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Archive for Friday, February 22, 2002

Russians threaten to leave Salt Lake City early

February 22, 2002

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— A silver medal thrilled Bode Miller, but left the U.S. women's hockey team in tears. And a pair of disqualifications left officials from Russia and South Korea angrily wondering how much longer they will be in Utah.

The Russians, with a threat to leave Salt Lake City within 24 hours, and the South Koreans, with a warning that they could sit out the closing ceremony, added their voices Thursday to the growing howl over Olympic officiating.

Russian officials, outraged by the disqualification of nine-time medal winner Larissa Lazutina after a pre-race drug test, added they might not compete in the 2004 Summer Games in Athens unless their complaints were addressed in the next day.

"If decisions are not made and issues we raised not resolved, the Russian team will not play hockey, will not run 30 kilometers," said Russian Olympic Committee president Leonid Tyagachev, referring to a pair of upcoming events.

IOC President Jacques Rogge did meet with Tyagachev to discuss his complaints. Rogge then sent a conciliatory letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"He knew President Putin was concerned and had expressed his own emotions," said IOC director general Francois Carrard. "President Rogge wrote to express sympathy, to say he has been in contact with the sports federation and that the decisions are absolutely correct."

The Russian hockey team plays in a semifinal game today against the U.S. squad in a rematch of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" game.

The South Koreans, still stinging from Wednesday's disqualification of short-track speedskater Kim Dong-sung, wanted his gold medal restored. After Kim finished first, he was disqualified and the medal given to U.S. skater Apolo Anton Ohno.

South Korean officials said they had filed a bevy of protests, might go to federal court, and could pull out of Sunday's closing ceremony. On Thursday night, the International Skating Union rejected their protest.

"We will use all measures necessary to rectify the misjudgment," said Park Sung-in, head of the country's Olympic delegation.

Complaints about officiating in the Winter Games have already come from Canada over figure skating and Lithuania about the ice dancing. The Russians earlier griped about scoring in the freestyle aerials.

The American medal total has reached 30 (10 gold, 11 silver, nine bronze).

With just three days left in the Olympics, the Germans who have won the most medals ever in a single Winter Games led with 32 (10 gold, 15 silver, seven bronze), and Norway was third with 20 (10-7-3).

l Women's hockey: Silver never seemed so sour.

The powerful Americans, defending gold medalists, lost a 3-2 gold medal game to a Canadian team that it had beaten eight consecutive times. The U.S. team had beaten the Canadians four years ago in Nagano.

This time, the Canadians went ahead early, grabbed a two-goal lead in the second period, and held on for its nation's first hockey gold since the men won in 1952.

High-scoring Hayley Wickenheiser, known as the female Wayne Gretzky, broke a second-period tie to catapult the Canadians to the Olympic championship.

U.S. captain Cammi Granato, along with several of her teammates, fought back tears as the silver medals were placed around their necks at a postgame ceremony.

The bronze medal went to Sweden, which defeated Finland 2-1.

l Men's giant slalom: Miller took his second silver of the games with a history-making run. Skiing just recklessly enough, Miller took second in the giant slalom, slamming through gates and barely staying upright as he crossed the finish line.

He was in seventh place after the first run, but made up ground with his do-or-die second trip down the hill to become the first U.S. medalist ever in the men's giant slalom.

Miller finished 0.88 seconds behind Stephan Eberharter, who finally emerged from the shadow of fellow Austrian Hermann Maier out of the Olympics following a motorcycle accident by winning his third medal of the games.

"When I crossed the finish line I knew I couldn't have skied any better," said Miller, a silver medalist in last week's combined. "I didn't really care how I finished. I just knew I didn't have anything left."

Miller still has a shot at a third medal in the slalom.

Norway's Lasse Kjus won bronze in 2:24.32. Kjus was a silver medalist last week in the downhill.

l Cross-country skiing: Before the race started, the word came down: Lazutina was disqualified from the competition where she was bidding for a record-setting 10th Olympic medal.

A blood test had shown high levels of performance-boosting hemoglobin although Russian officials said that was impossible. Lazutina had passed two previous Salt Lake City drug tests, and a pre-race test done by Russian officials put her hemoglobin below the legal limit, a team official said.

"This is a scandal," charged team leader Gennady Ramensky. "They are specifically hunting out Russian sportsmen."

Lazutina, after getting the news, buried her head in a coach's chest. The Russians then left the Soldier Hollow course together. The Ukrainian team did not start because one of its athletes also failed the blood test.

The disqualification knocked the heavily favored Russian team out of the women's 20-kilometer relay. Officials said an athlete had been found with high levels of performance-boosting hemoglobin, but did not identify her.

Lazutina, 36, already has two silver medals from the Salt Lake City Games, and would have tied the all-time mark for a female Winter Olympian with a 10th medal.

Germany wound up with the gold, while Norway won silver and Switzerland took bronze.

l Curling: The American women's curling team came within a stone's throw of a medal but instead wound up with nothing.

The U.S. team lost 9-5 in the bronze medal game to Canada. The Americans put up a strong fight against the 1998 gold medalists, closing within 7-5 in the eighth of 10 ends, before succumbing to the Canadians.

In the gold medal game, Britain beat Switzerland 4-3 with a dramatic finish that was decided in the 10th and final end.

l Nordic combined: Two golds down. One more to go?

Finland's Samppa Lajunen was in position for his third gold medal of the games after landing the longest jump of the day in the 120-kilometer ski jumping portion of the Nordic combined.

Today, he will start 15 seconds ahead of Ronny Ackermann of Germany. Finnish teammate Jaakko Tallus was third, and will start 18 seconds behind.

Lajunen has already won an individual and a relay medal.

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