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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 02:38 GMT

Eberharter secures gold in nick of time

BBC Sport's skiing commentator Martin Bell looks back on a terrific race as Austria's Stephan Eberharter makes the most of life in the last-chance saloon.

Thursday's men's giant slalom was a great race and it was always going to be about Eberharter having a cool, sufficient run despite the immense pressure that he was under.

He is certainly not getting any younger and will not be around for the next Olympics.

He is not a slalom skier, so this was probably the last chance for an Olympic gold medal in his entire career.

No-one has ever won a gold medal at 36, or even a World Cup - so he almost certainly will not be around in four years' time.

Up until the giant slalom he has had a disastrous Olympics if only by his own high standards.

For anyone else, to pick up an Olympic silver and bronze, would have been a pretty decent achievement.

But the expectations he had, his great form coming into the Games and the manner in which he skied the super-G, meant he was a frustrated man.

He had the super-G in the bag until he made an unnecessary mistake and took the wrong line.

He wanted more and he just had to do it in this time or never.

Fortunately for him it was his day at last.

If he had suffered any little mishap then I think Bode Miller would have capitalised.

The American took silver, and for once I think he was perhaps not aggressive enough.

I thought that skiing at number one he would be so nervous and would make all sorts of mistakes.

But he did not take as many risks as usual. He had a very clean first run.

In the second run he did let it all hang out in typical Bode Miller style. But it was too late.

Apart from Eberharter, nobody made the most out of their first runs.

Miller will be full of confidence ahead of the Saturday's slalom though.

That is his strongest event and if he can ski as he can ski then he is assured victory. But obviously, in slalom mistakes can happen very quickly.

For the bronze it was the old rivalry between the Norwegians Lasse Kjus and Kjetil-Andre Aamodt.

Everyone expected another medal for Aamodt, but Kjus showed that whatever his room-mate can do he can do just as well and made sure that the medal was his.

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