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  Koss the Boss Has Nation at His Feet

Compiled From News Services
Thursday, February 17, 1994; Page B6

Two races, two golds, two world records. For the second time in the Olympics, speed skater Johann Olav Koss was too much.

Koss was guided to yesterday's gold in the 1,500 meters by roaring Norwegians waving their country's red, white and blue-crossed flag, popping flashbulbs and chanting his name.

"Koss Is The Boss," proclaimed a sign hanging from the rafters in the Viking Ship arena.

"It was unbelievable to hear the cheers, to make so many people happy," said the 25-year-old medical student and national hero.

Powered by a final lap that raised the noise level inside the tubular hall to rock-concert levels, Koss won in 1 minute 51.29 seconds — .31 seconds faster than the old world mark set on the same ice last month by the Netherlands' Rintje Ritsma.

Ritsma had to settle for silver yesterday with a time of 1:55.99 — the third-fastest 1,500 ever. Fellow Dutchman Falko Zandstra was third in 1:52.38.

Koss's final lap was a surrealistic vision of speed, power, grace and adulation.

Down the backstretch, he picked up speed, and a burst of flashing cameras created a strobe-like reflection off the ice to light his way. He rocketed into the third turn, then the fourth, until even the orange-bedecked Dutch fans, silent until now as they saw gold slipping away, were screaming.

"I was trying to push, push, push, keep good pressure on the ice," Koss said.

When he accelerated across the finish line and his time flashed on the scoreboard, the metallic roof shook and shimmied with the noise. Koss peeled back the hood on his redder-than-red racing skin, pumped his fists and held his face in his hands in near-disbelief.

Koss returned to the ice for a victory lap after the formality of the remaining portion of the competition was completed. The lights were dimmed, and he slowly circled the track, illuminated by a spotlight.

The star treatment is most deserved. Koss now has four Olympic medals — two from these Games and two from the 1992 Games in Albertville, France, where he won the gold in the 1,500 and the silver in the 10,000.

On Sunday, he goes for the gold here in the 10,000 meters — his best event.

"He has been unbelievable," Zandstra said.

Women's Luge: Italy's Gerda Weissensteiner didn't regard her gold medal-winning performance in the women's luge yesterday as perfect, although she did manage to withstand Turn 13.

That's the curve Cammy Myler of Lake Placid, N.Y., hit at a bad angle, bouncing her off the wall, and that threw teammate Erin Warren and also knocked Duncan Kennedy out of the men's race.

Weissensteiner said no one found a perfect line down the 16-turn Hunderfossen track. But she managed to come the closest, winning Olympic gold with a four-run total of 3 minutes 15.517 seconds.

Myler, a strong contender for the first U.S. Olympic luge medal after finishing fifth in the '92 Games, came in six places lower yesterday, her big chance vanishing on Turn 13 in Tuesday's second run. She finished with two respectable slides yesterday.

Weissensteiner's gold topped off a year-long string of luge triumphs that included titles in the world championships, World Cup and European championship.

The 24-year-old forest warden from the Italian Alps captured her medal at the leading edge of a European medal sweep. Weissensteiner said she "was driven by her fourth place at the 1992 Albertville Olympics."

Germany's Susi Erdmann, the 1992 bronze medalist, took silver, .759 seconds behind Weissensteiner. Andrea Tagwerker of Austria won the bronze with a time 1.135 seconds slower than Erdmann's.

Bethany Calcaterra-McMahon, 19, of Waterford, Conn., finished 12th, .271 seconds behind Myler.

© Copyright 1994 The Associated Press

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