KVITFJELL, Norway -- Talk about quiet confidence.
U.S. Alpine skier Tommy Moe yawned three times just before he left the gate in the men's Super G yesterday.
Then he won a silver medal.
"I was relaxed, knew where I wanted to go and how I was going to do it," said Moe, who turned 24 yesterday. "The pressure is off because I've already won a gold medal. Everything is going great for me right now. Really, all I have to do is show up."
Four days after a stunning victory in the downhill, Moe became the first American to win more than one medal in skiing since Penelope Pitou in 1960, and the first American male to win more than one medal in the same Olympics. (Phil Mahre is the only other American with two Olympic Alpine medals, but they came at different Games, a silver in 1980 and a gold in 1984.)
But not only did Moe blaze the course in 1 minute, 32.61 seconds, only .08 seconds behind gold medal winner Markus Wasmeier of Germany and .32 ahead of bronze medal winner Kjetil Aamodt of Norway, he's leaving a trail for the rest of his teammates to follow.
Moe's second medal, along with Diann Roffe-Steinrotter's gold medal in the women's slalom, gave the United States three in all three Alpine events thus far.
That doesn't count the downhill portion of the Alpine combined in which Americans Kyle Rasmussen and Moe are currently second and third. Two slalom runs today will conclude the event.
But the United States is riding the Moe-mentum into a confidence zone.
"I've said this before, that it's getting contagious," said Paul Major, the U.S. Alpine director. "We have people looking at Tommy and seeing the hard work he has put in, and the results. The fallout from this won't be measured for years, though. But everybody is starting to think they can win now."
This is already the United States' best showing since the 1984 Games, when the Mahre twins, Phil and Steve, led U.S. skiers to three golds and two silvers in Sarajevo.
But since then, U.S. skiers have gone, well, downhill. The biggest disappointment came at the 1988 Games in Calgary, Alberta, where the top U.S. skater finished ninth. The United States won only two medals in the 1992 Games.
Since 1984, United States men have won one race on the World Cup circuit -- AJ Kitt's downhill victory in Val d'Isere, Switzerland, in 1992. The women have just three World Cup wins since 1987, all by Julie Parisien. Between 1968 and 1974, the United States averaged three World Cup winners per year.
A story in Sports Illustrated's Olympic preview issue ripped the program, calling the team "Uncle Sam's lead-footed snowplow brigade." The article pointed out that no country has better ski areas than the United States, and no other nation except Japan had more skiers.
The U.S. skiers took exception.
"We're not bragging, but some of those things were wrong, and it was obvious that the person who wrote it knew nothing about skiing," said Rasmussen, who was disqualified in the Super G after missing a gate.
"We work hard, and with Tommy and Diann doing so well, we expect to do well now," he said. "Team morale is really high. No one works harder than Tommy, and he's been skiing well all year. I guess SI owes him two apologies now."
The Sports Illustrated layout included a photograph of Moe, flying through the air off a downhill jump. The caption read: "Moe . . . is no soaring success story."
He is now, appearing on the Sports Illustrated cover this week. Moe always has been thought of as a glider, but the icy course here requires a technician, too.
Moe went out yesterday, looked over the course and plotted his attack in an hour. He thought he might have an advantage because Bill Egan, the U.S. downhill coach, was chosen in a random draw to set the gates on the course.
The course is run on the same slope as the downhill race, but starts lower down the mountain. Some 41 gates are set at varying intervals and how the gates are set on the course determines whether it will be fairly straight and fast or very technical and a little slower.
With Egan chosen as the course setter, Moe had an idea of how it would be.
"It's never come to me that easy," Moe said. "I yawned, and that's a good sign for me because I know I'm not overexcited at the top. I woke up this morning and it was my birthday. I knew it was going to be a great day. This is all coming to me at a great time in my life."
It wasn't Moe's greatest race. A couple of mistakes at the bottom ofthe course may have cost him a second gold.
Moe was the third skier to race yesterday, and Wasmeier was fourth. Wasmeier heard the crowd roar when Moe took the lead.
"I knew I had to fight my way through every gate," said Wasmeier, a gold medal winner for the first time in three Olympic appearances. "I had a lot of problems with the course, but when you're after the leader, you know you've got to put on a better show."
Wasmeier did, but Moe didn't care.
Now he's one of the Olympics' golden boys.
When Norway's Atle Skardal finished his race yesterday, the crowd estimated at 60,000 sang happy birthday to him. They did the same thing for Moe.
"It's all working out," said Moe. "Three and eight are my lucky numbers, and I was the third racer today. My skiing is excellent and this is all like a dream come true."