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Friday, February 15, 2002
Flames and Flickers: Old anthem rings true

ESPN.com news services

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Russian men's hockey team gave high marks to the return of its nation's old national anthem. Russian president Vladimir Putin restored what had been the music to the old Soviet anthem in 2000, but with different words. Many Russians remember the old lyrics.

"It was great to hear the old anthem," center Alexei Yashin said. "It brought back memories of all of our great teams."

Coach Slava Fetisov, who played on many of the Soviet Union's powerful teams during the 1980s, even took a good-natured jab at the Canadians who were the Russians' chief rivals for hockey supremacy during the Cold War.

"I enjoyed hearing it," Fetisov said. "We had many victories under this anthem. We all know it -- and any Canadian player at any time of day or night will be able to hum the Soviet anthem again."

Golden moment: Russian goalie Nikolai Khabibulin got the first hockey gold medal at the Salt Lake City Olympics before he even played a game.

In what his fellow players described as an emotional locker room ceremony, Khabibulin was presented with the gold medal he earned as a backup goalie in 1992.

Coach Viktor Tikhonov took the medal and kept it for himself.

Khabibulin, an All-Star goalie for the Tampa Bay Lightning, was 19 and did not play in any games at Albertville for the Unified Team.

Although he was not in uniform for the gold medal-clinching 3-1 victory over Canada, he was entitled to a gold medal. But as the team assembled to receive medals, Khabibulin was not summoned to the ice. Tikhonov was photographed wearing a gold medal -- even though only players, not coaches, were entitled to medals.

Khabibulin was not about to challenge Tikhonov, the most revered hockey coach in Russian history. But the pilfered medal bothered Khabibulin over the years.

"I've got to get a safe for it," Khabibulin said.

Bubbles up?
Prince Albert of Monaco has a score to settle when he competes in a record fifth Olympics in the four-man bobsled event.

His goal is to beat a quartet from Hungary, with a magnum of champagne at stake.

Adding color to the rivalry, two members of the Hungarian team live in London and met by accident while jogging.

Nicholas Frankl, 30, whose father fled Hungary in 1956, became fascinated by the bobsled in 1992 while watching it on TV during the Albertville Games.

He decided to form his own Hungarian team and, by coincidence, found his brakeman when he ran into another London-born Hungarian while jogging.

"On our travels, we met Prince Albert in Norway. He had money-no-object backup for his hobby, a team of about 20 and was extremely generous, lending us tools and equipment," Frankl was quoted as saying in London's Evening Standard on Friday.

All of this has backfired on Prince Albert, at 43 the oldest bobsled driver in this year's Olympics.

Frankl's team finished 28th at Lillehammer, while the Monaco foursome placed 43rd. Four years later at Nagano, Frankl beat the Prince by two places and now they're heading for showdown No. 3.

The two-day event begins next Friday with Prince Albert the first bobsled competitor to race in five Olympics.

Push, push, push!
Their stomachs were in knots while waiting to make the final run in luge doubles, and American bronze medalists Chris Thorpe and Clay Ives were looking for anything to ease the tension.

"Let's just say I've never been that nervous in my life and I don't think I could ever be that nervous again," Thorpe said. Sensing his teammates' jitters, Ives told him: "If Kriste can have a baby in two weeks, we can do this."

Thorpe and his wife, Kriste, who was waiting for him at the finish line, are expecting their first child at the end of the month.

Once out of the gate, Thorpe and Ives took the bronze medal -- .004 behind teammates Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin.

Crash course
Not long ago, Olympic rookies Patric Leitner and Alexander Resch of Germany were lucky if they made it to the bottom of the hill with their luge in one piece.

"Our nickname was the flying Bavarians," Leitner said.

They're Olympic champions now.

Leitner and Resch won the gold medal in luge doubles Friday, finishing ahead of two U.S. sleds. The pair continued Germany's rich luging tradition. Since the sport was added to the games in 1964, the Germans have won nine of the 11 doubles gold medals.

The Leitner-Resch combo did come close to a spill on their first run. Coming out the final turn, they brushed a wall and for a split second and were in danger of crashing.

They were able to joke about it.

"It's all about crashing," Leitner said. "We crashed about 50 times in our career, but only about three times this year. It's tough bringing a doubles luge down the course."

Sweden's Elofsson withdraws
Sweden's Per Elofsson, still looking for his first medal of the Winter Games, withdrew from Sunday's 4x10-kilometer men's cross-country relay because of illness.

Swedish team officials said Elofsson has a cold but hopes to be ready for the 50K classic-style event next weekend. Elofsson may have been sick when he pulled out of the 30K freestyle event last week, team spokesman Jan Nordin said.

Favored to win several Olympic medals, Elofsson finished fifth in the 15K classical Tuesday and fourth in the combined pursuit Thursday. He leads the World Cup standings.

Defense rests -- sort of -- in Utah
WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld plans to visit the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City on Monday and then meet with troops in training at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., on Tuesday, officials said.

More than 4,000 active duty and reserve troops are at the Olympics to help federal, state and local authorities provide security and to respond to emergencies. About a dozen are competing in the games.

Research at a cost
Two research projects on drug tests have received grants totaling $425,000 from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the first funding from a $2 million pool.

The Hastings Center in Garrison, N.Y., gets $385,000 for a study of ethical values in emerging rules on substances and methods that help the body carry more oxygen. These include the use of the hormone EPO and EPO gene therapy, as well as technology such as altitude tents.

"One goal of the grant is to develop clear guidelines for sport and athletes as to where acceptable practices end and cheating begins," a USADA statement said.

The second grant, of $40,000, goes to the Utah Center for Human Toxicology to develop tests that can measure muscle-growing capabilities of steroids.

USADA is an independent agency responsible for management of drug tests and rules among U.S. Olympic sports.