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U.S. Women Fail to Make Short Track Final

By Alan Robinson
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, February 17, 1998; 8:36 a.m. EST

NAGANO, Japan (AP) — Here's a change: Cathy Turner skated an Olympic short track speedskating race without controversy. Here's another: the United States didn't medal.

The American 3,000-meter women's relay team, silver medalists at Albertville and bronze medalists at Lillehammer, finished fourth and last in a difficult heat today and didn't make the finals.

Three-time U.S. Olympian Andy Gabel of Northbrook, Ill., benefited from two of the four disqualifications in the 1,000-meter men's heats and reached the finals, but placed fourth.

South Korea won gold medals in both events, its first medals of the Nagano Olympics.

It was the first time since short track became a medal sport in 1992 that the United States didn't medal in the women's relay. It also was the only chance for Turner, a two-time gold medalist, to become the second American female Winter Olympian to win five medals. Bonnie Blair won six.

The Americans (Amy Peterson, Erin Porter, Turner and Caroline Hallisey) finished in 4 minutes, 33.352 seconds, well behind heat winner and South Korea (4:21.51), China (4:22.34) and North Korea (4:25.126) and were even lapped by the South Koreans late in the race.

``I enjoy it,'' Turner said of difficult heat. ``I'm not the type of person who's afraid of anybody, but I think the other girls were intimidated by that — and I know our coaches were.''

Turner survived several collisions and controversies, including allegations she was a dirty skater, to win gold medals in the 500 meters in 1992 and 1994. Now 35, she didn't qualify in the U.S. trials and won't skate that race in Nagano.

The Americans made one change, substituting Erin Gleason for Hallisey, and won the consolation heat in 4:26.25 to place fifth. South Korea defended the Olympic title it won with a team that averaged 15 1/2 years of age in 1994, edging China in the finals as both broke the world record.

South Korea, which returned three of the four skaters from Lillehammer, won in 4 minutes, 16.26 seconds to China's 4:16.383. Canada, the 1992 gold medalist, took the bronze in 4:21.205.

Kim Dong-Sung, the 1997 world champion from South Korea, trailed most of the race but stuck his skate blade across the finish line to edge China's Li Jiajun in the men's 1,000.

Kim's daring move made him a winner in 1 minute, 32.375 seconds to Li's 1:32.428. Eric Bedard of Canada was third in 1:32.661 and Gabel was fourth in 1:33.518.

``I was waiting and waiting, and it set up the way I thought it would, I was going to try to go by the Korean, but I slipped and I couldn't recover,'' said Gabel, who at 33 is 15 years older than several teammates.

As always, short track — the fastest and often the most controversial sport on ice — was part Roller Derby and part Broadway, with the colorful and wildly cheering spectators almost as actively involved as the participants.

As the skaters leaned and bumped during a constant series of left turns, jockeying for position inside the Olympic figure skating rink, the fans waved signs, tooted horns, banged drums and sang. A Chinese sign read ``Catch the Wind!'' — something that's difficult to do indoors. The Japanese fans stood out in their neon purple jackets and even brighter green hats.

About 50 South Korean fans in silver coats chanted their skaters' names, maintaining a constant rhythm with cow bells and choreographed flag waving.

But the Japanese grew quiet when one of their favorites, Hitoshi Uematsu, was disqualified for interfering with Gabel in a quarterfinal.

The world record holder, Marc Gagnon of Canada, also was disqualified for interference — a reversal of four years ago, when he didn't skate in the finals, yet got the bronze because of two such disqualifications. Britain's Nicholas Gooch, the 1994 silver medalist, was disqualified in his heat.

The United States' other two 1,000-meter entrants didn't reach the semifinals. Scott Koons, 21, of Cleveland had a tough draw and didn't advance out of his first-round heat. Rusty Smith, 18, of Sunset Beach, Calif., won his heat but fell on the final lap of his quarterfinal and finished last.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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