Winter Olympics / Ski Jumping: Bredesen reborn

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

'ESPEN the Eagle' is flying again. Espen Bredesen, whose failure to master the modern V style of ski jumping at the Albertville Games earned him his epithet, produced his true form on the normal hill at Lillehammer yesterday to give Norway yet another gold medal to celebrate.

Roared on by the 30,000-strong crowd, Bredesen set a hill record of 104 metres on his second jump for a clear points win over his young team-mate, Lasse Ottesen. Germany's Dieter Thoma claimed bronze, but the veteran Jens Weissflog, who has already won two gold medals at the Games, finished fourth in his last Olympic appearance.

At Albertville two years ago, Bredesen finished last on the normal hill and third-to-last on the high hill as he tussled with his technique. Having arrived in France as one the leading jumpers, he left as Norway's answer to Eddie the Eagle.

For Gunda Niemann, the tide has turned in the opposite direction. Yesterday in the speed skating at Hamar she was beaten over 5,000 metres for the first time for six years. The gold went to her team- mate, Claudia Pechstein, who shattered her personal best to win by half a second.

Pechstein, who switched from figure skating when she was 10, improved her best time by a 19.21sec to win in 7min 14.37sec, just over a second outside the world record Niemann set last December. She was third behind Niemann in the 5,000m at Albertville, and took the bronze in the 3,000m last week, knocking more than three seconds off her previous best time.

Niemann set off at world record pace yesterday but she wilted over the last two laps. However, she was in no danger of losing the silver medal as she was nearly five seconds faster than of third-placed Hiromi Yamamoto, of Japan.

Tout confident, results, page 27