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Wasmeier a two-time king after a run for the ages LILLEHAMMER '94


RINGEBU, Norway -- Tomba did La Bomba, but Germany's Markus Wasmeier proved that there is at least one senior citizen on Hafjell's slopes who remains primed for Olympic success.

Wasmeier, 30, emerged as the unlikely gold medalist in the men's giant slalom yesterday, marking only his second giant slalom victory in a decade.

Before a crowd of about 30,000 spectators who expected to see Italy's Alberto Tomba crowned king of the hill, Wasmeier pocketed his second Olympic gold after winning the Super G competition last week.

"I had my gold medal," Wasmeier said. "I had no pressure. I went down for fun."

Given those expectations, Wasmeier could be excused for his quizzical expression after a second run of 1:23.75, which pushed him from fourth into first place. He pointed at himself, looking up at the time on the large computerized scoreboard: 2:52.46.

"It was a big surprise," Wasmeier said. "If somebody would have told me this morning that I would win another gold medal, I wouldn't have believed it."

Switzerland's Urs Kaelin won the silver (2:52.48) and Austria's Christian Mayer was the bronze-medal winner (2:52.58) before a conspicuous sea of Italian flags. Organizers printed an extra 10,000 tickets to accommodate the large crowd lining the course.

Many of them came to see Tomba, who is trying to become the first man to win Alpine medals in three consecutive Olympics. After finishing in 13th place and 1.19 seconds behind the leader on his first run, Tomba missed the third gate from the finish line on his second run and was disqualified.

Perhaps it was the strategy: Tomba took a "good-luck" shave in a rented house between runs. "The course was too long and very tiring," said Tomba, who gets another chance in Sunday's slalom.

History bodes well for La Bomba, who has won four slaloms on the World Cup circuit this year, but has not won a giant slalom since the 1992 Olympics. Tomba will be going for an unprecedented fourth Alpine medal.

For Team America, it proved another successful day of competition. Jeremy Nobis of Park City, Utah, was ninth, a significant accomplishment given recent U.S. history

The best result in 13 previous starts for an American in giant slalom this season was 28th. It also gave the United States its best finish in this event in the Olympics since Phil Mahre was eighth in Sarajevo in 1984.

Nobis has been plagued with injuries and inconsistency in recent years, reflecting a series of injuries to his left knee.

"My goal was to be in the Top 10," Nobis, 23, said. "Obviously I was shooting a little higher. I had a good first run, but I haven't been sitting that good all year. I skied my plan during my second run.

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