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Alpine skiing-Austria sweep slalom medals

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SESTRIERE, Italy, Feb 25: Austria swept the medals in the men's slalom which closed the Alpine skiing programme at the Turin Olympics today with Benjamin Raich winning his second gold medal.

Olympic rookie Reinfried Herbst took the silver with Rainer Schoenfelder adding a second bronze to the one he picked up in the combined event.

Raich became the first man to win the two technical events at the same Games since Italian Alberto Tomba in Calgary in 1988. Tomba was a spectator in the finish area on Saturday.

It was only the third time in Olympic history that a country had swept the board in a men's Alpine race.

Austria took all the medals in the 1956 giant slalom and Norway filled the combined podium at the 1994 Games in Lillehammer.

''We could not count on this kind of situation, even though we've been damn fast this season, but for it to go like this -- one, two, three -- right at the end, that's a dream,'' Austrian coach Toni Giger told ORF television.

Raich finished with an overall time of 1:43.14, 0.83 seconds ahead of Herbst and just over a second clear of Schoenfelder.

Finland's Kalle Palander, second after the first leg, set a fast time in the second run before being disqualified for straddling a gate.

After racing fast enough to become Finland's first male Olympic medallist in Alpine skiing, Palander swiped the snow angrily with his ski pole as he watched a replay of his error on the giant screen and realised he was out.

Pre-race favourites Bode Miller of the United States and Giorgio Rocca of Italy both failed to finish the first leg.

Overall World Cup champion Miller, empty-handed after five events, straddled a gate after 18 seconds. Rocca, the World Cup leader in the discipline, lasted 34 seconds before falling.

Frenchman Jean-Pierre Vidal, the 2002 champion, did not defend his title after breaking his arm in training on Friday.

Kentaro Minagawa had hoped to become only the second Japanese to win an Olympic Alpine medal after setting the third fastest time in the first run.

He was pushed off the podium by the Austrians, however, and finished in joint fourth place with Swede Andre Myhrer.

Reuters

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