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Flames and Flickers: Skategate a gold mine?

2/24/2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- Russian pairs skater Anton Sikharulidze
believes the judging furor and other controversies were a publicity
gold mine for the games.

"If everything were to go quietly, nobody would watch the
games, there would not be enough interest with the general public.
It is cool the way it is," Sikharulidze said Sunday upon his
return to Moscow.

Sikharulidze and partner Yelena Berezhnaya played down the
uproar over their victory, the first in a series of events that
angered Russian Olympic officials.

Though many Russians resent the decision to give a second gold
to the Canadian pair, saying it showed an anti-Russian bias,
Sikharulidze doesn't agree.

"No one has asked me to cut off a piece of my well-earned medal
and give it away," he said. "Even if six more gold medals were
awarded it would not have decreased the value of my victory.
Myself, I feel great."

Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze were awarded the gold over Canadians
Jamie Sale and David Pelletier in a close decision, but Sale and
Pelletier later were awarded their own gold after a French judge
said she was pressured to vote a certain way.

The Russians also complained about 10-time Olympic medalist
Larissa Lazutina's disqualification for failing a doping test prior
to the cross-country relay, skater Irina Slutskaya's second-place
finish to American Sarah Hughes in figure skating, refereeing in
men's hockey and an alleged "anti-Russian" bias at the games.

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a statement Sunday
congratulating Russia's Olympic athletes and taking note of the
games' controversies.

"I thank all those who did not lose heart in this difficult
atmosphere," the statement said. "The decision taken by our team
to go this especially difficult Olympic distance to the finish was
mature."

Russia had threatened to pull out of the games before their
finish, but later relented.

Will these match my prison uniform?
The Salt Lake City-area prison inmates
sorting glass from trash at a recycling plant for $1 an hour didn't
have expectations of getting in on any Winter Olympics action.

But then a cardboard box of those coveted blue berets -- the
American Olympic Team ones being scalped for up to $120 each --
rolled across the conveyor belt.

Larry Redmond, knowing he'd struck gold, snatched them up and
stuffed them away.

"You feel like now you've been in the Olympics," said the
grinning 36-year-old. "When I get out of (prison), I'll say that I
was a waste engineer, helping recycle things for the Olympics."

Redmond is not allowed to wear a beret on the job, and was not
supposed to keep the souvenirs. But don't tell that to his sister,
who soon will be the lucky recipient of the hottest retail item at
the Winter Games.

Seeds of discontent for Brooks
U.S. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks
criticized the semifinal seeding procedure following Sunday's 5-2
gold medal game loss to Canada -- the Americans' first on Olympic
home ice in 70 years.

Despite having a better record (2-0-1) through three games than
Canada (1-1-1), the Americans were rematched with eventual bronze
medalist Russia in the semifinals. Canada had an easy matchup with
Belarus, winning 7-1, after Belarus stunned Sweden in the
quarterfinals.

The semifinal matchups are predetermined before the tournament
starts.

Canada dominated the United States over the final 25 minutes
Sunday, with Brooks suggesting his team was worn down after the
tough game less than 48 hours before against Russia.

"They had better legs than we did," Brooks said. "We had a
tougher route to the finals. I don't understand the seeding
procedure going into the second round, because we had a tough route
there.

"I don't think we had the legs we displayed before."

Back to cow country for Ammann
After jumping into the spotlight of Olympic
stardom, it's back to cow country for Swiss ski-jumping sensation
Simon Ammann.

Should Ammann wish to catch some belated Olympic highlights of
his two-gold exploits, he'll have to trudge over to the neighbors.

While his parents in the Alpine village of Unterwasser own nine
cows, they don't own a television. They watched TV with neighbors
as their son won his medals.

Ammann, 20, received a hero's welcome upon returning to
Switzerland on Sunday, with more than a thousand fans waiting at
the Zurich airport.

Waving flags and ringing traditional Swiss cowbells, the fans
roared as their Harry Potter lookalike hero walked into the
arrivals hall, two golds draped around his neck.

Asked how he felt, Ammann said, "Brilliant, absolutely
brilliant."

His nickname, "Simi," has been plastered all over Switzerland.

"Gold rush in Simi-Land," headlined the mass circulation daily
Blick. A diner has created a "Simi Pizza," with pineapple rings
representing Ammann's trademark horn-rimmed glasses, while
residents have renamed a street after the athlete.

He has received congratulations from Swiss politicians, and
thousands of letters from admirers.

"There have been loads of love letters, covered in hearts,"
his 7-year-old sister, Magdalena, told Blick.

Ammann said he has a girlfriend, but "that's private."

Summer or Winter, she's all Olympian
When Clara Hughes won two bronze cycling
medals at the 1996 Summer Olympics, she was just tuning up.

"The two Olympics I have participated in as a cyclist were just
training to make my skating dream come true," the Canadian said
after adding a speedskating bronze to her collection.

Hughes, 29, was third in both the road race and individual time
trial at Atlanta. In the 2000 Summer Games at Sydney, she finished
sixth in the time trial.

Only one athlete has won gold in both the Summer and Winter
Olympics: American Eddie Eagan won a lightweight boxing gold in
1920 in Antwerp, Belgium, and gold in 1932 at Lake Placid as part
of the four-man bobsled team.

The other winter-summer medalists: Jacob Tullin Thams of Norway,
gold in large-hill ski jumping in 1924, silver in eight-meter
sailing in 1936; Christa Luding-Rothenburger of the former East
Germany, gold in speedskating in 1984, silver in match sprint
cycling in 1988.

Who turned out the lights?
The main Olympic media center lost
power for about 20 minutes Sunday morning when a faulty circuit
breaker at a substation near Salt Lake International Airport
knocked out power to tens of thousands of Utah Power customers.

Utah Power spokeswoman Margaret Kesler said it wasn't
immediately clear exactly how many customers lost power, which was
fully restored about two hours after it was lost.

The airport, expecting a busy day with the 2002 Winter Games
wrapping up Sunday, ran on generators for a while, but officials
said flight operations were not affected.