Kennedy's hopes slip away to old-guard domination Hackl, Austrians claim luge medals


ALBERTVILLE, France -- He came. He saw. He was conquered.

This wasn't exactly the kind of Winter Olympics performance Duncan Kennedy had in mind when he arrived last week at the refrigerated luge run in La Plagne.

He was expected to become America's first sliding Olympic medalist, beating the Europeans at their game on their track.

But, instead of winning or medaling, Kennedy finished 10th yesterday.

"I'm ready to go snow-boarding," he said.

The sport's old guard shoved all comers out of the way.

Georg Hackl of Germany, the first-day leader after two runs, completed the four-run triumph with a combined time of 3 minutes, 2.363 seconds.

"It is the most beautiful day in my life," Hackl said. "And, now, I will party all night long."

Austria, which opened the Olympics with a bang by winning two gold medals Sunday in the men's downhill and the normal-hill ski jump, took the silver and bronze.

Markus Prock was second in 3:02.669, and Markus Schmidt was third in 3:02.942.

"The conditions were absolutely perfect in this competition," Prock said. "No one could catch Hackl, because he had four constant runs. That's it."

Kennedy, who grew up within sight of Turn 2 of the luge run in Lake Placid, N.Y., was back in the pack at 3:03.852. At least he managed to emerge as the top American men's finisher in Olympic luge history after enduring nearly a week of futility in training sessions and official runs.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed, but what can you do?" he said. "You can't win them all."

Wendel Suckow of Marquette, Mich., finished 12th, in 3:04.195. Robert Pipkins of New York was 21st, in 3:06.899.

"We were hoping for better," said U.S. coach Wolfgang Schaedler. "But at least we had our best medal results."

All the pre-race expectations -- and burdens -- were heaped upon Kennedy. He was second on the World Cup circuit. He was America's top gun, receiving the finest training and equipment.

"Sometimes you slide well, sometimes you slide bad," Suckow said. "I don't think Duncan slid bad. But other people were sliding at their peak."

At the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Kennedy was disgusted by his 14th-place performance and bounced his helmet after his last race. This time, he was calm.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed," he said. "But what can you do? My runs weren't the best."

At 24, Kennedy still is young enough to make a two-year commitment for the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

But he'll remember this week, when he raced for gold and came up with nothing. Asked if he expected to win a medal, Kennedy said, "Yeah."

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