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    Friday, February 20, 1998

    German women did 'a great job' after slow start

     SHIGA KOGEN, Japan (AP) -- Martina Ertl's tears were a surprise. In these Winter Olympics, the Germans usually caused others to weep.
     The German super trio of Ertl, Katja Seizinger and Hilde Gerg won six medals, including three golds, with the highlight being a sweep of the Alpine combined.
     "The beginning of the Olympics was not so lucky for us in the super-G, but after that it was crazy," Gerg said.
     Germany, which has dominated the super-G this season, was shut out in that event, the first Alpine competition of the games. American Picabo Street surprised by winning; Seizinger's sixth was the best German placing.
     Germany ruled after that, winning three of the remaining four races and taking half of the 12 medals available. At least one German won a medal in each of the four races.
     The final medal was Seizinger's bronze Friday in the giant slalom, her record-tying third medal of the games. But the third-place finish by the downhill and combined champion relegated Ertl to fourth place for the second time in Nagano and for the third time overall in Olympic competition.
     "I think we have done a great job," Seizinger said. "We have six medals in one week. I don't think I have to say anything. The medals are speaking enough."
     Seizinger's three-medal feat matched that of Germany's Rosi Mittermaier (two gold, one silver) in 1976, Liechtenstein's Hanni Wenzel (two gold, one silver) in 1980 and Switzerland's Vreni Schneider (one gold, one silver, one bronze) in 1994.
     "It was one of the best weeks for the German Ski Federation, for our team," Seizinger said.
     "I'm really happy for our coaches, that everything they invested is coming back now. It's unbelievable and I think it will take a couple weeks to realize what we have done."
     Gerg was happy for Seizinger but regretted that the medal was again denied Ertl.
     "Today I think she (Seizinger) was lucky because Martina Ertl was so close," Gerg said. "And Martina was unlucky three times, today and in the slalom (won by Gerg) and only two-tenths out (for gold) in the combined."
     Added Seizinger: "It's been a really hard week for her. It was pretty close today and it was pretty close yesterday. She isn't so lucky. You always need a little luck."
     Ertl's eyes were still red several minutes after the last women's race of the games.
     She had the combined silver medal in her pocket, but she had been co-favorite with eventual champion Deborah Compagnoni of Italy in the giant slalom. If not the gold, she at least wanted to stand on the medals podium.
     "In the World Cup, it would be really great for me -- yesterday's slalom and fourth place today wouldn't be bad for me," Ertl said. "But in the Olympics, fourth place is nothing."