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Tomba Drops Out of Men's Slalom

By Rob Gloster
Associated Press
Friday, February 20, 1998; 10:01 p.m. EST

 Alberto Tomba finished almost two seconds behind leader Thomas Sykora of Austria on his first run and shook his head in dismay after crossing the finish line. (Reuters File Photo)
SHIGA KOGEN, Japan — Alberto Tomba watched his last Olympic race from a hotel room.

Bothered by a groin injury from his fall two days earlier in the giant slalom, Tomba dropped out of the slalom after a slow first run Saturday (Friday night EST) that left him in 17th place.

Tomba, seeking to become the first Alpine skier to win a medal in four consecutive Winter Games, finished almost two seconds behind leader Thomas Sykora of Austria on the first slalom run. Tomba shook his head in dismay after crossing the finish line.

"He is very sorry to have to make this decision,'' said Robert Brunner, an Italian ski team official. "He wanted to finish his fourth Olympics with a medal. But considering the physical situation, and the current placing, he realized he could not win a medal.''

Tomba, who left the ski area for his hotel without speaking to reporters, tumbled off the course on the first run of the giant slalom two days earlier, falling hard on his back.

"He was still troubled by back pain and he has a light groin strain from the spill he took,'' Brunner said. "His physical condition is not good.''

Tomba's fourth Olympics lasted just 75 seconds. He crashed 18 seconds into the giant slalom, and completed the first run of the slalom in 57 seconds.

Tomba was the 1988 Olympic champion in the slalom and won silver medals in slalom at the 1992 and 1994 games. He also has two gold medals in the giant slalom.

But he never has skied well in Japan. At the 1993 world championships in Morioka, he slid off the course on the first leg of the slalom and missed the giant slalom because of food poisoning.

Sykora, skiing through thick fog and stinging sleet, had the fastest time in a first run that included a moderate earthquake. The ground shook for about two seconds, rattling a temporary press room near the finish area.

Sykora, the reigning World Cup slalom champion, completed the run in 55.06 seconds to take a lead of .22 seconds over Norway's Hans-Petter Buraas, a snowboarding enthusiast whose hair is dyed bright red.

Ole Christian Furuseth of Norway was third in 55.53, followed by defending Olympic champion Thomas Stangassinger of Austria in 55.63.

A huge crowd that included Emperor Akihito cheered wildly as Kiminobu Kimura made his run. Kimura, who had a third-place finish in a World Cup slalom this season, was considered Japan's best hope for an Alpine medal since Chiharu Igaya won silver in the 1956 slalom at Cortina.

But, despite a chorus of horn-blowing fans and a sign reading "Go! Go! Kimura,'' he managed a time of just 56.53 on the first run to finish 10th.

Matt Grosjean of Aliso Viejo, Calif., was 11th in 56.58. Bode Miller of Franconia, N.H., finished 22nd in 57.52.

Chip Knight of New Canaan, Conn., fell midway down the course and did not complete the run. Andy LeRoy of Silverthorne, Colo., missed a gate and also did not finish.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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