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    Sunday, February 22, 1998

    Winning medals in three Winter Olympics getting harder

     NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Dahlie won two gold medals in Nagano, giving him a record eight gold medals in his three Winter Olympics.
     Alpine skier Deborah Compagnoni of Italy and luger Georg Hackl of Germany are among those who left Nagano having won a gold medal for the third straight Olympics.
     But those feats were accomplished in a six-year span -- Albertville in 1992, Lillehammer in '94 and now Nagano. Winning in three straight games will become more difficult because the Olympics are back in their every-four-year cycle.
     Trying to maintain a more constant interest in the Olympics, the International Olympic Committee decided it could avoid the four-year pauses of the past by moving the Winter Games to even years when there were no Summer Games.
     Both seasons' games were held in the same year for the last time in 1992. Then the next Winter Olympics were scheduled for 1994 in Lillehammer.
     For athletes who won their first Winter Olympic medals in 1994, fitting in three Olympics now will be an eight-year process again.
     When the 2002 games are held in Salt Lake City, Daehlie will be 34, Compagnoni 31 and Hackl 35.
     The schedule change gave 31-year-old Italian ski ace Alberto Tomba a chance to win medals in four consecutive Olympics, although he didn't come close here after winning two golds in 1988, a gold and silver in 1992 and a silver in 1994.
     While Tomba has been talking about retirement for some time, Daehlie isn't committing himself yet.
     After winning gold No. 8 by taking the 50-kilometer race on the games' final day, Dahlie said, "Right now, I feel finished in my skiing career. I have no motivation left."
     But then he added: "I will talk to my family and decide this spring."
     He also mentioned a warm feeling for 2002 host Salt Lake City. That was where Dahlie picked up his first victory, when he was 20.
     Amongothers with medals in three Olympics are Germany's Katja Seizinger, age 25, with three golds and two bronzes in Alpine skiing; Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann, 31, with three golds, four silvers and a bronze in speedskating, and Ricco Gross, 27, with two golds and two silvers in biathlon.
     The six-year span allowed Japan's Kenji Ogiwara to stay around to try to lead his nation to a third consecutive Olympic gold in the Nordic combined team event before a home audience.
     But Ogiwara's ski jumping strength didn't match his former standards, and his team finished fifth.