- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2002

From combined dispatches
While the other two Americans drew acceptable spots for tomorrow night's Olympic figure skating short program, Michael Weiss was stuck with the undesirable first position.
Tim Goebel wound up 20th and Todd Eldredge had perhaps the best fortune in yesterday's blind draw, getting No. 25 out of 29.
"The first place is not the greatest to be in, but I have skated first and won," Weiss said. "I skated first at [the 1993] nationals in juniors and won both the short and long programs."
World champion Evgeny Plushenko of Russia drew 18th, four spots after his main challenger, three-time world champion Alexei Yagudin . The third Russian, Alexander Abt , will go just before Eldredge.
"I didn't want to skate first or skate last," said Yagudin, who practiced on the Salt Lake Ice Center rink for the first time yesterday. "I have skated first so much enough. And last is a lot of time to wait."
Elvis Stojko of Canada has that problem. He won the silver medal at the last two Olympics and will be the final skater in the short program, worth one-third of the total score.
Weiss was comforted by the fact Ilia Kulik, the 1998 Olympic champion, won the short program in the 1996 worlds after skating in the second slot. But he also knows that Brian Boitano bombed in the short program at Lillehammer in 1994 as the opening skater.
"It happens," Weiss added. "The good thing is the marks will be similar, not all up and down."
Audrey Weisiger, Weiss' coach, said she has "tortured Michael for years" with every kind of scenario, so he is "well prepared to handle any draw."
Plushenko, like Yagudin, made his debut at the competition site. While he did not speak to the media, his coach, Alexei Mishin, said Plushenko still is bothered by a groin injury that kept him out of the European championships.
Skeptics, however, say Plushenko skipped Europeans because he wanted to change his free skate program. "This program is better," Mishin said. "It is a simple and honest answer."

F-16s intercept third jet
Air Force fighters intercepted a private jet flying into restricted Olympic airspace, the third such incident since the games began.
Two other private jets were intercepted Friday, with F-16 fighters escorting one to the ground at the Salt Lake International Airport and forcing another to change its route and land in nearby Brigham City.
"The good news for us is that there was no malicious intent," said Maj. Ed Thomas of the North American Aerospace Defense Command. "The aircraft all complied with instructions and landed."
In the week leading up to the Winter Games, a dozen small planes were intercepted by U.S. Customs Service helicopters for entering the no-fly zone above the Olympic Village.
In all the cases, officials said, pilots were simply unaware of the airspace restrictions or had failed to go through security checks at gateway airports before approaching Salt Lake City.
"Basically, they're pilot-education issues," Thomas said. "As much as we've tried to get out the word, inevitably some aircraft checked out."

Wallechinsky honored
David Wallechinsky, whose books of results and tidbits have become some of the most widely used references to the Olympics, was awarded the IOC's highest honor.
The American author was among four recipients of the Olympic Order announced by the International Olympic Committee.
Others were veteran U.S. Olympic Committee member Irwin Belk, Australian Olympic Committee vice president Peter Montgomery and IOC medical commission member Dr. Eduardo Henrique de Rose.
It was the second batch of honors from the IOC during its stay in Salt Lake City for the Winter Games. Last week, Eunice Kennedy Shriver received the award for her work with the Special Olympics.

Flagged down
Residents of a Salt Lake City condominium complex chipped in $11 each for 200 flags from 90 different nations so they could display them as a goodwill gesture.
Two Taiwanese flags instead brought complaints and a visit from Chinese diplomats.
Although Taiwan competes in the Olympic Games, it's national flag is banned at events under a long-established agreement to placate China.
Officials from China's Washington embassy visited the complex, about a half-mile from the Olympics medals plaza, and asked that the Taiwanese flags be removed.
"It took a couple of times for them to understand that this is private residence, not a government building," resident Annetta Mower said. "We thought the idea of the flags was exciting. We had no idea that it would raise any kind of controversy."
Mower said residents do not intend to remove any flags.
Embassy First Secretary Dizhong Huang said Chinese officials, recognizing the right of private citizens in the United States to fly any flag they want, will not pursue a complaint.

IOC OKs Costa Rican
A Costa Rican cross-country skier was given last-minute clearance to compete at the Olympics, while an Alpine skier from Granada was turned away by the IOC.
Arturo Kinch convinced the International Olympic Committee's executive board that a communications breakdown between him and Costa Rican authorities had prevented his original entry.
"The request was granted because circumstances were considered," IOC director general Francois Carrard said.
But the board rejected a request by Gaia Bussani Antivari to compete.
Although she has the required number of competition points, Carrard said, the Granada's national Olympic committee did not want to send any athletes to the Winter Games, and the request to enter her by the Granada International Sports Federation did not fit the rules.

Mitt Romney, traffic cop
Salt Lake Olympic chief Mitt Romney acquired a new title: traffic cop.
Driving to Snowbasin resort for the men's downhill, Romney encountered two traffic bottlenecks and solved them both.
At one point, he stood on Interstate 84 to prevent cars from taking the Snowbasin exit, where a parking lot had filled.
Romney said Olympic spectators ignored a sign to keep driving to another park-and-ride lot near Ogden, "backing up the entire interstate."
So Romney pulled his sport utility vehicle over on an emergency lane, hopped out and stood in a traffic lane of the I-84 to wave traffic forward. His spokeswoman, Caroline Shaw, called Romney "crazy" for risking his life.
"I'm sure we didn't make a lot of friends," Romney said.
Romney remained on the highway until police could arrive to set up orange traffic cones.
With that problem solved, Romney made his way to Snowbasin, where he found a backup of 75 buses stopped by the lead bus that didn't have a proper sticker. Security officers were holding it up.
"I was in the traffic, myself. Law enforcement stopped a bus that wasn't accredited. When I got there, I made the decision to let the bus go," Romney said.
Romney told police he was taking personal responsibility for letting the bus go forward. He said at least some of the passengers had Olympic credentials.
That problem caused a 30-minute delay, he said.

Blink and it's gone
Think you're missing out by being stuck on your couch watching the Winter Olympics? Think the action is passing you by and with Salt Lake City only a plane ride away?
For fleeting Olympic thrills, it's hard to beat an up-close look at luge, bobsled and skeleton (think luge except the riders are lying on their bellies). At the Utah Olympic Park, site of the sliding sports, purists say it's not what you see but how close you are to some of the world's most insane athletes, nut jobs who careen downhill at 80 mph, their heads inches from splintering into the frozen track.
Yet if you're standing three spectators deep along the rail of the 3/4-mile luge track, you'll only see the racers for two whiplashed seconds of action as they whoosh past. Two. With 50 lugers scheduled to race in the men's singles event, that means rail-watchers would see 100 seconds of luging action.
So is it worth it?
It's the Olympics, for Kwan's sake. It's not about how much you see, it's what you see. Patrons rationalize the price of their ducats by saying they're witnessing once-in-a-lifetime events. And for some, nothing is better than watching an event like Saturday's women's moguls race, where Shannon Bahrke won a silver medal the first U.S. hardware bagged in these Winter Games.

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