Deneriaz upsets downhill field


TURIN, Italy -- The marquee event of the first weekend brought its share of surprises and disappointments as little-thought-of French skier Antoine Deneriaz won the men's downhill yesterday.

U.S. bad boy Bode Miller was considered a strong medal contender, but he struggled down the course and finished fifth. Teammate Daron Rahlves finished 10th on a course on which he won a World Cup event.

Deneriaz was ranked 38th in the World Cup standings and was the 30th person down the course. But his mastery was evident from the top as he won the race by the largest margin of victory -- almost three-fourths of a second -- in 42 years.

Austria's Michael Walchhofer thought he had the race won when both Miller and Rahlves struggled. But he had to wait until all 30 of the top entrants went down the hill, and it was the last skier that caused him to be placed in the silver medal position. Bruno Kernan of Switzerland was awarded the bronze medal.

Speed skating -- The Dutch found themselves back in a familiar position -- atop the podium at the speed skating venue. Ireen Wust skated to a win in the women's 3,000 meters while teammate Renate Groenewold won the silver. Cindy Klassen of Canada was third. On Saturday's first day of competition, the Dutch could only get a silver medal, which was well below their expectations. Catherine Raney of the U.S. finished 11th, which qualified her for the 5,000-meter event Feb. 25. The top 16 finishers qualified for that event.

Cross country -- The Eastern European domination of cross country continued in two disciplines. Eugeni Dementiev of Russia won the men's 30-kilometer pursuit. Frode Estil of Norway won the silver and Pietro Piller Cottrer got the bronze. The U.S. team was pretty dismal with Carl Swenson being the best and finishing 40th. Andrew Johnson (43rd), James Southam (44) and Lars Flora (49th) also competed. The U.S. news in the women's 15-kilometer pursuit wasn't much better with Rebecca Dussault having the best finish, placing 48th. Other Americans were Lindsey Weier (55th), Abby Larson (56th) and Lindsay Williams (62nd). The race was won by Kristina Smigun of Estonia followed by Katerina Neumannova of the Czech Republic and Evgenia Medvedeva-Abruzova of Russia.

Ski jumping -- Norway's Lars Bystoel rallied from sixth after the first jump to win the gold in normal hill ski jump. Finland's Matti Hautamaeki won the silver and Norway's Roar Ljoekelsoey took the bronze. The U.S. jumpers didn't even qualify for the finals. Alan Alborn finished 40th and Clint Jones was 47th.

John Cherwa is the Tribune sports coordinator at the Olympics.

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