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WINTER OLYMPICS : Notes : Decision to Give Gault Yet Another Chance Renews Controversy

February 25, 1988|MIKE KUPPER | Times Assistant Sports Editor

CALGARY, Canada — The Willie Gault controversy flared anew here Wednesday when Jeff Jost, the coach of the United States bobsled team, and driver Matt Roy argued loudly and publicly about the weekend lineup for the four-man races.

A plan to give Gault, a wide receiver with the Chicago Bears, another chance to compete sparked the argument.

Gault normally rides with driver Randy Will, whose sled has been listed as the U.S. alternate since what were billed as the Olympic race-offs in January. Will's sled finished third then, behind No. 1 driver Brent Rushlaw and Roy, who drives the No. 2 sled. Each country can be represented by only two sleds.

Jost and Will argued about a new selection process, designed to give Will--and Gault, who joined the U.S. team in January, after completing the football season--still another chance to get into the races. Jost had said last week that another selection might be made this week.

"Everybody wanted (the process) spelled out, so that's what we're doing," Jost said before the argument.

He then explained that Will can move into the competition if he can beat either Rushlaw or Roy by a total of at least a half second--a significant period of time in bobsledding--in today's practice runs.

The plan met with resistance all around.

Said Roy: "Suppose Randy beats me by a half second, and I beat Brent by a hundredth of a second. Who goes?" Roy asked Jost.

Jost, replying angrily, said: "You know who goes. Don't do this, Matt, not here in front of these people and the press."

Jost then walked away, with Roy shouting after him: "Who's running this team, anyway?"

Will was upset because he figures the half-second guideline is too steep. He was not able to beat either Rushlaw or Roy in practice runs Tuesday and Wednesday.

Even Jost was not happy with the half-second stipulation, which he said came from the USOC and the bobsled federation.

"It should have been lower than that," he said. "Nobody trusted my coach's discretion on this. The press, the federation wanted everything spelled out."

Roy said that he understood that he and Will would race Saturday and Sunday if Will met the half-second criterion and Roy was faster than Rushlaw in the two runs today.

Katarina Witt may attract less attention for her performance in tonight's figure skating short program than for what she is wearing--or for what she isn't wearing. Her costume leaves little to the imagination.

"We're here to skate in a dress and not a G-string," said Peter Dunfield, who coaches Canada's Elizabeth Manley. "All that's missing is the horse and the reins. It's a circus."

Witt does not understand the controversy.

"It is a sport in which the jumps must be right, but there is also a trend to another aspect, artistic," she said at a news conference last week. "The costumes that enhance the music, I think this is very important. When I wear the right costume, I feel much better. Why not stress what we have that is attractive?"

George Fitch, representing Jamaica's bobsledders, said that 18,000 T-shirts and sweat shirts have been sold here on their behalf. T-shirts sell for $11.25 (U.S.), sweat shirts for $21. He estimates that they have raised more than $29,000. The Jamaicans bought a used bobsled here but are still raising money to support their program for the next four years.

You Can't Get Enough Eddie Dept.: "The Eagle drops out of the sky; he doesn't jump," said Rob McCormack of competition at the ski jumping venue, where Great Britain's less-than-great Eddie Edwards has become a media star for his last-place finishes in the 70 and 90-meter jumps.

"Usually, we're on page 24 of the newspaper. This last week, Eddie's put us on page 1. That's a plus. But I have ambivalent feelings about him. He's good for us; he's bad for us. There are 10 and 12-year-olds in Thunder Bay (Ont.) who can jump farther."

The men's giant slalom will be held today on Mt. Allan, with another matchup between Switzerland's Pirmin Zurbriggen and Italy's Alberto Tomba as one of the highlights.

Tomba twisted his left knee slightly when he fell early in Sunday's super-G race but will definitely start today and in Saturday's slalom.

The U.S. entries will be Felix McGrath, Tiger Shaw, Bob Ormsby and Jack Miller.

Debbie Armstrong will not race for the United States in Friday's women's slalom. "My Olympics are finished," she said, after finishing 13th in the giant slalom, a race she won in the 1984 Winter Olympics.

U.S. Alpine Director Harald Schoenhaar said he will enter Tamara McKinney, Diann Roffe, Beth Madsen and Heidi Voelker in the event.

Calgary's selection as site of these Winter Games has taken a beating lately by those who maintain that wind and warm-weather conditions make it just about the worst place there could be.

Crosbie Cotton addressed those complaints Wednesday on the front page of the Calgary Herald.

Among other things, he pointed out that weather studies had been done far in advance and that the original dates (Feb. 23 to March 6) chosen for the competition were chosen because they offered the best chance that the weather here would cooperate.

Wrote Cotton:

"The problem was that (the original dates) did not coincide with the major ratings period--the so-called sweeps--for television in the United States.

"When it came time to negotiate the U.S. television contract three years later, OCO (the Calgary organizing committee)--which receives about two-thirds of the money--the (International Olympic Committee), which lives off the rest, and their consultants, TWI of New York, realized there would be a greater pot of gold at the end of the Olympic rainbow if the dates were changed.

"Presto. The dates of the Games were advanced a couple of weeks to take place during the major ratings period."

Times staff writers Randy Harvey, Mike Downey and Thomas Bonk contributed to this story.

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