Olympic Games: Norwegians combine for a clean sweep: A nation rejoices as Kjus leads historic success on the ski slopes while a British bobber enters the final countdown with a medal in mind

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NORWAY yesterday produced the first Winter Olympic skiing clean sweep since 1964. The men's combined success gave high-flying national esteem yet another lift at a Games which many are calling the best organised of all time. The gold, silver and bronze medals kept Norway in the thick of the dogfight with Russia for overall honours with two days to go.

Never mind that the hybrid combined - which features a downhill on one day and a two-leg slalom on another - is considered the poor relation of Alpine events. Some 3,000 Norwegians hiked, caught the bus and even cross-country skied to the Hafjell Alpine Centre to cheer their men to victory.

Lasse Kjus took gold in 3min, 17.53sec, while only 1.02sec behind was the 22-year-old Kjetil Andre Aamodt, the World Cup points leader. The little-known Harald Christian Nilsen completed the medal set in 3:19.14.

The runaway win boosted Norwegian spirits after disappointing performances on the slopes in

recent days. Aamodt's silver was his third medal here in a collection which does not yet include gold. His last, and somewhat distant, chance at these Games will be in

tomorrow's slalom. The man from Oslo won super-giant gold and

giant slalom bronze in Albertville in 1992, and his overall haul makes him the first skier in history to collect five Olympic Alpine medals.

The clean sweep is only the third in Alpine Olympic history. Austria's men did it in the 1956 giant slalom and Austria's women in the 1964 downhill at home in Innsbruck.

The American Tommy Moe, who won the downhill gold, had his chances to spoil the party yesterday, but the speed machine's slalom skills were no match for the Norwegians. Moe, with two medals here, achieved his aim of a top five placing, finishing behind the fourth- placed Gunther Mader, of Austria.

The winning trio basked in the winter sunshine and in the adolation of their fans. Even Norwegian royalty got into the act, posing for a photo with medal winners.

Kjus called the victory 'the best day in my sporting life. It is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I skied as fast as possible, but I did not risk that much in the second run because I had such a big lead. In Norway we are good in the combined (Kjus is also the reigning world champion), but I did not think that we could finish with the top three.'

Aamodt accepted second place with grace. 'This is my best day as a skier,' he said. 'All those fans created a great atmosphere. I was not happy with my run, but happy with our victory. My best friend won and I'm very pleased for him.'

Sweden survived a late onslaught to beat Russia 4-3 in the ice hockey semi-finals. Sweden, who are guaranteed at least to match their only prvious Olympic medal - a silver from Innsbruck in 1948, were 4-1 ahead before conceding two goals in a 10-second spell with one minute remaining. In the final they will play Canada, who ended the surprisingly powerful run by the Finns with a 5-3 victory.

(Photograph omitted)