Americans add another handful to medal count

Five more for the mantle

Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- The latest recipe for American medal success: Start with a third generation Olympian winning a gold for his late grandfather. Add a local favorite with multihued hair, a stitched-up Sports Illustrated cover boy, and two more golds.

Garnish with Lee Ann Parsley and her silver medal.

The U.S. Olympians continued their unprecedented Salt Lake City roll, riding the skeleton sleds of Jimmy Shea, Tristan Gale and Parsley to three more medals -- and that was just Wednesday morning.

Short-track speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno joined the fun later, taking his first gold and second medal of the games after the first-place finisher in the 1,500 meter final was disqualified.

Jennifer Rodriguez's bronze in the 1,500 meter long track speedskating gave the United States five medals on the day, its best single-day haul in Winter Games history. The three golds were the most ever in a single day, too.

The U.S. team's impressive showing -- 26 medals now, including a record nine golds -- couldn't overshadow the biggest individual star of Salt Lake City: Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway, who became only the third Winter Olympian to win four golds in a single games.

On a snowy day at the skeleton track, the Americans swept medals in both the men's and women's events -- the latter punctuated with a silver medal by Parsley in a 1-2 U.S. finish.

In perhaps the most emotional moment of the Olympics, Shea raced with a funeral card of his grandfather inside his helmet -- and then waved the card in victory after claiming the gold medal in the first skeleton event since 1948.

''My grandpa was with me the whole way,'' said a beaming Shea, whose father and grandfather were both U.S. Olympians.

Jack Shea, who died Jan. 22, was the first double gold medalist in the Winter Olympics, winning two speedskating events at the 1932 Lake Placid Games. Jim Sr. competed in three cross-country events at the 1964 Innsbruck Games; he wept while his son competed, and then celebrated with him at the bottom of the run.

About 30 minutes later, Gale -- her hair streaked red, white and blue -- zipped down her home course to claim an unlikely gold medal. Gale, a Salt Lake City resident, was a competitive Alpine skier for 10 years before trying skeleton.

She had never finished higher than eighth in a World Cup race before collecting the gold. Just one-tenth of a second behind was silver medalist Parsley.

The Americans stayed second in the medals table with their 26 medals (nine gold, nine silver and eight bronze). Germany remained atop the table with 31 (9-15-7), with Norway in third with 18 (10-6-2).

SHORT-TRACK SPEEDSKATING: Apolo Anton Ohno, six stitches in his left thigh from an accident in his first race, finished second yet again -- but this time, it was temporary.

In yet another wild finish on the short track, a disqualification turned the 19-year-old Ohno into an Olympic gold medalist just minutes after it appeared he would settle for silver. Ohno, who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated before the games, was mentioned as a possible four-gold winner.

''It's just an amazing feeling,'' said Ohno, who barely missed a gold in his first race after a multiskater accident near the finish. ''So many years of hard work.''

South Korean Kim Dong-sung was disqualified for blocking Ohno with a half-lap to go. While Ohno exulted in front of the home crowd, Kim -- who already had started a victory lap with a South Korean flag -- slammed the banner to the ice.

SPEEDSKATING: Jennifer Rodriguez's bronze medal gave the United States eight medals in eight long-track events, equaling the 1980 team as the most prolific in U.S. history.

It was the second bronze of the games for the former inline skater from Miami, a follow-up to her third place finish in the 1,000 meters.

Rodriguez finished behind the German pair of gold medalist Anni Friesinger and silver medalist Sabine Voelker. Friesinger set a world record in the 1,500 meter race.

Rodriguez's late charge knocked teammate Chris Witty off the medal stand as she sought her second medal of these games and fourth overall. Witty, who was recovering from mononucleosis, said she felt awful after the race.

''This is the most pain I've ever had,'' she said. ''I couldn't see straight. My head was pounding.''

HOCKEY: Don't blame Herb Brooks if he's suffering flashbacks.

Brooks, coach of the U.S. hockey team for the first time since 1980, has his team in the Olympic semifinals after a 5-0 victory over Germany. And their opponent -- just as it was 22 years ago -- is the Russians.

The Americans, behind goals from linemates John LeClair and Brett Hull, breezed past Germany behind the shutout goaltending of Mike Richter.

The Russians, avenging a gold medal game loss from 1998, edged the Czech Republic 1-0 to oust the defending Olympic champion. Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 41 shots, outdueling Dominik Hasek as Russia moved into the semifinals.

Earlier, a surprised Swedish goalie Tommy Salo took a sailing puck in the head ... and stood helplessly as it trickled into the net behind him. Within minutes, the Swedish players were hanging their heads.

Underdog Belarus, on Vladimir Kopat's fluke goal with 2:24 remaining, stunned the heavily favored Swedes 4-3 in one of the biggest hockey upsets in Olympic history.

''I think it hit my glove, and I don't know what else it hit,'' Salo said. ''Somehow, it went in.''

The Swedes, who outscored their opponents 14-4 in winning their first three games, lost their shot at a medal. Belarus -- listed as a 10 million-to-1 shot to win the gold medal -- moved into the semifinals against Canada, which defeated Finland 2-1.

Joe Sakic and Steve Yzerman scored for the Canadians, who are seeking their first gold medal in 50 years.

WOMEN'S SLALOM: Croatia 3, United States 0.

That's the medal count in the women's Alpine skiing events, where Janica Kostelic of Croatia won her second gold -- and third medal overall -- in the women's slalom.

Kostelic, who won gold in the combined and silver in the Super G, braved a heavy snowfall to take the slalom. Laure Pequegnot of France was second, and Anja Paerson of Sweden took the bronze.

Kostelic will go for her fourth medal Friday in the giant slalom. The U.S. women's Alpine team was about the only American squad not to flourish in Utah, and could finish with no medals for the first time since 1988.

CURLING: The gold is gone for the U.S. women's curlers, although they remain in the running for a bronze.

The Americans lost 9-4 to Switzerland, snapping a four-game winning streak and setting up a bronze medal contest Thursday against the defending gold medalist Canada.

The Canadians lost 6-5 to Great Britain, setting up a match between the winners and the Swiss for the gold.

In the men's semifinals, Canada advanced to Friday's gold medal game with a 6-4 victory over world champion Sweden. The Canadians will play Norway, 7-6 winners in extra time over defending Olympic champion Switzerland.



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