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Sunday, 24 February, 2002, 02:51 GMT

Baxter bathes in slalom success

By BBC Sport Online's Anna Thompson at Deer Valley

A week ago Alain Baxter was hitting the headlines for having the wrong kind of hair.

But the Highlander attracted the media attention for all the right reasons when he became the first Briton to win an Olympic medal on snow.

Baxter will go down in British sporting history after clinching a bronze medal in the men's slalom at Salt Lake City.

He was being cheered on by Baxters' Tartan Army - all the way from Aviemore in Scotland - dressed in kilts, wigs and illuminous jackets and waving Scottish flags.

And members of his family were also there - his younger half-brother Noel, who was competing and cousin Lesley McKenna, an Olympic snowboarder, and his step-mother Janis Dick.

Baxter almost got into trouble when he turned up at the Olympics bearing a blue and white Scottish flag in his hair, which could have been considered a political statement by the International Olympic Committee.

He immediately dyed the cross blue because he did not want to jeopardise his chances and on Saturday raced with blue hair.

He told BBC Sport Online: "The blue hair must have been lucky!

"If someone had said to me at the start of the season that I would get an Olympic medal I would have said 'no chance!'

"But I have worked very hard for this and I knew I had to give it everything in the second run.

"I thought I was going to get pushed out for a medal. Finishing fourth in the Olympic Games is not the best place to be.

"When I realised I had a medal, it was amazing."

Baxter admitted he was wearing his lucky long-johns but would not be turning up to the medal ceremony wearing his trademark kilt - because he left it in Scotland.

Baxter's coach Christian Schwaiger was delighted.

He said: "We always believed it was possible. You've got to believe otherwise there is no point in racing.

"I was confident because he was skiing well in training. He was a little shaky on Friday because of nerves but I told him all the skiers would be in the same position.

"On a course like this, and with ski conditions like this, I knew it would be a fight from start to finish.

"Alain is a battler and when he made a big mistake in the first run, he was determined he was not going to go down.

"This is fantastic for him and the team."

Janis was there to support Alain and her son Noel, who finished 21st.

She was with the tartan army, who are ski patrollers and shinty players, from Cairngorm.

Janis said: "This has been a trip of a lifetime. We had been screaming and cheering our boys on. It's phenomenal."

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