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Short Track Team May Get Shut Out

By Alan Robinson
AP Sports Writer
Thursday, February 19, 1998; 8:32 a.m. EST

NAGANO, Japan (AP) — At least the United States long track speedskating team came up with a couple of medals. It looks like the short track team won't get even that.

Amy Peterson, a bronze medalist in Lillehammer, fell well behind early in her first-round 500-meter heat today and failed to advance. Also out of medal contention: the men's 5,000-meter relay team, which surprisingly took the silver medal in the 1994 games.

Annie Perreault, only the No. 2 sprinter on the Canadian team, was a surprise winner of the women's 500 meters when teammate and world record holder Isabelle Charest wiped out on the next-to-last lap. Charest's skate clipped one of the black plastic cups that outline the track.

Charest's spill took China's Wang Chunlu with her, meaning Perreault and silver medalist Yang S. Yang of China were the only two to finish. Because Charest was disqualifed and Wang did not finish, Chun Lee-Kyung of Korea — the winner of the consolation final — was awarded the bronze.

Perrault won in 46.56 seconds, or nearly two seconds off the Olympic record.

It was the second Olympic disappointment in a row for Charest, who was disqualified for obstruction in a semifinal heat in 1994, allowing Cathy Turner of the United States to advance and win her second consecutive gold.

The U.S. relay team wiped out today when Tom O'Hare skidded and crashed head-first into the pads lining the White Ring oval with 28 laps to go, preventing any chance of an advance into Saturday's four-team finals.

Peterson, 26, of Maplewood, Minn., overcame a yearlong bout with chronic fatigue syndrome to regain her spot on the U.S. team, but was not a factor in her heat. She finished a half-second behind heat winner Yang S. Yang of China.

``They got a big gap on me and it's a short race,'' Peterson said. ``I just didn't have enough time. It's pretty disappointing. I've never felt more prepared, more ready, but the Olympics are about who's best on a certain day of the year and it just wasn't my day.''

Short track has been one of the United States' most successful Winter Games sports, yielding five medals, including Cathy Turner's two golds in the women's 500. But the U.S. team has yet to win a short track medal in Nagano with much younger and less experienced athletes.

``The precedent was set for us in 1992 and 1994,'' said Erin Gleason, who was eliminated in the women's 500 quarterfinals. ``But this is a new team. Even though we had some veterans, we're still a young team, and I know I'm looking forward to my next Olympics.''

One of the few remaining veterans, 33-year-old Andy Gabel, advanced into Saturday's 500-meter men's quarterfinals. He made a move inside just before the finish line to finish second in his preliminary heat. Gabel finished fourth Tuesday in the 1,000 meters.

But Gabel's two teenage teammates — Rusty Smith, 18, of Sunset Beach, Calif., and Daniel Weinstein, 17, of Brookline, Mass. — were eliminated during the eight 500-meter heats.

Smith slipped on the last lap, much as he did in the 1,000 meters, and wound up last. Weinstein was tentative at the start, almost slipping twice, and it cost him as he was nosed at the finish for second place in his heat.

So far in Nagano, the Americans are slipping, falling and stumbling. What they're not doing is winning any medals.

Until this year, the Americans had dominated the women's 500 meters, a race in which competitors skate 4 1/2 fast, tightly packed laps on a course put down inside the Olympic figure skating rink.

But all three U.S. qualifiers — Peterson, Gleason and Erin Porter — were gone by the quarterfinals, meaning the United States won't medal in the event for the first time since short track gained medal status in 1992.

``I know I'm good enough to win (a medal), so I do put a lot of pressure on myself,'' Peterson said. ``If I'd skated a great race and didn't win a medal, I wouldn't have been disappointed. But I know I can skate a lot faster than I skated in this race today.''

Turner took the gold medal in Albertville and Lillehammer, and Peterson added the bronze in 1994. But Turner retired for more than two years after the 1994 games and failed to qualify in the event in the U.S. trials.

Gleason, 20, of Jackson, N.J., took advantage of a fall by two of the four skaters in her preliminary heat to move on, but finished last in her quarterfinal heat.

Porter, 19, of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., fell with a lap to go in the initial first-round heat and was last.

Turner, Porter, Gleason and Peterson skated for the U.S. 3,000-meter relay team that also failed to place Tuesday for the first time in the Olympics.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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