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Unified Team gains hockey medal round


MERIBEL, France -- Facing adversity for one of the few times in its Olympic hockey history, the Unified Team showed no mercy yesterday against France, winning, 8-0, to maintain its record of perfect attendance in the medal round.

The Unified Team (3-1), made up of five former Soviet republics, joins Canada (4-0), Czechoslovakia (3-1), the United States (3-0) and Sweden (3-0) in the playoffs.

Canada beat Czechoslovakia, 5-1, yesterday and can lock up the first seed in its group by beating the Unified Team tomorrow.

France (1-3) still has a chance to get its group's final medal-round berth; so does Switzerland (1-3), which beat winless Norway, 6-3, yesterday.


LES SAISIES, France -- Anne Briand shot perfectly at the final station and held off Germany's anchor down the stretch to give France a 22.8-second victory in the women's 3x7.5-kilometer biathlon relay.

Briand was the host country's savior after Veronique Claudel gave away an early French lead.

"When I got to the range, I knew I had to hit the target. I could not afford to miss," Briand said.

The local fans, who had crowded the Nordic trails to witness a victory that had seemed to others an outside chance at best, chanted the Marseillaise again and again.

"The French fans were a big factor, especially on the final leg," said Briand. "It was a great atmosphere. I wanted to win so much for France."

Germany, anchored by overall World Cup leader Petra Schaaf, took the silver medal, 22.8 seconds behind. The team from the Commonwealth of Independent States (formerly the Soviet Union) was third.

The U.S. trio, which was more than 8 1/2 minutes off France's pace, had a chance to make the top 10. They were 11th after the second leg, but dropped back on the last leg. Nancy Bell and Mary Ostergren, both from Stowe, Vt., had one penalty apiece and had to ski an extra lap of 150 meters. Joan Smith had a clean round.



Nieminen's final jump boosts Finland to gold

COURCHEVEL, France -- Toni Nieminen became the Winter Games' youngest male gold medalist ever -- by one day -- as he soared more than 400 feet on his last jump and led Finland to an zTC unexpected win in the team ski jumping event.

Nieminen, 16 years, 259 days old, was one day younger than American Bill Fiske was when he won a gold in the 1928 Games in four-man bobsled.

"This was my first great jump in a week on this hill," said Nieminen, the bronze medalist in Sunday's 90-meter jump. "I just flew. I knew I needed a great jump if I was going to give my team the victory and I was under a lot of pressure.

The Austrians had been leading the Finns after the first round and appeared headed for an easy victory before Nieminen, one of the world's top jumpers, took over.

"We were almost there, but Toni Nieminen beat us," said Austrian coach Toni Innauer.

He was the next to last to jump, and gave the 120-meter hill a lengthy, intense stare before taking off. After landing at 400.16 feet, Nieminen raised his arms in victory and gave the No. 1 sign with his finger.

Czechoslovakia got the bronze. Japan was fourth, Germany fifth and Slovenia sixth. The United States came in 12th of 14 teams.



Boyhood buddies win gold medal for Germany

LA PLAGNE, France, -- Germany's Stefan Krausse and Jan Behrendt, who have been racing together since childhood, sealed the biggest triumph of their lives when they won the men's luge doubles title.

The former East German pair, who won the silver medal at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, finished 0.186 seconds ahead of compatriots Yves Mankel and Thomas Rudolph, with Italians Norbert Huber and Hansjorg Raffl third.

Huber and Raffl had dominated this season's World Cup luge competition, but Krausse and Behrendt, who took up the sport together at age 10, found their top form at the right time.

"It's our first major victory of the season but the most important," said Krausse, a car mechanic who towers over the diminutive Behrendt, a technology student. "We started well and it felt good."

Wendel Suckow of Marquette, Mich., and Bill Tavares of Tracy, Calif., finished ninth, matching the best-ever American finish.


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