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U.S. Speedskater Parra Is Out of 5,000 Meters

From News Services
Sunday, February 8, 1998

NAGANO, Feb. 7 — A dispute on how to fill out an entry form will cost U.S. speedskater Derek Parra a chance to compete in the 5,000 meters Sunday night.

The problem apparently began when Kazakhstan unintentionally entered all its skaters as substitutes, meaning they could replace only their countrymen instead of taking open spots based on World Cup rankings. When the mistake was caught, Parra was bumped and replaced by Sergei Kaznacheyev, who ranked three spots ahead.

"If they would have told me I wasn't going to race, it wouldn't have mattered," Parra said after leaving the ice this morning. "Now, it's like somebody saying, 'Here's the keys to a new car!' Then you get to the driveway to leave the dealership and it's, 'Nope, can't have 'em.'"

The U.S. team claims the International Speedskating Union allowed Kazakhstan to change its application form after the entry deadline had passed.

"The rules say after the entry deadline, nothing can be changed," said U.S. Coach Gerard Kemkers. "Kazakhstan made a mistake, and we have to pay for it. Derek has to pay for it."

"There is no way to say the U.S. did it wrong and Kazakhstan did it right, or the other way around," said Tron Espeli, technical commission member of the ISU.

Parra came to Nagano realizing he might not race. While he qualified for the U.S. team, his World Cup time ranked 41st, and only 32 skaters can compete. But when the entry deadline passed Tuesday for the 5,000, his name was on the list.

"They told me I was in and I wanted to scream," Parra said. "I couldn't have been happier than at any time in my life. I won a lot of world championships, but none of that compared to when they told me I was going to race. I probably spent $30 that night calling all my relatives."

Suckow Is Lead Luge
Wendel Suckow hopes to be No. 1 when the men's luge singles are over. He'll certainly be No. 1 when competition begins Sunday.

Suckow drew the leadoff spot for the first and second runs. "I love that position," said Suckow, who finished fifth four years ago in Lillehammer. "I love being first off because if you put down the fastest time, then everyone else at the start will have to wonder.

"You have the best of the best. You don't know what the track's like. You don't have any preconceived notions. You just go. It's a great position to be in."

Diana Missed
Princess Diana had been expected to help carry the Olympic torch and perhaps appeal for world peace in a speech at the Opening Ceremonies, Kyodo News reported.

Diana's death Aug. 31 in a Paris car crash came in the midst of discussions about her participation in the Games, the news service reported.

Officials had wanted her to be a torch carrier and possibly give a speech, and she apparently was willing to do both, Kyodo reported.

Diana in the last years of her life had been a strong and visible proponent of banning land mines. Chris Moon, the land-mine victim who brought the torch into the Olympic Stadium during the ceremony, was a friend of the princess.

Michele Verdier, spokeswoman for the International Olympic Committee, said today she had heard nothing about Diana's possible participation.

Late Arrivals
The Russians pairs skaters made a belated appearance on the Olympic ice today, then denied they had taken a risk.

The three couples said they waited to show up until the eve of the event, which begins Sunday night (Sunday morning EST), to avoid burnout and boredom.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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