ALBERTVILLE, FRANCE — LA PLAGNE, France -- Duncan Kennedy's chances of becoming the United States' first Olympic luge medalist virtually disappeared when he had a rough second run and dropped to 10th place yesterday.
Kennedy was considered a medal contender because of his second-place finish on the World Cup circuit. But after the first two runs here, it's clear that the Europeans still dominate the high-speed sport.
Germany's Georg Hackl set a course record of 45.190 seconds on his first run down the 1,250-meter course and took the lead with a combined time of 1 minute, 30.541 seconds. Markus Schmidt of Austria was second at 1:30.659, followed by teammate and 1991-92 World Cup champion Markus Prock at 1:30.686.
Kennedy was sixth after his first run of 45.553 seconds. But he skidded coming out of curves 5 and 13 on his second run, finishing in 45.849 seconds for a combined time of 1:31.402.
Kennedy, who placed 14th in the 1988 Olympics, declined to speak with reporters. But he was overheard saying as he left the track: "Now everybody's going to be passing me."
"He had a perfect setup after the first run, just close behind [the leaders]," U.S. coach Wolfgang Schadler said. "Probably a medal is not realistic right now. But I say he will for sure make the top six."
Germans dominate; Docter finishes 15th
There was talk of the German women's fading dominance in speed skating. After all, they took just a single gold at 1988 Olympics in Calgary.
And with the reunification of their country, the East German sports machine that had spawned the powerful skating program fell apart. Suddenly, skaters were without the government support that enabled them to focus solely on their sport.
If the 3,000-meter speed skating is any indication, the Germans are back. The Germans took the gold and silver, both in times that were well ahead of the pack.
The best the U.S. could manage was a 15th by Mary Docter, of Madison, Wis., who had hoped to crack the top 10.
World record-holder Gunda Kleeman Niemann finished first in 4:19.90, and fellow German Heike Warnicke took the silver medal in 4:22.88.
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
Exhausted Egorova wins 15-km gold
LES SAISIES, France
Exhausted Lyubov Egorova, a Russian who once thought she would never make it at top level of her sport, led from start to finish to win the women's 15-km cross country ski race in 42:20.8.
"Tough course. It was very hard at the end," said Egorova after the race, which had a total climb of 1,665 feet and was held at an altitude of more than 5,000. "But what a good day, such a good day!"
Marjut Lukkarinen, a nurse from Finland, took the silver medal in 43:29.9, 1:09.1 behind Egorova.
Elena Vialbe, the world champion and pre-race favorite, gave the Commonwealth of Independent States team a second medal by finishing third to claim the bronze.
Californian Nancy Fiddler was the highest-placed American. She rTC finished 27th, more than four minutes behind the winner.
"One kilometer before the end I felt so bad, I really didn't know what I was doing," said Egorova, who was so torn by self-doubt over her poor form a few years back that her coach had to persuade her to stay in the sport.
Favored Swedes win; Finns beat Germany
The world champion Swedes, playing below their potential, pounded Poland, 7-2. Finland, seeded fifth, then knocked off ninth-seeded Germany, 5-1.
Top-seeded Sweden used superior skating to dominate Poland and amass a 42-9 edge in shots.
"It's not usual for the Swedish team to come in as favorites," Sweden coach Conny Evensson said. "We have to learn to live with it now.
I= Hakan Loob and Lars Edstrom scored twice each for Sweden.