Speed-skating: Jansen survives long wait and near fall for world record: Winter Olympics: Happy ending for American speed skater - Few answers to Kerrigan saga - Downhill champion content to defend

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The Independent Online
DAN JANSEN finally broke his Olympic jinx yesterday by winning the 1,000 metres speed skating gold medal in a world record time, despite slipping slightly.

The American, written off by many as a perennial 'hard luck kid' unable to rise to the big occasion, flashed round Hamar's super- fast Viking Ship stadium in 1min 12.43sec, shaving almost 0.6sec from his own personal best and 0.11 off the previous world best.

What made the record remarkable was that Jansen, whose near fall in Monday's 500m cost him a medal, had to put out a hand to keep his feet going into the final bend. 'It's an unbelievable relief. It's over and it's finally got a happy ending,' Jansen said. 'Now we can go home and know that I wasn't just the best without a medal, but I was the best with a medal.'

The six-times world sprint champion Igor Zhelezovsky from Belarus was second in 1:12.72 and Russia's Sergei Klevchenya - who slipped on the same bend as Jansen while on record pace himself - third in 1:12.85. The Canadian, Kevin Scott, who reduced the world record to 1:12.54 in Calgary in December, was never in the hunt and finished 10th.

'I've waited a long time for it. I didn't even feel so good before the race so I thought, 'Just skate, and it will be over soon',' Jansen said.

After crossing the finishing line, Jansen looked up anxiously at the scoreboard before giving a huge smile of relief as the result sank in. He then hugged his coach, Peter Mueller, who said the race showed once and for all that the skater could handle pressure. 'I guess good guys do win,' said Mueller, who won the first Olympic 1,000m at Innsbruck in 1976. 'Monday was the worst day of my life. Today was the best day of my life.'

Jansen was not the only skater to have problems keeping his feet. The favourite, Gjunde Njoes, of Norway, fell on the same bend and Russia's Mikhail Vostroknutov also crashed. 'I decided not to push until I went through the turns because I was afraid to fall,' Jansen said, after cruising round the stadium to cheers from the capacity 10,600 crowd.

Jansen's gold, the first captured by an American male skater since Eric Heiden won all five events in the 1980 Lake Placid Games, ended six years of Olympic woe. In the 1988 Calgary Games he fell in both the 500 and 1,000m after learning his sister had died of leukaemia. In Albertville, he hesitated slightly in the final bend of the 500m and dropped to fourth. He could only finish 26th in the 1,000m.

Kurt Brugger and Wilfried Huber staged a major surprise in the luge doubles when the Italians become the first non-German pair to win the two-seater event outright since 1964.

Myriam Bedard made up for her narrow defeat in the World Championships by winning the women's 15km biathlon. The Canadian, who won a bronze medal in the long-distance event when women's biathlon made its Olympic debut two years ago in Albertville, won thanks to her superior shooting. She missed only two of her 20 targets, one fewer than the silver medallist Anne Briand of France and the third-placed Ursula Disl, of Germany.

Germany beat Russia 4-2 to reach the quarter-finals of the ice hockey tournament. Russia had already reached the last eight with Pool A leaders Finland, who have won all three of their games including a 5-0 whitewash of the Russians. The Czech Republic won their quarter- final place by beating Norway 4-1.