Winter Olympics / Lillehammer '94: Wildest American dreams: Roffe-Steinrotter secures super-giant slalom honours to double ski gold tally for the States - Victory for returning professional skaters

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The Independent Online
WHAT is beginning to look suspiciously like an American Alpine ski juggernaut thundered on yesterday, as Diann Roffe-Steinrotter, put 11 seasons of experience to good use as she won a second major title, in the super-giant slalom, nine years after her first. The unexpected victory occurred 48 hours after Tommy Moe claimed the men's downhill gold medal for a team many thought would do well to earn a ski medal of any hue at the Games. The tally so far: two golds from two races.

Roffe-Steinrotter was the first racer down the 2.03-kilometre Olympiabakken track and set a time of 1min 22.15sec, which no one could touch. Svetlana Gladishiva, of Russia, starting down as late as No 35, came closest, with 1:22.44, and the 18-year-old Italian, Isolde Kostner, from German-speaking Bolzano, took the bronze just one-hundredth of a second behind. Prior to the Olympics, Kostner won the downhill last month in which the Austria's former world champion, Ulrike Maier, lost her life.

Despite a silver two years ago in the giant slalom at Albertville, Roffe-Steinrotter has hardly been burning up the World Cup slopes recently. Her up-and-down career has included a world championship in the giant slalom in 1985 at Bormio, Italy, followed by several years of injuries and an overall 42nd finish last spring. 'In 1985 I was 17 years old and did not know a thing about how to perform,' the American said. 'Now, I know almost everything about how to ski fast. The biggest experience comes in knowing that you have to risk everything in order to win.'

Roffe-Steinrotter called the Games: 'Strange. It's one day, one hill and 1.5 minutes. And whoever skis the best is going to get a gold medal. It doesn't matter if you are a favourite or not. It did not matter to me, I just had to believe in my skiing.'

Roffe-Steinrotter, who will retire at the end of the season, said that Moe's win had been a major boost. 'What an inspiration. He did his job and I took inspiration from it. The Americans came here with no pressure. I think that we are able to relax on the day. This was probably the best race that I've ever skied.'

The runner-up, Gladishiva, said: 'This is the first Alpine medal for Russia and I'm very happy. I was hoping for the top 10, but I thought that this finish was impossible for me.

'This means more to me than the bronze in the downhill at the World Championships of 1991.'

The 22-year-old from Oufa in the Urals, finished eighth in the downhill at the Albertville Games two years ago and has a best of fifth in the World Cup this season. The medal was a reward for years of effort in the sport, which she took up at the age of 11.

(Photograph omitted)

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