NAGANO - Jean-Luc Cretier of France won the men's Olympic downhill in a race marked by spectacular crashes. Lasse Kjus of Norway was second and Hannes Trinkl of Austria was third.
Kyle Rasmussen was the top U.S. finisher in 9th, while defending gold medalist Tommy Moe was 12th and Jason Rosener was 15th. Fifteen racers did not complete the course, including American A.J. Kitt.
The most spectacular crash was by pre-race favorite Hermann Maier of Austria, who got airborne trying to make a turn near the top of the course. As he went windmilling through the air, he landed on his neck and shoulder, but was unhurt.
One racer, Luca Cattaneo of Italy had to be airlifted off the mountain by helicopter after he lost a ski on the same turn and hurt his leg. The course was surprisingly tough considering that before the Olympics some skiers complained that the Happo'one course in Hakuba would be too easy.
"It was fun," said Moe. "I knew it would be faster. I didn't have to adjust. I just skied my plan. I had fun defending my gold medal title. However, now it looks like Cretier is going to be the man. I say good for him, because he skied great today."
"I don't think I'm totally out of it," she said. "It wasn't really the race I wanted, but it wasn't terrible. I can only get better from here. Tomorrow I have nothing to lose. The people ahead of me have everything to lose."
Witty is .7 seconds behind the leader, Canada's Catriona LeMay-Doan. Bonnie Blair dominated the 500-meters in the last two Olympics, but she has retired.
Todd Lodwick, of Steamboat Springs, Colo., had the best U.S. result, finishing 13th in the jump.
"I had bad luck and a bad jump on the first try, and good luck and a good jump on the second," said Lodwick.
They then beat Sweden 5-2 in the first tie-break game. Now the U.S. must play Japan on Saturday for the fourth and final spot in the semi-finals.
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