Saturday, February 16, 2002
Updated: February 17, 7:49 PM ET
Flames and Flickers: Olympians can't escape
ESPN.com news services
SALT LAKE CITY -- In these days of heightened airport security, figure skaters never know whether they'll have to part with their precious ice skates when flying to their next competition.
"It changes from airport to airport," said Robin Wagner, coach of American medal hopeful Sarah Hughes, who arrived in Salt Lake City on Saturday. "At times, we're not able to take them. This time, we were begging and I was explaining that she is an Olympian."
Hughes, who was training in Colorado Springs, was allowed to bring her skates on board.
Wagner said skaters might begin taking two pair of broken-in boots and blades with them, just in case one pair gets doesn't show up at baggage claim.
When Hughes competed at the Lalique Trophee in November, she had to check her skates.
"You can't imagine the anxiety when you're watching that carousel go round and round, until you see the skates come out," said Wagner.
Sommers is just one of many Mormons who is setting aside his traditional observance of the Sabbath to take part in the 2002 Winter Games.
"They want us to spend time with church or family," said Sommers, who is volunteering for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. But he explains that he doesn't have family around, and, as for missing church: "I think the thrill of the Olympics offsets that."
Although Mormons don't observe the Sabbath as strictly as Orthodox Jews or Seventh-day Adventists (who take Saturday off), members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are discouraged from working, shopping, exchanging money or being idle on Sunday. Instead, they are supposed to attend church, pray, visit the sick, spend time with family and write letters to missionaries.
Former BYU star Eli Herring turned down the Oakland Raiders because he would not play on Sunday, saying God is a bigger priority than football.
"Our activities on the Sabbath will be appropriate when we honestly consider them to be our personal sign of our commitment to the Lord," Herring said.
But even the city of Provo, which is 90 percent Mormon and usually a ghost town on Sundays, had activities planned for this week, including an ice carving display. And while many shops and restaurants are still closed, much of the crowd from the Mormon Tabernacle showed up at the downtown festival after morning prayers on the first Sunday of the games.
"It would be nice if everyone lived in a celestial kingdom, where no one bought things on Sunday and no one had to work," said Provo resident Sharon Johnson. "But there are lots of different people in this world. We have to make sure everyone feels welcome."
Puerto Rico officials quash its lone Olympian over eligibility
The delegation's lone entry was forced to drop out Saturday, hours before its only event, when one of the members of the two-man bobsled team was declared ineligible -- not by international standards but by the island's own rules.
Michael Gonzales could prove he's lived on the island for two years and one month. While that's a month longer than required by the International Olympic Committee and the international bobsled federation, it failed the team's three-year rule.
"He's a great, great guy, but those are the rules," said Hector Cardona, president of the Puerto Rican national Olympic committee. "We have to follow the rules. As president of the Olympic committee, I took him out according to our constitution."
That's it. No lengthy appeals, no late-night interrogations in hotel suites. Just a strict interpretation of the handbook, even for a guy who was an alternate at the 1998 Olympics.
Cardona said the matter wasn't cleared up before Friday night because officials didn't think it was a problem.
"We know he has the three years, but we need the proof," Cardona said. "Without it, we authorize nothing."
Gonzales has documents that show him living in Rincon, a small town on the western part of the island, but he can't date them far enough back to meet the criteria.
"We have a letter and driver's license from Puerto Rico, and we have a letter from where he lived," Cardona said. "But we need something (older), like an invoice from the telephone company or from buying a car."
Bobsled officials were surprised the Puerto Ricans weren't there.
"I can't keep tabs on all the teams," federation president Bob Story said. "They just didn't show up."
Only medalists would know for sure
Marit, a Norwegian, could celebrate compatriot Kjetil Andre Aamodt's record super-G gold while also congratulating her Austrian partner for winning a bronze that he described in ecstatic terms.
"I don't want to say that one is more beautiful than the other," said 27-year-old Schifferer when asked how his first Olympic medal compared to winning the World Cup downhill crown in 1998.
"It's the same as having sex. Every time is beautiful."
"She is happy about me, but I know that she is very patriotic and for sure is happy that a Norwegian won and not another Austrian," he said of Marit's reaction.
He added that there would certainly be no fighting between them over the result.
John LeClair's three goals in a 6-0 victory over Finland on Friday night was the Americans' first hat trick since Pat LaFontaine scored three times in a 7-3 win against Austria on Feb. 13, 1984.
"It was a good start but the biggest thing was we got a win under our belts," LeClair said after the Americans' opening game of the tournament. "The guys were really focused and we need everybody going."
LeClair was a perfect example.
In 1998 at Nagano, the United States went home without a medal and LeClair, who plays the Philadelphia Flyers, was scoreless. Against Finland, LeClair parked himself in his favorite spot in front of the opposing goalie.
"All his goals, he was right where he's supposed to be," defenseman Brian Rafalski said. "That's his house there, right in front."
Self, the volunteer worker who lost a half-inch of his right index finger earlier this week when he tried to grab an out-of-control sled, was awarded a medal by luge representatives at a special ceremony.
He sliced his finger trying to stop Iginia Boccalandro's luge after she fell off and slid down the course. Self tried to stop the 50-pound sled after it began sliding back toward the luger, who was still on the course.
Self, 49, an upholstery shop owner in Logan, Utah, said he probably won't be able to return to work for several months. He has, however, continued to man his post at the Olympics.
Caught in the act
Manuela Di Centa, an Italian cross-country skier, was reprimanded for violating campaign limits in her quest for a seat on the IOC's athletes commission.
The IOC executive board said the head of the Italian team at the Salt Lake City Games sent a letter to other national Olympic committees "making reference to Ms. Di Centa's candidature," the IOC said.
Such campaigning is forbidden, but Di Centa remains a candidate.
Meanwhile, Liston Bochette, a bobsledder from Puerto Rico, withdrew his candidacy for the commission. No reason was given. That left 10 candidates for the four seats to be filled in balloting during the games.
The athletes commission helps control policy regarding Olympic athletes and other areas.
Blood is pumping
Workers at Usinger's Famous Sausage in Milwaukee are racing full speed to grind out hot dogs to meet the games' voracious appetite.
After the supply for the entire Olympics -- 400,000 dogs -- lasted just five days, organizers ordered 250,000 more.
"It's a perfect time of the year for this to happen to us," said Debra Usinger, director of retail operations for the 122-year-old German company.
To meet the demand, lots of workers are getting lots of overtime.
"You realize there is a fun challenge in front of you and everyone pulls together," said Usinger.