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Winter Olympics Countdown: 29 Days Until The Games

A sport-by-sport look at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City

January 10, 2002

Alpine skiing: Dane Spencer clinched a berth on the U.S. Olympic team by finishing 10th in a men's giant slalom at Adelboden, Switzerland, last weekend. Sarah Schleper had her fourth consecutive top-10 finish last weekend.... The women's tour will be in Saalbach, Austria, this weekend for downhill and combined competitions. The men will be in Wengen, Switzerland, for downhill and slalom races.

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Biathlon/Cross-Country: The U.S. biathlon team has competitions next week in Germany, in Oberhofer and Ruhpolding. The Olympic squad includes three Nagano Olympians: Jay Hakkinen, Kristina Sabasteanski and Kara Salmela.... Alaskans Kikkan Randall and Lars Flora won sprint titles at the U.S. cross-country championships at Bohart Ranch, Mont. Nina Kemppel won the 15K freestyle competition and Carl Swenson won the men's 30K event.... Norway's Bente Skari regained the World Cup cross-country lead from Katerina Neumannova of the Czech Republic by winning a women's 15K event at Val deFiemme, Italy, her fifth World Cup victory of the season. Anders Aukland of Norway, who had never recorded a World Cup victory before this season, recorded his third triumph in a men's 30K event.

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Bobsled/Luge/Skeleton: Mike Gonzales, a USC alumnus who competed in the four-man bobsled for Puerto Rico at Nagano in 1998, thought he had qualified for the Salt Lake City Games. However, confusion over points awarded during one or more events led international bobsled officials to tell Gonzales and brakeman Don Young they hadn't qualified. They planned to compete this weekend in St. Moritz, Switzerland, to get the necessary points.... The confusion also affected teams from Armenia, Hungary and Brazil, among others.... The U.S. luge team, which completed its roster last weekend when Nick Sullivan beat Jon Myles in a race-off, will train in Latvia for the sixth round of World Cup racing. The next event will be Jan. 19 at Sigulda, Latvia.... The U.S. must move up a place in World Cup skeleton standings to add a third member to its Olympic women's team. The top three nations can send two women each, but the U.S. is fourth entering next weekend's finale at St. Moritz.

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Curling: The U.S. women's team will train this week at Highland Park, Ill. The men's team will practice at St. Paul, Minn.

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Figure Skating: The European championships will begin Monday at Lausanne, Switzerland. However, defending men's champion Evgeni Plushenko reportedly withdrew because of a groin injury and defending pairs champions Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharludize withdrew because she has a leg injury. Irina Slutskaya of Russia is the defending women's champion. The only non-Russian winners last year were ice dancers Barbara Fusar-Poli and Maurizio Margaglio of Italy.

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Freestyle Skiing: Shannon Bahrke and Hannah Hardaway are the only mogul skiers who have clinched U.S. Olympic berths. Travis Ramos, third last weekend at an event in Oberstdorf, Germany, is close.... The aerial skiers will compete this weekend at Mount Tremblant, Canada, while the mogul skiers are in St. Lary, France.

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Hockey: The Carolina Hurricanes told defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh and goaltender Arturs Irbe they can play two preliminary-round games for their native Latvia before the NHL begins its 12-day Olympic break. The Hurricanes will permit them to play against Austria on Feb. 9 and against Germany Feb. 12 but won't release them for a Feb. 10 game because Carolina is playing San Jose that day.... The U.S. women's team, 8-0 against Canada and 27-0-0 overall, will take a break from its pre-Olympic schedule until it faces China Jan. 22 at San Jose.

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Nordic Combined/Ski Jumping: Todd Lodwick of Steamboat Springs, Colo., moved up from ninth after the jumping portion of a World Cup nordic combined event at Schonach, Germany, last weekend to finish fourth overall with a strong cross-country performance. Felix Gottwald, who was fourth after the jumping and seventh in cross-country, finished first overall. Bill Demong of Saranac Lake, N.Y., was 13th and Matt Dayton of Breckenridge, Colo., was 25th.... Sven Hannawald of Germany swept all four legs of the Four Hills ski jumping competition, the first in the event's 50-year history to do so.

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Snowboarding: Only three of 14 U.S. Olympic berths have been secured, including Ross Powers' halfpipe berth last weekend. The final halfpipe spots will be contested today and Sunday at Breckenridge. All three women's spots and three of a possible four men's spots will be selected after the event.

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Speedskating: Anni Friesinger of Germany won the European women's speedskating title after winning the 500, 1,500 and 3,000. She plans to compete at Salt Lake City at those distances and in the 5,000. The men's champion was Jochem Uytdehaage of the Netherlands.... J.P. Kepka of St. Louis and Shani Davis of Chicago finished ninth and 10th, respectively, at the world junior short track championships at Chunchon, Korea. Kepka, Davis and Misi Toth of St. Louis combined to finish fourth in the men's 2,000-meter relay. Kepka and Davis have qualified for the U.S. Olympic team.

Helene Elliott

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