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    Sunday, February 22, 1998

    Czechs take gold in hockey final to cap Nagano Games

     NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- Make it an even dozen for Dahlie. And one of a kind for the Czech hockey team.
     Bjorn Dahlie, the Norwegian cross-country skiing great, extended his Winter Olympics record by picking up his 12th medal in the last race of Nagano -- a gold in the 50-kilometer. It was his record eighth gold medal, too.
     The Czech hockey team won its first gold medal, defeating Russia 1-0 behind yet another brilliant performance from goaltender Dominik Hasek. The "Dominator" -- who allowed just one goal in the medal games against Russian and gold-medal favorite Canada -- was mobbed at the net by his teammates after the victory.
     The emotions ran just as high for Dahlie. The four-time silver medalist collapsed in the snow after finishing his trek through the course in Hakuba. Dahlie's Nagano performance -- three golds, one silver -- put him two medals ahead of the old record-holder, Soviet cross-country skier Raisa Smetanina.
     Dahlie isn't sure he will add to his total.
     "Right now I feel I have finished my ski career. I've no motivation," the 30-year-old Dahlie said. "I will talk things over with my family and decide in the spring what to do."
     The silver medal went to Niklas Jonsson of Sweden; Christian Hoffmann of Austria won the bronze.
     The last medal of the games went to the underdog Czechs, who eliminated the United States and Canada in their previous games behind Hasek's outstanding work in the nets. Petr Svoboda scored with 11:52 to play, and Hasek made it stand up.
     The Soviets had won 10 gold medals in 12 Olympics from 1956-1992. Before Czechoslovakia divided, it won four silver medals and three bronze -- but had never taken the gold.
     The final two events were followed by the closing ceremony, where the Japanese delivered one final thank you -- "Arigato!" -- to its guests from around the world. A ringmaster in a top hat presided over the spectacular closing ceremony, with the Japanese Alps in the background.
     Nagano Mayor Tasuku Tsukada presented the Olympic flag to Salt Lake City Mayor Deedee Corradini, whose city hosts the games in 2002.
     The hockey game ended an Olympics with a little bit of everything -- from the Herminator to the Dominator, from Tomba's departure to Tara's arrival, from ugly Americans to gorgeous mountain backdrops.
     Not all the Americans were ugly. For the second straight Olympics, the United States posted its best Winter Games showing: 13 medals. America's women led the way, taking eight of the medals and four of the six U.S. golds.
     The youngest Olympic figure-skating champion, Tara Lipinski, and teen teammate Michelle Kwan captured the last two U.S. medals with a 1-2 finish in figure skating.
     Lipinski's coming-out party was three-time skiing gold medalist Alberto Tomba's farewell. And La Bomba's torch was picked up by the Herminator -- Austria's Hermann Maier, who survived a 100-foot fly-and-crash to capture a pair of gold medals. The ugly Americans -- some members of the U.S. hockey team -- trashed their rooms at the Olympic Village.
     The medals count before the hockey game: Germany topped the list with 29 (12 gold, 9 silver, 8 bronze). Norway was second with 25 (10-10-5), while Russia (9-6-3) had 18.
     -- SHORT TRACK SPEEDSKATING: America's best hope at a medal went out early Saturday as Andy Gabel skidded into a wall during a heat of the men's 500 meters. But three gold medals were captured during the last night of short track.
     In the 500 meters, Takafumi Nishitani of Japan was the winner, followed by An Yulong of China and Hitoshi Uematsu of Japan. Chun Lee-kyung of South Korea won the women's 1,000 meters; Yang Yang S of China won the silver and Won Hye-kyung of South Korea the bronze.
     And in the men's 5,000-meter relay, Canada won, while South Korea took the silver and China the bronze.
     -- BOBSLED: The U.S. four-man bobsled team came close -- painfully close -- to ending the United States' 42-year Olympic medal drought, winding up two-hundredths of a second out of a bronze medal. Driver Brian Shimer shouldered all of the blame.
     "It's nobody else's fault other than mine," Shimer said. "Every guy on the sled did his job. I didn't have my best runs."
     Making it worse, four medals were awarded: gold to Germany, silver to Switzerland, bronze to both Britain and France. The latter pair tied for third.
     -- HOCKEY: No, Canada. The gold-medal favoriteswere beaten for the second time in as many days at the Olympics, and leave Nagano without any medals. Finland's 3-2 victory gave the underdogs the bronze medal over a Canadian team stocked with 23 NHL players.