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Snowboarder Kelly Clark Wins America's First Gold Medal

On a day where decades-long winless streaks in old-school Olympic sports were snapped, snowboarder Kelly Clark won America's first gold medal in an event that's all of four years old Sunday, soaring above the halfpipe course.

Clark nailed her final run to give the United States its first victory in its first hometown Winter Games since 1980 — three years before the 18-year-old snowboarder was born.

She was cheered wildly by the partisan crowd, which included three barechested men in the freezing weather, the letters "U-S-A" painted across their chests. Guns n' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" blared as she launched her high-flying, dominating performance.

Doriane Vidal of France won the silver and Fabienne Reuteler of Switzerland won the bronze.

The halfpipe debuted as an Olympic event at Nagano in 1998, where America's Shannon Dunn took a bronze medal.

In two days in Salt Lake City, the Americans — who hope to capture 20 medals, the most ever for a U.S. winter team — had one gold and two silver medals.

Earlier, Swiss skier Simon Ammann returned from injury and soared to victory in the 90-meter ski jump — the first Swiss ski jumping medal since 1972.

That was hardly much of a streak compared to the 54-year stretch of Finnish futility that Samppa Lajunen ended with his gold medal in the Nordic combined.

The eight gold medals awarded so far have gone to eight different countries, an Olympic sharing of the wealth. Austria, with five total medals, was atop the medals chart.

American Daron Rahlves had hoped to nab America's first gold at the Games during Sunday's Olympic downhill. However, a 16th-place finish placed him far below the two Austrians — gold medalist Fritz Strobl and bronze winner Stephan Eberharter — who dominated the event.
  
"It's a tough one to swallow. I'm still kind of in a daze right now. It was just a very poor performance," Rahlves, who finished in 1:40.84, said. "The good thing is I've still got the Super G coming up on Saturday."

Strobl, a 29-year-old police officer who had never won a medal in a major competition, surprised observers with his 1:39.13 time. Norwegian Lasse Kjus won his fourth Olympic medal, finishing second in 1:39.35. Pre-race favorite Eberharter, who has clinched this year's World Cup downhill title, was third in 1:39.41.

The top American finisher was 21-year-old Californian Marco Sullivan, who finished ninth in 1:40.37.

Even without injured teammate Hermann Maier, the Austrians are expected to dominate skiing's speed events. Though Eberharter is also favored for gold in the Super G, Rahlves isn't conceding anything.

"Both races, the Super G and downhill, are great races for me on that kind of hill," he said.

Last month, Alborn became the first U.S. jumper in 10 years with three Top 10 finishes in World Cup events. He's a longshot to win a medal, though, behind favorites Adam Malysz of Poland and Sven Hannawald of Germany.

Speedskater Derek Parra set a world record Saturday in the 5,000-meter speedskating, then saw the Netherlands' Jochem Uytdehaage smash his mark by about 3 seconds to take the gold medal and leave the American with a silver.

Earlier Saturday, Shannon Bahrke won the first American medal with a silver in the women's freestyle moguls.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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