- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

KEARNS, Utah American Chris Witty won a speedskating gold medal with a world record in the 1,000 meters yesterday, bouncing back from a case of mono she contracted just a month before the Olympics.
The United States claimed another medal when Jennifer Rodriguez earned the bronze.
Witty's time of 1 minute, 13.83 seconds smashed Sabine Voelker's record of 1:14.06, set in December at the Utah Olympic Oval.
"I don't know where that came from," Witty said. "Yesterday, I felt awful. Today, I didn't feel so good. I was a little tired."
Voelker took the silver, also breaking her former mark in 1:13.96. Rodriguez finished in 1:14.24.
It was a remarkable accomplishment for Witty, who felt sluggish throughout the World Cup season. Last month, she finally learned the reason for her slow times when doctors diagnosed mononucleosis.
Despite having to cut back her pre-Salt Lake City training, Witty was at her best when it counted, earning her third Olympic medal. She captured the only two U.S. speedskating medals at the Nagano Games four years ago.
"I really thought I'd be a long shot," Witty said. "I thought if I could come out with a bronze, I'd be so incredibly happy. The gold medal was something I didn't imagine."
The Americans have won six medals in six events at the Utah Olympic Oval, more than any other nation. Voelker's silver was her second medal of the games and Germany's fifth.
Witty, who won silver in the 1,000 at Nagano, lopped more than a half-second off her previous best time on the world's fastest ice.
In all, four records have fallen at the Salt Lake City Games.
Witty skated flawlessly, holding her form together on the grueling final lap while many other skaters faded. When her time flashed on the scoreboard, she threw up her arms and broke out in a huge smile.
"I didn't feel a thing," Witty said. "It was an effortless race. It was one of those races where you don't really think of anything, just float."
The 26-year-old American skated a victory lap with a U.S. flag draped around her shoulders while the U2 song "It's a Beautiful Day" blared from the speakers.
"Go C.Witty in S.L.City," said a sign held up by one of her supporters.
Rodriguez, a former inline skater from Miami, appeared to have a slight wobble on her opening turn but came back to put up the third-best time.
The influx of inliners is a major reason the American team has improved. It is on pace to break its previous mark of eight medals from the 1980 Lake Placid Games, the last Winter Olympics in the United States.
Rodriguez, whose finance, KC Boutiette, coaxed her to switch to the ice, was the third ex-inliner to win a medal, joining 5,000 silver medalist Derek Parra and Joey Cheek, who took bronze in the men's 1,000 on Saturday.
Witty followed a more traditional path to the ice. A native of America's speedskating mecca, West Allis, Wis., she began skating in 1985.
At the last Olympics, she was the only U.S. athlete to win more than one medal. Besides her silver in the 1,000, she also won a bronze in the 1,500.
After a strong 2000-01 season, Witty appeared poised for another run at the medals in Salt Lake City. Then, mysteriously, she didn't seem to have any energy when the new season began.
"I couldn't run a lap without getting tired," said Witty, who arrived at the Olympics without a World Cup medal.
She was relieved when doctors finally diagnosed the mono in early January. But she had to rest for a full week, then cut back her training in the weeks before the opening ceremony.
"Now, it's like a great mystery as to how I will do," she said beforehand.
Not anymore.
Defending 1,000 champion Marianne Timmer of the Netherlands finished fourth, just 0.21 from a medal.
Twenty of the 31 skaters went faster than the old Olympic record, Timmer's 1:16.51 to win gold at Nagano.
Becky Sundstrom, who finished a surprising sixth in 1998, was 16th this time despite a personal best of 1:15.88. The other American, Amy Sannes, was 14th in 1:15.09.

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