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Americans Eliminated in Short Track

By Paul Newberry
Associated Press
Saturday, February 21, 1998; 7:20 a.m. EST



NAGANO, Japan — The last American prospects for a medal in short-track speedskating, Andy Gabel and Amy Peterson, were eliminated in the semifinals of their events today.

Gabel, a 33-year-old from Northbrook, Ill., whose younger teammates call him "Grandpa,'' was knocked out in the men's 500-meter race when he clipped a lane marker and tumbled into the padded boards.

Peterson, a three-time Olympic medalist from Maplewood, Minn., fell behind in her women's 1,000 semifinal heat and couldn't catch up, getting tied up behind a Japanese skater on the final lap and finishing last among the four competitors.

The Americans failed to qualify for the finals of the men's 5,000 meters, the other event being contested on the last night of short track. They will suffer a medals shutout for the first time since the wild-and-wacky event was added to the Olympic program in 1992.

In the 500 semis, Gabel had hooked up with Japan's Takafumi Nishitani to pull away from the field. But, running a comfortable second and looking to advance to the finals, the American inexplicably nicked the lane marker and tumbled out of the race.

Gabel pounded the ice in frustration, then turned a lonely couple of laps to finish out his race after the other skaters were done.

"That was as good as I've ever felt,'' he said. "I just stepped on a block. That's just how it goes. I skated as well as I could and I'm satisfied with that, but it's disappointing.''

Gabel had advanced from the quarterfinals when a Canadian skater, Francois Drolet, interfered with him on the final lap. Gabel, pushed wide on the turn, was the last to finish in his heat, but the officials' ruling allowed him to advance along with the top two finishers.

Four years ago in Lillehammer, Gabel reached the quarterfinals in the 500 before he was knocked out in a collision. The Chinese skater who initiated the contact was disqualified, but Gabel didn't finish and the judges didn't advance him. He was, however, part of the silver medal-winning relay team.

Peterson, 26, won her preliminary heat with an Olympic record of 1 minute, 33.530 seconds and advanced through the quarterfinals as well.

But she never cracked the top two in the semifinals, briefly moving into third at the beginning of the last lap but dropping back again on the turn and then getting hung up behind Japan's Ikue Teshigawara, ending any hope of catching the leaders.

The U.S. Olympic team in Nagano apparently will have to settle for 13 medals, matching the record set in Lillehammer.

Erin Gleason of Jackson, N.J., and Erin Porter of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., were eliminated in the preliminary 1,000 heats.

Gleason's night lasted less than two minutes. She needed to beat only one skater to qualify for the quarterfinals when Australia's Janet Daly went down.

But Teshigawara, cheered on by a flag-waving home crowd at White Ring arena, began to pull away and took along Italy's Marinella Canclini as if they were attached by a rope. Gleason failed to stay with the leaders and wound up in third, more than a second behind.

"Just getting here was the hardest part,'' said Gleason, 20.

The 19-year-old Porter fell in both of her Olympic races, going down today after she was passed by two skaters with two laps to go. Trying to make up ground on the final turn, she wound up sprawled on the ice.

"It was pretty much like my whole week,'' she said. "This doesn't discourage me enough to make me walk away. This will only motivate me.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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