U.S. finds silver lining in 'garbage' sport Women are second in short-track relay

February 21, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

ALBERTVILLE, France -- Let the Germans, Austrians, Norwegians and Russians laugh. Let them pile up medals on slopes and tracks, on biathlon target ranges and cross country courses.

Just give the United States the "garbage" games at the Winter Olympics.

Last night, four women wearing helmets and kneepads gave one another a push on the rump and helped the U.S. team take a silver medal in the 3,000-meter women's short-track speed skating relay.

The Americans finished in 4 minutes, 37.85 seconds. Canada won the gold with a world-record time of 4:36.62. The Unified Team was third in 4:42.69.

The performance, in a sport that looks and sounds suspiciously like roller derby, helped the United States lift its medal total to eight. If you're counting, that's six American medals won by women and two by men.

"I'm overjoyed," said Cathy Turner, 29, of Rochester, N.Y., who skated the leadoff leg around the track laid out in a hockey arena.

"My dream was to make the Olympic team and get to the Olympic Games," said Turner, who returned to the sport three years ago after an eight-year layoff. "I never expected to make it this far."

Also competing in the relay were Nikki Ziegelmeyer, 16, a high school junior from Imperial, Mo., Amy Peterson, 20, of Maplewood, Minn., and Darcie Dohnal, 19, of Wauwatosa, Wis.

In this sport, there are no batons, no handoffs -- just derriere-offs, as the skaters push one another on the rear.

This is the first year that the short-track events have gained full medal status in the Olympics. In 1988, the short-track skaters were in Calgary, Alberta, competing in a demonstration sport.

"We weren't treated like real athletes," Peterson said. "It was like, 'OK, here you are.' We didn't even get to stay in the official athletes' village."

But in Albertville, the short-track skaters received all the perks of Olympians. Still, when it came time for a post-midnight snack in a town that shuts down at 9 o'clock, the Americans ate grilled ham and cheese sandwiches.

They even held a news conference.

But Ziegelmeyer grew a little sheepish under questioning. Seems she wrote in the official Olympic computer message system, "I'm a lustful sex maniac and I want you. . . . "

Asked about the message, Ziegelmeyer blushed and said: "I was just being Nikki. I was just being stupid."

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