Flames and Flickers: Olympians can't escape


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

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.

Special Sunday
As an active Mormon, Edward Sommers
usually tries to spend Sundays in church. This week, however, the
mining engineer will be driving a bus between Salt Lake City and
the Olympic venues.

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

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

Puerto Rico officials quash its lone Olympian over eligibility
SALT LAKE CITY -- Puerto Rico's Olympics lasted about as
long as winter in San Juan.

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

"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
Andreas Schifferer's girlfriend Marit has had the best of both worlds at the Olympics.

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.

Triple treat
It's been a long time between Olympic hat
tricks for the U.S. men's hockey team -- 18 years to be precise.

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

Heavy medal
Drake Self lost a fingertip, then gained a

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
After dealing with the controversy over the
gold medal in pairs figure skating, the IOC finds itself with a
mini-scandal involving internal elections.

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
The Olympic adrenaline is flowing in
Wisconsin, and not just over the speedskating bronze won by native
son Kip Carpenter.

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

"You realize there is a fun challenge in front of you and
everyone pulls together," said Usinger.