Hundreds of troops today freed most of the 1,500...


SARAJEVO, Yugoslavia -- Hundreds of troops today freed most of the 1,500 motorists stranded in snowdrifts on the Belgrade-Sarajevo highway, allowing Olympic ski events to proceed after a four-day delay. American women promptly won gold and silver medals.

Debbie Armstrong and Christin Cooper survived hair-raising second runs giving the United States a thundering success in the opening of the Olympic Alpine competition with gold and silver medals in the women's giant slalom.


It was the best finish ever for United States skiers in Olympic competition and the Americans narrowly missed a clean sweep as Tamara McKinney finished fourth, just 44-100ths of a second behind Perrine Pelen of France, who won the bronze.

The upset opened the weather-scarred alpine program in spectacular style and came just hours after Kitty and Peter Carruthers ignited the United States' Olympic turnaround Sunday night with a silver medal in the pairs figure skating competition. Americans did not win a medal in the first six days of the Olympics, which covered 13 events.


In the mountains around Sarajevo, weather conditions were improving after four days of blizzards and hurricane-force winds that forced repeated postponements of the Alpine ski competition.

The Olympic Games area, now covered with snow layer ranging from 20 inches to 40 inches was basking in the sun but temperatures still were well below the freezing point.

All the country's airports shut down over the weekend but the first to reopen Sunday was Sarajevo's Butmir Airport, modernized to work in adverse weather just in time to receive tourists for the Olympic games, which last through Feb. 19.

The hurricane-force winds piled up snowdrifts 16 feet high in some places, paralyzing road and railway traffic.

The snow fell in several places during a steady 60-hour snowfall, interrupting power and water supplies to the outskirts of Belgrade, breaking telephone links and cutting off at least 30 eastern villages from the rest of the country.

By Sunday evening, bus and railway traffic to Sarajevo returned to near normal, though there were delays of an hour or two -- not abnormal for Yugoslavia.

Blizzards on the Jahorina and Bjelasnica mountains forced postponement of a number of Olympic events because of winds ranging up to 120 mph.


Weathermen predicted sunny spells this week but Yugoslav organizers feared the weather might force them to reschedule more events, held only 14 miles south of Sarajevo.

At Pecinci, less than 30 miles west of Belgrade, about 1,500 people were trapped in their vehicles and army units along with civil guards and peasants from nearby villages worked to dig their way to the snowbound drivers.

Rescuers -- using horses, tractors, bulldozers, armored personnel carriers, tanks and helicopters -- split into two groups and dug through snowdrifts aiming to meet one another Monday and make the main road from Zagreb to Belgrade passable.

Over the weekend, about 20,000 people worked through snowdrifts to reach those trapped and police said more than 10,000 people had been rescued on the 6-mile-long stretch of highway outside Belgrade.

Police helicopters dispatched four tons of food and additional fuel to the stranded vehicles. About 20 people in need of medical attention were flown by helicopters from snowbound cars to hospitals.

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