MERIBEL FRANCE — MERIBEL, France -- The pressure is off, the self-doubt has disappeared. The queen of Alpine skiing finally has an Olympic gold medal to prove she's the best.
Petra Kronberger slalomed through snow as thick as whipped cream to complete her victory in the women's combined. She was fastest Wednesday in the combined downhill, and protected her lead yesterday with two flawless slalom runs.
Austrian teammate Anita Wachter won the silver medal, four years after winning the combined gold in Calgary, Alberta. France's Florence Masnada won the bronze medal.
Krista Schmidinger of Lee, Mass., second in Wednesday's combined downhill, finished 11th overall after two respectable slalom runs. Schmidinger, a downhill specialist, rarely races in the slalom.
Kronberger, 22, has dominated women's skiing for the past three seasons, but she entered the Winter Olympics in the worst slump of her career. Hometown critics turned up the pressure and her confidence plummeted.
"The pressure is not so high now," said Kronberger, looking more relieved than delighted after winning gold. "I have one medal and that's great for me. For sure it gives me confidence."
Sweden in medal round; Italy gets first victory
Top-seeded Sweden, the world champion, had little trouble ** with Germany in running its record to 3-0, scoring all four goals in the first period and holding Germany scoreless the rest of the way.
Forty-year-old Borje Salming, an 18-year NHL veteran with Toronto and Detroit, scored the Swedes' first goal and said after the game: "I'm here because I can still play and I want that gold medal. We have the best team in the tournament and we are going to take it game by game and prove something."
Another NHL veteran, Mats Naslund, who won a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens, had two assists for Sweden.
Italy scored its first win and revived its medal round hopes by beating Poland, 7-1, behind the strong goaltending of American-born David Delfino.
Bruno Zarillo, one of five Canadian-born players to score for Italy, got the first goal of the game in the fourth minute and also scored his team's sixth. Lucio Topatigh was the only one of the seven Italian-born players on his country's squad to score. Poland's only goal was scored by Robert Szopinski.
Karlstad sloshes to gold; American Flaim is sixth
If Geir Karlstad were a racehorse, he'd be known as a mudder -- a sure-footed speedster who can shake off the slop and finish with a flourish.
Despite steady rain and soft ice, the Norwegian covered the soggy track in 6 minutes, 59.97 seconds to win the men's 5,000-meter speed skating and help ease the pain of disappointment for a teammate just out of the hospital.
"I didn't like soft ice up to now, but now I do," Karlstad said. The winner said the race should have been postponed because of the track conditions.
Dutch skaters finished 2-3. Falko Zandstra slipped to silver when Karlstad bested his 7:02.28 and Leo Visser was bumped to bronze with a 7:04.95.
Eric Flaim, who finished fourth in the 5,000 at the Winter Games in Calgary, was the top American skater, sixth this time at 7:11.15.
The pre-race favorite, Norway's Johann-Olav Koss, spent 36 hours in the hospital last week, with a painful case of
pancreatitis. He wasn't released until Sunday.
Ulvang wins 2nd gold; Finns keep string going
Marjut Lukkarinen continued a Finnish Olympic tradition by winning the women's 5-kilometer cross country skiing, and Norway's Vegard Ulvang became the 1992 Games' first double-gold winner by taking the medal in the men's 10K.
Lukkarinen finished in 14:3.8 seconds to edge second-place Lyubov Egorova of the Unified Team by .9 seconds.
"I was hoping for a medal, but never for the gold. It's such a great feeling," said Lukkarinen after winning the first Finnish gold in Albertville.
Elena Valbe, third in the opener, added another bronze for the Unified Team, finishing eight seconds behind Egorova.
It was Finland's third consecutive Olympic triumph in the women's sprint race: Marja-Liisa Kirvesniemi won in 1984 in Sarajevo and Marjo Matikainen won in 1988, in Canmore near Calgary.
Ulvang, winner of the men's opening 30K Monday, broke a ski pole near the halfway mark. Despite the mishap, he managed his second gold of the Games by beating Marco Albarello, of Italy, by 19.2 seconds.
Christer Majback, of Sweden, finished third.
Today's races were the first legs of the two-day pursuit, a new event on the Olympic schedule. The second leg, a 15K freestyle for the men and a 10K freestyle for the women, was set for Saturday.
The start times will be staggered to reflect the finish of the 10K race. The first skier across the finish line on the second day is the winner.