‘94 WINTER OLYMPICS / LILLEHAMMER : Home Team’s Skiers Have a Dreamy Day : Combined: Norwegians sweep medals, with Kjus winning the gold. Moe is a strong fifth.
Children in black wool sweaters danced with grandfathers in gray wool stockings, atop the white glistening snow, beneath brilliant blue sky, swept along in a red sea of Norwegian flags.
The movable feast slowly made its way out of the Hajfell Alpine Center here Friday, choruses of “Seieren Er Vaar” (“Victory is Ours”) echoing off the mountainside.
Lasse Kjus had come home to win the gold in men’s Alpine combined, Kjetil Andre Aamodt the silver, Harald Christian Strand-Nilsen the bronze.
The Norwegian block party peripherally included American Tommy Moe, the champion with Oslo roots. Moe did not win his third medal, but left nothing at the gate in pursuit, finishing fifth while missing bronze by 0.27 seconds.
Kyle Rasmussen, second in the downhill segment on Feb. 14, had to re-track a gate on his first run and ended up 31st.
“I had a great time in Norway,” said Moe, the downhill champion and super-G silver medalist. “It was the perfect Olympics.”
Took the words right out of the host country’s mouth.
Norway’s feat marked only the third time in Olympic history that a nation had swept an Alpine event. Austria, which swept the women’s downhill at the 1964 Innsbruck Games, had been the only previous country to sweep on home snow.
Never, though, had heroes looked more in need of a nap. Norwegians call their Alpine skiers the Dream Team, although it is less a description of praise than a reminder of their varying states of consciousness.
There was some concern Friday what might become of the medals, once they were in the boys’ hands.
Kjus, a charter Dream Teamer, has been known to forget to bring his racing suit to events. He was able to recall--it was nearly a fortnight ago--that he won the downhill combined and stood poised to take the gold so long as he could remain standing through the two slalom races.
Kjus--it’s pronounced shoose, which sounds like schuss--retained his lead after his first slalom run and skied last among the top contenders in the afternoon, setting up an emotional run for the gold, since he knew that two teammates already had secured medals.
Aamodt the Great, who skied before Kjus, raced into first with his run, no surprise.
The surprise was Strand-Nilsen, 21st after the downhill, who moved into sixth place with the ninth-fastest first run. On his second, he seized the lead and held it until Aamodt bumped him to second. Then Kjus bounced him to the bronze.
Kjus maintained a 1.06-second advantage over Aamodt as he stood in the gate and basically needed only to stay on course to win.
Seieren Er Vaar.
“It felt great standing up there on the second run,” Kjus said. “Because I already knew we had first and second place.”
Kjus did not hold back, surrendering only .04 to Aamodt on his second run and winning the combined by 1.02 seconds.
After the post-race celebration, the questioned loomed: Would the Norwegians find their way to the press conference?
Aamodt, who at 22 has won three medals in four Alpine events here and has five Olympic medals in all, has a basic look of sleepy-eyed contentment.
He claims tales of his absent-mindedness are exaggerated, although last year, after bragging about his alertness, he stepped into his car and drove off, leaving his goggles and gloves on the roof.
Strand-Nilsen, a rookie Dream Teamer, says the stories of Kjus and Aamodt are accurate.
“This morning, I had to wait because Lasse and Kjetil forgot their accreditation (Olympic identification),” Strand-Nilsen said.
“Yes, I forgot my accreditation. We were in the car and had to go back. Harald is not a member of the Dream Team, so he just sat in the car.”
Aamodt does not reveal the strain of one asked to live up to enormous expectations. The world’s best all-around skier was touted as having a chance to win five gold medals.
He has had to “settle” for a silver in downhill and combined, and a bronze in the super-G. He has a last chance for gold in Sunday’s slalom, an event in which he is defending world champion.
“People were maybe a little ambitious for me,” Aamodt said. “This year, I have only won two (World Cup) races and one combined in 30 races. I would have to win five races in a row in the Olympics. It is not realistic to think like that. Three medals in four events--that’s more than I could have hoped for.”
As for Moe, he came to the Olympics a relative unknown and departs a star, having posted the best performance by an American male skier in any Olympics, two medals and fifth in combined.
Moe, not a slalom specialist, said he would have had to “ski my brains out” to win a medal.
He almost did. He had a faster first-run slalom time than Luxembourg’s legendary Marc Girardelli. In the second, Moe finished five-hundredths slower than Aamodt.
“Tommy made a heck of a statement today,” said Paul Major, the U.S. Alpine director. “He’s one of the best skiers in the world.”
Major was so thrilled, he said Moe could develop into an all-event skier within a year and challenge Aamodt.
Two weeks ago, Major would have choked on those words.
“Everyone would have laughed at us,” he conceded.
But Moe made believers of many.
“We knew the guy could ski,” Major said. “He’s a lot like Aamodt. He can be a four-event skier.”
Moe will ski the giant slalom for the first time this season next week, when the World Cup circuit resumes at Aspen, Colo.
A different Moe returns home today, to a different America.
He has been receiving as many as 100 fan letters a day at the Olympic village. An electronics company has already made overtures to his agent about creating a “Tommy Moe Downhill” video computer game.
And back home, Alaska cities are fighting over territorial rights. Is he the downhill champion from Palmer, where he once lived?
There, T-shirts are already on sale, proclaiming Palmer “Moe-Town USA.”
Or, is Moe the pride of Girdwood, where he now resides?
Or, is it Montana, where Moe lived as a child?
Moe says he’ll always be the same old Tommy, except: “I wouldn’t mind going on Letterman.”
Producers for David Letterman’s show had in fact tried to book Moe for a March 1 taping, but Moe had to cancel because of a schedule conflict.
Something having to do with a ski race.
Tommy Moe is busting out all over.
He raced Friday in a generic black and white race suit because the slalom uniform given him before the Games didn’t fit.
“He’s grown in stature since he’s been here,” Major said. “He was a medium. Now he’s larger.”