfect. For me, it was, for sure it was hard work, it's very tough, and then it's a wonderful feeling.

ARNOLD: The Austrian women medaled as well today in the Super G, where the gates are farther apart than in the Giant Slalom. Michaela Dorfmeister won the gold, her second in the Olympics, and Alexandra Meissnitzer won the bronze. Croatia's Janica Kostelic took silver.

The men and women on the Austrian Alpine team have now won nine medals at this Olympics. The U.S. has one medal. But Maier was gracious after winning his second medal today, and said the U.S. team could still do well on the upcoming slalom race.

MAIER: I guess the Americans, they're strong too, because Ted Ligety won the combined. He did a great job there and now maybe they've had a little bit bad luck, but Ligety is in the perfect shape and for me is big favorite in slalom.

ARNOLD: As for Bode Miller, he'll be racing in the slalom too, but it's not his strongest event.

Chris Arnold, NPR News, Sestriere.

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