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Finally A Race

Day 3, and still no Alpine medals.
There was finally a race, though - the slalom portion of the men's combined event, contested through a heavy snowfall described as pure "chaos."
Overcoming the driving snow and the icy Kokusai Gelaende course, Austria's Mario Reiter took the lead in the combined event with the fastest time on each of the two slalom runs Tuesday morning (Monday night EST).
But the storm postponed yet another event, the women's super-G, further complicating an already jumbled Alpine schedule. The super-G was rescheduled for Wednesday (Tuesday night, EST), bumping the men's downhill back to Thursday (Wednesday night, EST).
The weather made it tough for skiers to turn sharply around the 55 gates on each run of the combined slalom. Plumes of snow, and soldiers with shovels, trailed the competitors.
"It was chaos,"said the world's top skier, Hermann Maier of Austria, who was eighth after the two slalom runs. "It was too difficult. I've never seen anything like it."
Reiter had an aggregate time of 1 minute, 31.85 seconds for the two runs, giving him a lead of nearly two seconds over Lasse Kjus of Norway. Andrzej Bachleda of Poland, a music student at the University of Denver, was third.
None of the three Americans entered in the combined event finished the two slalom runs. Matt Grosjean of Aliso Viejo, Calif., was third after the first run, but missed a gate on the second burying his head in his hands in disappointment as he skied off the course.
About 8 inches of fresh snow overnight forced postponement of the women's super-G, meaning no Alpine medal will be awarded until at least Wednesday (Tuesday night EST).
Picabo Street will make her Nagano Olympics debut in the super-G.
"You want snow because it's a winter event, but it's like, `WE'VE GOT ENOUGH NOW, THANK YOU,"' Street said, cupping her hands around her mouth and shouting into the driving storm.
The snow has wreaked havoc on Alpine events, which were supposed to begin Sunday with the men's downhill. That race was moved to Wednesday, but now has been moved again to Thursday the same day as the downhill portion of the men's combined event.
The snow is expected to continue into Wednesday, but the sun is finally forecast to break through after that.
"The course was very icy because they removed the fresh snow,"said Italy's Kristian Ghedina, who finished 11th in the combined slalom. "I think to stage the Olympics here, it's really risky because everybody knew that Japanese weather is very unpredictable. For the athletes it is not good, because we are getting bored with all the postponements and of not knowing the exact day of the races."
Despite the work of 420 soldiers, whose green jackets stood out like dots on the whitewashed Happo'one course, snow gathered quickly. An additional 170 soldiers were deployed with shovels because of the heavy snow. And 197 volunteers joind them in clearing the course.
Reiter, a slalom specialist, had a time of 47.37 seconds on the first run and 44.48 on the second. Kjus, who is a much better downhiller than Reiter, had an aggregate time of 1:33.66, while Bachleda's was 1:34.49.
"Lasse (Kjus) is a world-class downhill skier. And he is still the top favorite for the combined title,"said Reiter, who lost his spot on the Austrian team in 1993 and paid for his own training while making a comeback.
Kjus, defending Olympic champion in the combined event, said he has a lot of time to make up on Reiter.
"I need to ski very well in downhill and he needs to ski slow,"he said with a grin.
Maier, by far the best downhiller left in the event, had an aggregate time of 1:35.90 meaning he'll need to make up 4.05 seconds on teammate Reiter in the combined downhill, a nearly insurmountable margin even for Maier.
He was fortunate to still be in the event: He nearly fell halfway through the first run, but managed to stay on course.
Grosjean, who finished fourth in a World Cup combined event in Switzerland this season, is a strong slalom skier but not as good in the downhill. So he pushed hard on the second run too hard.
"I had to be fast in both runs of the slalom, and I was looking to make up time,"he said. "I misjudged my line on the first roll there. I went over it too straight and there was no way I was going to make the next gate. When I saw where I had to be, I just kind of threw my body over there."
No American has won an Olympic medal in the men's combined event.
Only 26 of the 38 racers finished the first run. Among those to slide off the course were Jason Rosener of Breckenridge, Colo., and Chad Fleischer of Vail, Colo.

Written by ROB GLOSTER AP Sports Writer ©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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