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Germany's Seizinger Wins Gold

Caution cost Picabo Street big time.

Usually fearless, sometimes even reckless, she decided to play it safe Monday (Sunday night, EST) and missed making U.S. Alpine history by 17-hundredths of a second.

Germany's Katja Seizinger didn't hesitate at all and became the first downhiller to repeat as Olympic champion.

Seizinger, who edged Street to win at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, finished in 1 minute, 28.89 seconds Monday (Sunday night, EST) to become the first person to win two Olympic downhills.

Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden won her third Olympic medal by placing second in 1:29.18, pumping her fists in the air at the finish area after seeing her time. France's Florence Masnada, who has said she will retire after this season, was third in 1:29.37.

Street, trying to become the first U.S. Alpine skier to win three Olympic medals, was sixth in 1:29.54. Normally an aggressive racer, the 1994 silver medalist in the downhill said she held back on the icy course.

"I just didn't want to risk anything. I don't need to go down again," said Street, who was seeking her second gold medal of these Olympics.

"I tried my hardest to get up there on the podium, but it's not worth risking my health at this point to maybe either get down here and win a medal or hit the fence. I've hit the fence too many times."

Street is coming back from left knee surgery and began these Olympics still feeling "fuzzy" after tumbling off the course during a race in Are, Sweden, in late January.

That didn't prevent her from skiing to the gold medal in the super-G last week, but it was on her mind during a downhill run under rare sunshine.

Street, who was hoping to become the first American to win two Alpine gold medals in an Olympics since Andrea Mead Lawrence in 1952, said she had trouble controlling her skis in the race.

"The problem was it rained really hard for the last couple of days and they just kept slipping, slipping, slipping," she said. "So it was really hard and grippy."

"Seizinger has a lot of experience and she was hungry. She was mean today," Street added. "I knew that I was really going to have to have one in order to beat her."

There was light fog until just before race time along upper parts of the course, but the finish area was bathed in sunshine the first day the sun has peeked through since Street won her super-G gold medal last Wednesday (Tuesday night EST).

The race was part of an Alpine tripleheader. Days of bad weather pushed back the schedule so much that organizers had to schedule three races in one day.

Hermann Maier, still bruised three days after a horrifying crash in the downhill, won gold in the men's super-G that ended just 20 minutes before the start of the women's downhill. The downhill portion of the women's combined event was set for later in the day

In the 14 women's downhills that have been run at the Olympics, 13 have been won by skiers from Germany, Austria r Switzerland. The only outsider to win was Kerrin Lee Gartner of Canada at the 1992 Albertville Games.

Seizinger, an economics student who learned to ski during vacations with her family in France, was sixth in the super-G last week and said she thought she had come up short again.

"It was very slippery and bumpy. When I came to the finish line, I didn't expect or hope that it would be enough," she said. "It's quite a different feeling from Lillehammer because it was unexpected."

It was remarkable that Wiberg, a gold medalist in the 1992 Olympic giant slalom and the winner of the 1994 Olympic combined event, was even able to ski in the race. It has been an awful season for her, with injuries to both knees and broken ribs in January.

Wiberg, along with Seizinger the favorites in the combined event, became the first Swede to win a downhill medal.

Masnada was the bronze medalist in the combined event at the 1992 Albertville Olympics.

Street said her recent injuries and the resultant lack of training prevented her from going all-out on the downhill.

"I'm not looking for excuses at all, I'm not that kind of person," she said. "I just literally didn't ski as aggressively as I could have today because I didn't trust myself that well. And that's real. I have to live with that. And I can grow from this."

Jonna Mendes of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., finished 17th in 1:30.89, Kate Monahan of Aspen, Colo., tied for 26th in 1:32.22 and Kirsten Clark of Raymond, Maine, was 28th in 1:32.25.

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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