Alberto Tomba, the explosive Italian superstar renowned for his slashing turns and flamboyant lifestyle, caromed down the steep Bellevarde slope Tuesday to capture the men's giant slalom event and become the first Alpine skier in history to successfully defend an Olympic title.
In a thrilling finish, the stocky champion known as La Bomba recovered his poise and velocity in the middle of the second heat to barrel across the finish line less than a second faster than Luxembourg's Marc Girardelli and Norway's Kjetil-Andre Aamodt.
"This is an outstanding feat, to realize I'm the first skier to do this," Tomba said. "There are no words to describe the joy and pleasure. This will be unforgettable."
Tomba overcame a small deficit on the top of the hill during his second run to have the quickest run in both heats, 1 minute, 4.57 seconds and a 1:02.41. Girardelli finished .32 seconds behind, Aamodt .84 seconds.
Tomba can fashion another rare double by winning the slalom _ his specialty _ Saturday.
The charismatic Italian star, known as much for his nocturnal habits as his skiing ability, fell to his knees and looked skyward after his final, medal-winning run.
"This time was much harder than Calgary," he said. "The first time was easier because nobody expected anything. This time, I had more pressure and more responsibility."
Tomba's training partner, Deborah Compagnoni, made it a sweep for Italy in Tuesday's Alpine events. Compagnoni beat France's Carole Merle by a whopping 1.41 seconds in the super-giant slalom.
"He gave me a bit of inspiration, but I did the rest," she said. "Frankly, I won the race."
Compagnoni, 21, the daughter of a hotel owner in an Italian ski resort, overcame a serious knee injury in 1988 and had emergency surgery in October 1990 for an intestinal blockage.
Compagnoni, starting 16th, attacked each gate, making such clean turns that she hardly kicked up any snow as she twisted down the steep course.
Jansen falters late
ALBERTVILLE, France _ For about 900 meters, Dan Jansen looked golden. Then his legs turned to lead.
After skating two blistering splits in the men's 1,000 meters, Jansen sputtered badly. He slipped from contention coming out of the last turn and finished 26th.
"I was just tired," Jansen said. "My legs were gone."
The gold went to Olaf Zinke of Germany, who mistakenly had been reported scratched because of the flu Monday.
Japan holds on for gold
COURCHEVEL, France _ Japan won its second gold medal in Winter Olympics history when its three-man Nordic combined team held off Norway in the 3x10-kilometer cross-country race.
Yukio Kasaya was the first gold medalist for Japan, winning the 90-meter ski jump in 1972 in Sapporo.
Another gold for Ulvang
LES SAISIES, France _ Vegard Ulvang bagged his third gold medal of the 1992 Games as Norway gave its rivals another lesson in cross-country skiing.
Its win in the men's 4x10-kilometer relay was so easy that anchorman Bjorn Daehlie, winner of the 15K race, humiliated the field by going backward at the finish and waving the Norwegian flag.
ALBERTVILLE, France _ Canadian Sylvia Daigle, a four-time world champ, was eliminated in the preliminary heats of the women's 500-meter short-track speed skating. Daigle, among the gold-medal favorites, fell behind in her three-woman heat after clipping skates with American Cathy Turner and was eliminated after finishing last.
Turner, 29, of Rochester, N.Y., was the only one of the three American qualifiers to survive the heats.