Norwegians combine for Alpine sweep LILLEHAMMER '94


OYER, Norway -- Tommy Moe finished fifth in Alpine combined yesterday, failing in his bid to become the first American skier to win three medals in a single Winter Olympics, but emerging as one of the Games' top money winners.

Moe, 26, from Palmer, Alaska, had won a gold in the downhill and a silver in the super G, making him the first American male skier to win two medals in a single Winter Games.

Moe's times in the downhill and two runs in the slalom races yesterday were almost personal bests, 52.93 and 49.34, and he finished in 3:19.41.

But it was the Norwegians who won three medals. Lasse Kjus won the gold in 3 minutes, 17.53 seconds. Kjetil Andre Aamodt was second in 3:18.55, and Harald Strand Nilsen was third in 3:19.14.

It was the third such 1-2-3 combination by a country in Olympic Alpine history. Austria had the two previous sweeps -- in the 1956 Games in the men's giant slalom, and in 1964 in the women's downhill.

"This is great for three Norwegians to be on the podium," said Kjus.

Moe only smiled. His best was not good enough.

"I had good luck today. I just didn't have enough," said Moe.

Moe is expected to fly back to the United States today and will appear at the Ski Industries American trade show. He will also begin negotiating a number of endorsement offers that flooded his agent's office in Park City, Utah, after he won the gold medal.

A company has called about a movie on his life. A cereal company wants to know if Moe would consider posing for its breakfast of champions box.

"I haven't had a chance to really discuss all the endorsements, but I'm going to take advantage of as many as I can," said Moe, who said he has been getting 60 to 100 fan letters a day.

Moe is expected to become a multimillionaire within a year. As soon as he won the gold medal, automatic bonuses from his contracted sponsors began.

"Most of the dominant men skiers have always been from Europe," said Todd Schlopy, Moe's agent. "They make in excess of a million dollars a year. But they have never been that marketable here.

"That's where Tommy has an advantage. If you want him to be on a TV show, you don't have to teach him English."

The Dave Letterman show has called. Jay Leno could be next. On TV, Moe comes across as a witty, personable young man.

The ski-resort industry will profit, and so will the sport itself.

"We're always competing with other sports for athletes, and a lot of times they're going to football, basketball, soccer and hockey," said Paul Major, head coach of the U.S. ski team. "I think with Tommy's exposure, we might get more kids."

Moe said: "I don't mind being a spokesman for the sport. I've gotten a lot out of it."

Moe's success has spread in Norway, so much, that when he finished his second and final race, the Norwegians stood and applauded him because his time was only good enough for third. Moe eventually slid to fifth.

"You see, everybody is really not on the bandwagon," Moe said, laughing.

The Norwegians had plenty to cheer about. Kjus and Aamodt had finished 1-2 in the world championships combined last year, and traded victories in two World Cup combined competitions this season.

The sweep pushed Norway, with 25 medals, three ahead of Russia in the overall count.

Near the finish area, "We Are The Champions" played over the public address system, and then the Norwegian folk song "Victory is Ours."

The three Norwegian skiers even jumped down off the podium to dance with the Norwegian flower girls.

"We had super spectators here today. This is simply wonderful," said Kjus.

"I never experienced anything like this since I began skiing," said Aamodt. "It's my best day as a skier with 30,000 home fans supporting us."

Moe was just as happy.

"My dreams have come true in Lillehammer," said Moe. "Today was just icing on the cake. I was cheesing out the whole day, just having fun, enjoying the whole atmosphere, looking at all the people. I was just a few tenths from a medal. Now I'm happy on Norway's behalf."

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