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Men's Downhill Postponed; Schedule in Disarray

Associated Press
Wednesday, February 11, 1998; 9:57 p.m. EST




HAKUBA, Feb. 12 (Thursday) — The weather-tormented men's downhill was canceled again today because of a mixture of snow and rain, along with strong winds and heavy fog.

The race originally was set for Sunday, but was wiped out by heavy snow. It was reset for Wednesday, but was rescheduled for today (Wednesday night EST) when more snow pushed back the rest of the Alpine schedule. After a wait of 2½ hours, it and the men's combined downhill that was to follow were canceled. Officials were to decide when both events would be rescheduled later today.

With above-freezing temperatures and winds gusting up to 37 mph, forecasters issued a gale warning, a thaw warning and an avalanche warning today for the Happo'one course.

"Unfortunately, the weather forecast is not on our side," said Gian Franco Kasper, secretary general of the International Ski Federation. He said rain was due to turn to snow in the afternoon and continue through the night.

Most of the men's downhill competitors moved to a ski lodge near the starting gate to stay dry while officials delayed the start 2o hours in an effort to get in the race. But some remained at the top of the course-where one practiced his golf swing with a ski pole.

In the first five days of the Alpine schedule at the Olympics, only one gold medal has been awarded — Picabo Street's dramatic win in the women's super giant slalom on a sunny Wednesday — and the slalom portion of the men's combined event also was contested.

The men's downhill has been postponed in three of the past five Olympics. It was rescheduled three times at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics because of heavy snow and powerful winds, and was pushed back a day at the 1988 Calgary Games because of 98-mph winds.

Acupuncture Pinpointed
Canadian speedskater Kevin Overland was in a panic. The Olympics were just about a month away, and he was nursing an injured hip and listening to a physical therapist tell him it wouldn't heal in time.

So Overland turned to needles — and he's going home with a bronze medal.

"I'd been in physical therapy a million and one times," Overland said. "I knew it wouldn't help in time, and a friend recommended acupuncture. I've really reacted well to it."

Overland, who finished third in the 500-meter sprint, is one of a growing number of athletes who are finding a cure for everything from pain to fatigue in the deftly twirled needles of the acupuncturist.

And at the Nagano Games, they are seeking out the skills of local practitioner Susumu Koyama.

"We have a lot to offer them," said Koyama, who is offering free sessions to all athletes and officials. "There seems to be a lot of interest in what we do."

Acupuncture involves sticking long, thin needles into specific nerve junction points on the body. The needles often are rotated or electrically stimulated.

Along with pain relief, Koyama said the method holds several potential benefits for athletes.

Because capillaries tend to open under needle treatment, he said, acupuncture improves the circulation of blood and thus can cleanse muscles of lactic acid — which produces the sensation of muscle soreness and fatigue — faster than the natural process would.

He said acupuncture treatment also has been found to increase the production of endorphins, a substance produced naturally in the body that increases the feeling of happiness and well-being.

"And, with acupuncture, there is no fear of coming up positive on the doping test," Koyama said.

Richter Suffers Flu
Faced with the prospect of drug testing at the Winter Olympics, New York Rangers and U.S. goaltender Mike Richter said he had suffered through a recent bout of influenza without taking any remedies.

"Not even aspirin, just water," said Richter, who was feeling much better after Wednesday's practice.

CBS Replaces Analyst
CBS demoted snowboard analyst Jim Rippey to on-air reporter. Rippey, who had no television experience before these Olympics, used snowboarding jargon such as "stoked" and "rad" incessantly during coverage of the slalom events.

CBS said snowboard play-by-play announcer Steve Podborski will replace Rippey as an analyst. The network will use Ted Robinson as the play-by-play broadcaster.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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