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Winter Olympics: Down and out at the Winter Olympics

IT WAS a day of downward trajectories at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan yesterday, writes Chris Maume. The German speed skater, Franziska Schenk (left), was rumoured to be taking out British citizenship after the way she slid out of the women's 1,000 metres, just as our own Nicky Gooch did in the men's 500m.

For Alberto Tomba (top), a slalom double gold medallist in more upstanding times, there was the ignominy of landing on his backside with a mouthful of snow, crashing out of the giant slalom after a fleeting 18 seconds on his feet. Hermann Maier, who set the standard for prangs in the downhill last week, established himself as Tomba's successor yesterday with his second gold of the Games. For the New Zealander, Claudia Riegler, though (above), it was more Tomba than Maier, as she lapsed into the horizontal position in the first run of the women's slalom, which was won by a German who did manage to stay upright, Hilde Gerg.

Another notable decline and fall was that of the American skater who was thought to be in with a medal chance, Nicole Bobek. After falling in Wednesday's short programme and finishing 17th, she fell 10 times during yesterday's practice and left in tears. Slightly less notable, if perhaps more predictable, was the fate of Britain's Emma Carrick-Anderson, who crashed out early in the slalom. Given the length of time our Winter Olympians spend on their behinds, perhaps they should all be encouraged to take up the luge.

Photographs (clockwise from left): Jerry Lampen/ Reuter; Luca Bruno/AP; David Phillip/AP)