CALGARY, FEB. 27 -- The day belonged to "La Bomba." The night to "The Bombshell." First, Alberto Tomba owned the mountain in a blizzard of snow, winning the closest Alpine ski race in Olympic history. Then Katarina Witt ruled the ice in a storm of cheers, becoming the first woman in 52 years to hold her Olympic figure skating title.

In a final Saturday crescendo, the Winter Olympics had everything today. Everything, that is, except glory for the United States. Figure skater Debi Thomas gave a performance containing three obvious blunders, which she called "my nightmare," to fall from first place to a bronze medal. Canada's inspired Elizabeth Manley also passed Thomas. Even Bonnie Blair, America's only double medalist, faltered twice in 1,500-meter speed skating and finished fourth.

The glamorous Tomba and Witt, the king and queen of these Games by acclamation, both won gold medals with thrilling come-from-behind performances. "If Katarina doesn't win the gold tonight, I will give her one of mine," said Tomba, who came to the Saddledome to watch, then meet the crowd-stopping Witt.

Skating to Georges Bizet's "Carmen," Witt chose to die on her final notes. But it was Thomas, trying to change the script and be a joyous "Carmen," who wilted from the very first.

As her triple-toe-loop, triple-toe-loop came up awkwardly short, Thomas seemed stunned, since that is the one leap that Witt has never mastered. The '86 world champion quickly came unglued, skated without the vivid animation that marked her Thursday short program and nearly fell twice.

"I'm sorry," she told her coach Alex McGowan.

"Well, back to school. It's finally over," Thomas murmured to McGowan as millions of TV viewers listened to her private moment of agonizing disappointment.

"It wasn't there, I guess . . . It wasn't supposed to happen, I guess. But I tried."

Another Olympics? After all, Witt has now become the first woman figure skater in more than 50 years to defend her Olympic title. "No way," said Thomas. "I'm still alive. I can get on with my life."

If Witt's performance was poised, commanding and almost flawless -- she eliminated one triple jump which has plagued her practices all week -- then the work of Manley and Japan's Midori Ito, who finished fifth, was joyous, full of risk and true physical poetry.

"I just wasn't having fun," said Thomas, the image of a pressure victim.

Others were: "This was my best," said Manley, who will now be the heroine of heroines for Canada, which has won no gold medals here. "What a place to do it."

Manley actually won tonight's long program with Witt second, Ito third and Thomas fourth.

At sundown, speed skater Blair, who will carry the U.S. flag in Sunday's final ceremonies, failed -- but not by much -- to become the first U.S. athlete to win three Winter medals since Eric Heiden in '80.

The surprise winner of the 1,500 was Yvonne van Gennip of Holland, who not only got her second gold medal of the Games but edged the luckless legend, Karin Enke-Kania of East Germany, by .14 of a second. Kania, who now has eight Olympic medals, has had a strep throat infection all week.

On Sunday, the seldom mentioned Van Gennip will have a chance in the 5,000 meters to be the only athlete to win three individual gold medals here.

In the much-mocked category here has been the dissension-riddled U.S. bobsled team. Today, silent, grumpy Brent Rushlaw, the best U.S. driver of his generation, took the USA No. 1 sled to a fifth-place standing at the midpoint of the four-man competition. Rushlaw is just .19 seconds out of third place with two more runs scheduled for Sunday as the United States, once the world's bobsled power, strains for its first bobsled medal since 1956.

Neither snow, nor bad racing luck, nor a third-place standing after the first slalom run kept Tomba, the man of a thousand nicknames, from gambling and staggering his way past both West Germany's Frank Woerndl and Sweden's Jonas Nilsson to claim his glory. He swept down Mount Allan to beat Woerndl by just .06 of a second.

"My coaches advised me not to take too many risks," said Tomba of his first run in 51.62 seconds. "I could have pushed harder." In the second run, he did. In the final yards, The Beast lost his balance, almost fell and lost time.

When Tomba won the giant slalom Thursday, he crossed the finish, then bellowed, "I am the best in the world." This afternoon, he held his breath like a worried child as Woerndl and Nilsson followed him down the mountain. Nilsson dropped to sixth -- one spot ahead of Switzerland's Pirmin Zurbriggen, who ended these Olympics with a gold, a bronze and two major disappointments.

"It was more difficult than expected because I was penalized by a high starting number and a rutted course in the first heat. I also made a bad mistake in the bottom part of the second run. For one moment I was afraid that the title could have gone," said Tomba. "After {Thursday} and today, this is fantastic for me. Myself and only the great champions could do it . . .

"Now I am only thinking of celebrations at the Italian club {in Calgary}," Tomba said. "I am thinking of a sleepless night."

What was left for the evening was a showdowns between U.S. women and classic East German Olympic champions. Blair, who won at 500 and was third at 1,000, had minor slips near both start and finish, but they were irrelevant; the bronze, won by Andrea Ehrig of East Germany, was lost by more than three seconds. "I was tired off the bat," said Blair. "I'm very satisfied, very happy with the results in all my races. In a way it's a relief to be finished, there is so much emphasis put on the Olympics. But in a way, it's sad, too."

That pressure, and that sadness, when a huge and powerful nation puts so many of its hopes on so few qualified shoulders, showed most clearly in Thomas' face.

"It's over, finally," Thomas said, echoing the thoughts of many after Games in which the United States has won only six of 138 medals.