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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 11:17 GMT

Silver lining for Nagano

If medals were handed out to Olympic hosts, Nagano would have come away with a silver.

Well organised and passionately supported, the most southerly venue ever for a Winter Games attracted a record number of events and competitors.

But Nagano was always going to struggle to live up to Lillehammer four years previously which IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch had proclaimed the "best ever".

The bad weather which forced the repeated postponement of alpine events did not help and the time difference meant viewing figures in Britain and America were poor.

That said, the sport itself provided plenty of memorable moments and one or two major upsets.

In skiing, Hermann Maier went on to dominate after crashing out of the downhill in spectacular fashion.

The 'Herminator' took gold in the super-G and the giant slalom while in the women's event, Katja Seizinger became only the second skier to retain an Olympic title when she won the downhill.

Elsewhere, snowboarding's Olympic debut was hit by controversy with gold medallist Ross Rebagliati testing positive for cannabis.

The Canadian kept his title after claiming he had been the victim of passive smoking at a party.

Wrecking spree

There was more drama on the ice as American Tara Lipinski beat favourite Michelle Kwan to became the youngest-ever gold medallist in Winter Olympic history at the age of 16.

Lipinski's dazzling and emotional performance was in stark contrast to that of the United States ice hockey team.

For the first time, National Hockey League players were allowed to take part but that cut no ice with the Czech Republic who thumped America 4-1 in the quarter-final.

Following their defeat, the Americans went on a room-wrecking spree while the Czechs went on to take gold.

It was a poor Games for the British team who had to settle for a solitary bronze medal for Sean Olsson's four-man bob team following a tie for third place with France.

The hosts had more to celebrate with golds for speed skater Hiroyasu Simizu and ski jumper Masahiko Harada sparking wild celebrations among the Japanese supporters.

At the closing ceremony, Samaranch told Japan: "You have presented to the world the best organization in the history of the Olympic Winter Games."

Not quite as good as Lillehammer's "best-ever" then, but Japan could be proud of its efforts.


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