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  Turner Wins Short Track Gold; Zhang Claims Foul

By Jeanne McManus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 25, 1994; Page G1

 Controversial Cathy Turner celebrates her gold in the 500 despite charges she cheated by China's Zhang Yanmei, who stormed off the medal stand in protest. (Dave Caulkin/AP)
HAMAR, Norway, Feb. 24 — In less than a minute, two more medals plunked into the U.S. bank tonight as speed skater Cathy Turner paced and pushed her way to a gold in the 500-meter short track competition, a sometimes rough-and-tumble event that resembles roller derby as much as it does speed skating.

Amy Peterson, the only other American racing in this event, captured the bronze but was always skating in the wake of Turner, whose time of 45.98 seconds broke an Olympic record and put her well ahead of her teammate (46.76) and China's Zhang Yanmei (46.44), who captured the silver.

Zhang got off to a small but quick lead in the 4½-lap event and held on until the third when Turner made her break. With a slight bump, she brushed by and ahead of Zhang. But Zhang, as soon as she crossed the line in second place, motioned to the officials, chopping at her thigh, a gesture that in any language translates as an athlete crying foul even in the push-and-shove sport of short track speed skating.

The gestures didn't end there. Zhang, the world record-holder in this event, stormed off the medal stand after receiving her silver and chucked her bouquet of congratulatory tulips into the air.

In the quarterfinals earlier, another competitor also had accused Turner of a clip. Nathalie Lambert of Canada, who went down in her heat against Turner, called her "brutal," claiming Turner had "turned the sport into something it's not meant to be."

"I'm not a dirty skater," Turner insisted later. "I deserve this gold medal."

Turner, 31, from Hilton, N.Y., winner of the gold in this event in 1992 in Albertville, had fought her way through three elimination rounds to the medal round and was almost boxed out in the semifinals by Canada's Isabelle Charest and China's Wang Xiuilan. But Charest, pushing for position on the inside, fell and took down Turner and Wang, as the three spilled to the outside of the rink and slid into the wall.

The cause of the collision, Charest, was eliminated and Turner, with blades freshly sharpened during the break, skated easily in the redo of the semifinal, into the medal round and on to gold.

Turner's medal collection also includes a bronze from the 3,000-meter relay earlier this week and a silver from the relay in 1992. And although her name doesn't resonate through the American heartland the way Nancy Kerrigan's or Bonnie Blair's does, she could win a fifth medal Saturday in the 1,000 meter and tie Eric Heiden for the second-most medals ever by a U.S. Winter Olympian.

Turner came to light in Albertville not just for her surprise medal wins, but also for her resume. She had left skating in the early 1980s, depressed and confused, become a lounge singer and spent several years touring the Midwest with her act before she realized in 1988 she wanted to return to skating. In Albertville, she entertained a news conference by singing one of her own songs from the road tour, "Sexy, Kinky Tomboy."

Peterson, 22, from Maplewood, Minn., a member of Turner's silver medal relay team in Albertville, needed a break to qualify for the final. She was last throughout most of the semifinal, then jumped to third on the final lap and crossed the finish line second when China's Yang Yang fell on the last turn.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post

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