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Dude, She's Still Cool at 37

WINTER OLYMPICS | SPOTLIGHT

February 13, 2002

Just when you thought all snowboarders had a distinct two-syllable vocabulary and a mandatory date of birth in the '80s, we introduce the exception.

Sondra Van Ert, former world champion in the giant slalom, was born in 1964. She will turn 38 in March. For better perspective, she could be Danny Kass' mother. The former owner of a paint store and onetime land surveyor for Dick Fosbury (yes, as in Fosbury flop), Van Ert has set an example for women who compete beyond age 30.

"I hope so," she said. "Everyone here is about 10 to 12 years younger. Sometimes, they're thinking, 'I'm old.' And then they look at me."

After all, age is a state of mind. She got into a van the other day and snowboarder Kelly Clark had left some of her CDs behind. Van Ert liked the music and planned on making some new purchases. Team bonding was fun too, at Thunder Spring, Idaho. They competed in tennis, using loose serving rules. "You didn't have to get it in the box."

The cross-generation thing is not much of a problem because Van Ert has the ultimate slope credentials. She is still near the top, ranking in the top five of the World Cup standings in five of the last six years. The other snowboarders understand that language.

Cold Calling? Ouch

In the category of "how cold is it up there?":

Richard Perelman, venue chief at the Soldier Hollow site, where all the sledding and some ski jumping is being held, gets dozens of cell phone calls every day, but he can't take any of them, unless you catch him inside.

"If I take those gloves off, I'll lose fingers," Perelman said, "and I can't punch those little numbers on the cell phone with my gloves on."

Perelman said that his mountain venue can be pleasant at times, but that once the sun goes down, the freeze is in.

"We've got lots of night luge," Perelman said. "You'd enjoy that."

And where did Perelman get his blood thickened in preparation for all this? Los Angeles, where he is from, of course.

Peacock Plucking

Fast becoming a leading media conscience of the Games, TV critic Howard Fendrich of the Associated Press on Tuesday took yet another shot at his favorite target, NBC.

Fendrich is fairly new and has this idealistic idea that NBC might treat the Olympics like an event, rather than a vehicle to manufacture various heart-tugging sagas. To this, Fendrich writes: "In a flashback to the network's mawkish coverage of the Sydney Olympics, Monday night's show opened with announcer Tom Hammond discussing figure skaters Natalia Ponomareva and Evgeni Sviridov as though they were characters in some 19th-century fable."

He quotes Hammond as saying, "We have been following the special Olympic story of Natalia and her broken foot. I don't know how many people have come up to me since Saturday night, saying how much they appreciated the special Olympic story of Natalia and skating with a foot that's broken in two places."

According to Fendrich, Hammond added, for good measure, "Natalia and Evgeni skate for Uzbekistan, one of the U.S. allies in the war in Afghanistan."

And Fendrich's conclusion to all of this?

"Pu-leeze. Natalia and her foot finished 18th, by the way."

What, No Assist?

The Olympic spirit apparently hasn't lit the fire within every Utah resident.

John Stockton, the notoriously standoffish Utah Jazz guard, was sitting with his family at a Latvia-Slovakia hockey game when a fan asked him to pose for a photo.

Stockton refused.

Not Forgotten

Volunteers at the top of the men's downhill course have arranged nine U.S. flags in a circle adjacent to another U.S. flag in memory of Sept. 11.

Some officials have pressured them to take it down, but they refused.

That's Not Funny

Justice was finally served Tuesday night at the Olympics Medal Plaza when host Bob Saget was nearly booed off the stage.

Tonight, as scheduled, "Saturday Night Live" star Tracy Morgan will replace him.

*

Staff writers Lisa Dillman, Bill Dwyre and Bill Plaschke contributed to this report.

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