There was numbing cold and swirling snow here today as speed skater Eric Heiden won the 5,000-meter event for his second gold medal in two days at the Winter Olympics.
While the abominable conditions were of little concern to Heiden, a 21-year-old pre-med student from Madison, Wis., it wreaked havoc elsewhere in the Olympic region today.
New York Gov. Hugh Carey declared a "limited state of emergency" to rescue spectators stranded in the cold in a peripheral parking lot.
The weather problems were more of a nuisance to the athletes than anything else. Final competition in the biathlon, luge and bobsled went off as scheduled at outdoor sites, and Lake Placid was swarming with its largest crowds of the week.
Many fans congregated early at the speed-skating oval this morning to watch Heiden become the first American skater to win the 5,000 since Irving Jaffee in 1932.
Another capacity crowd of 2,000 was on hand at a tiny auxiliary hockey arena to watch a sluggish U.S. hockey team rally from a 1-0 first-period deficit to defeat Norway, 5-1. The U.S. team stayed in the first place in its Blue Division with a 2-0-1 record.
Back out in the cold, Anatoli Aljabiev of the Soviet Union won the gold medal in the 20-kilometer biathlon competition after the judges had to examine all 196 targets shot at by 49 competitors. Aljabiev was the only man without a miss at all four targets.
Swiss bobsledders Erich Schaerer and Josef Benz, who had the fastest times in three of the four runs, won the gold medal in the two-man event, an event that also saw a pair of American sleds finish fifth and sixth.
Bernhard Glass of East Germany won the gold medal in men's luge, after leader Ernest Haspinger of Italy spilled on the next-to-last curve. The women's luge was won by Russian Vera Zozulya.
Heiden's performance cracked the Olympic record by 20 seconds and kept him in the running for his pre-Olympic goal -- five races, five golds.
"We tried today (to beat Heiden) and didn't succeed, and we will try again," said Arne Lier, the coach of the two Norwegians who took silver and bronze today -- Kai Arne Stenshjemmet and Tom Erik Oxholm.
"But I think Eric has a good chance."
Oxholm was the first man to race today and his clocking of 7 minutes 5.59 seconds smashed the Olympic mark by 15 seconds. Still, he said, "I was sure Eric would beat it."
It did not take long. Heiden raced in the next pair against Holland's Hilbert Van Der Buim, but this was clearly a one-man run against the clock after the first lap, when Heiden opened a 25-yard lead.
From then on, Heiden relied on his coach, Dianne Holum, to inform him where he stood after each lap.While Oxholm had set a swift early pace, then faded, Heiden maintained an average of 33 seconds a lap throughout the race.
After four turns around the track, Heiden was four seconds behind Oxholm's time, a fact that was made known to him and eveyone else by a public address announcer with a flair for the dramatic.
Heiden whittled Oxholm's advantage with each lap, to the point that he was one second behind with 1,600 meters to go. With three laps remaining, their times were almost even, and when the man on the microphone announced Heiden had a one-second led with two laps remaining, the crowd cheered mightily and began what has become a familiar chant at these Games -- "Eric, Eric, Eric"
Heiden was not out of danger when he crossed the finish line in 7:02.29 Stenshjemmet, the world record holder at 6:56.90, raced two pairs later and stayed with Heiden's pace until the final 600 meters.
While Heiden had picked up the pace down the stretch, Stenshjemmet ran out of energy. "I get tired, that's all," he said later.
"I knew that (he was close) but when I had two laps left, I raised my arm at the crossing side and I had no power. I knew then I could not do it."
No one else in the field could, either, although 17 of the 29 skaters bettered the Olympic record. Mike Woods, a 28-year-old medical student from Milwaukee, finished seventh in 7:10.39.
Heiden said he did not begin to feel tired until there were five laps remaining, but that "I skated with everything I had at the end."
Asked about his chances to win three more medals -- in the 1,000 meters Tuesday, the 1.500 Thursday and the 10,000 next Saturday -- Heiden said, "I feel confident going into the 1,000 and 1,500. The 10,000 is still up in the air because we haven't had a lot of competitions at that distance. You just don't know."
If Heiden is feeling any pressure, it hardly shows.
"To tell you the truth, when people talk about that (the five golds) it goes in one ear and out the other," he said "I just want to skate well. Sure, I'm excited about winning, but I've got to relax when I talk to you guys."
And how, he will celebrate today's victory?
"That's a skater's secret," he winked.
U.S. hockey Coach Herb Brooks, meanwhile, sounded as if the team had just lost to Norway, instead of prevailing, 5-1, a victory that kept the Americans very much alive for a chance to win a medal in the competition.
"It was kind of a brutal game," Brooks moaned. "We just weren't motivated. We didn't move the puck, we didn't do a lot of things. We were drained from the Czech game (a stunning 7-3 U.S. triumph Thursday night)." dThe Americans came out flat and fell behind, 1-0, when Geir Myhre stuffed in a rebound at 4:19 of the opening period.
But the Americans, who outshot Norway, 43-22, wasted little time getting back in the game in the second period.
Captain Mike Eruzione scored unasisted 41 seconds into the period on a power-play shot, and Mark Johnson, skating despite a painful shoulder injury incurred against the Czechs, connected from 10 feet at 4:51.
David Silk gave the Americans a 3-1 lead off a lovely centering pass from behind the net from Mark Pavelich at 13:31 and the Americans never were threatened thereafter. Mark Wells and Ken Morrow added two goals in the third period.
Morrow's effort may have been the slowest slap shot in Olympic history, but the puck trickled past Norway, goalie Jim Martinsen, who will tell everyone that six bodies screened him. Don't believe it.