Racing old hat for teen-age American luger WINTER OLYMPICS

January 31, 1993|By The Hartford Courant

Bethany Calcaterra-McMahon is a luger ahead of her time. She is only 18 and might be at least seven years shy of her prime.

But for the teen-age luger from Waterford, Conn., the awe of world-class racing is over -- if there was any awe at all. Last Saturday, in a World Cup race in Konigssee, Germany, Calcaterra-McMahon was the second-fastest U.S. woman on the track.

After a top-six sweep by European racers, Calcaterra-McMahon finished eighth -- her best performance after five World Cup races this year. U.S. Olympian Cammy Myler, 24, finished seventh, only one spot ahead of the Connecticut slider. Erica Terwilligar, 29, another U.S. Olympian, had her best race this year and still finished 10th, two spots behind Calcaterra-McMahon.

A four-time U.S. junior champion, Calcaterra-McMahon, who has added her stepfather's name to her surname, was third in the junior world championships last year in a sport in which most don't reach their prime until their mid-20s.

Then she stunned the experts at the U.S. Olympic trials, when she finished fourth and missed a trip to the Winter Games by one spot. Now she has beaten one of the U.S. Olympians who did go to the Games in Albertville, France, and she is close to overtaking another. U.S. coaches may have to re-evaluate their expectations for Calcaterra-McMahon be fore the 1994 Olympics Lillehammer, Norway.

8, This is one luger who plans to be there.

So far, so good

America's new bobsled -- designed and built by Chassis Dynamics and Creative Product Development of Oxford, Conn., and funded by NASCAR veteran Geoff Bodine -- is performing well in early tests on the Mount Van Hoevenberg track at Lake Placid, N.Y. The cherry red sled made its inaugural run last Sunday.

"The sled drives itself," said driver Brian Shimer, who leads the World Cup. "You can trust it. It doesn't vibrate or beat you up."

Shimer expects to pilot the state-of-the-art, two-man sled in a World Cup race later this winter.

Competition for Blair

Bonnie Blair's road to a third consecutive Olympic gold medal in 500-meter speedskating has hit a small bump. China's Ye Qiaobo, runner-up to Blair in the '92 Olympics in Albertville, won the first four World Cup races this year.

Blair was second three times and third once. At 1,000 meters, Blair remains the best in the world.

Finishing stronger

Olympic organizers have responded to complaints there were too few events on the final day of competition in Albertville. There will be four events on the final day in Lillehammer: men's slalom, four-man bobsled and men's 50K cross country skiing, in addition to the gold-medal hockey game.

Injury update

Giant slalom specialist Eva Twardokens and Hilary Lindh, '92 Olympic downhill silver medalist, have undergone surgery for torn knee ligaments an d will be lost to the U.S. ski team the rest of the year. Mogul skiing gold medalist Donna Weinbrecht is recuperating from similar surgery. All three plan on returning for the '94 Olympic season when mogul skiing will again be a full medal sport. Freestyle aerials and short-track speedskating have also been granted full-medal status.

Home training

After long being forced to train abroad, U.S. speedskaters finally have the opportunity to prepare for international competitions at home, year-round.

Three weeks ago in Milwaukee, opening ceremonies were held at the 400-meter speedskating oval in the $13 million Petit National Ice Center -- one of only three enclosed speedskating rinks in the world and the only one in the United States.

Blair and three-time Olympian Dan Jansen were the first skaters to race on the new oval. The hard-luck Jansen has never won an Olympic medal, but, once again, he has been almost un beatable at 500 meters in World Cup races this year.

"In the 500, he is simply the best in the world, flat-out," said U.S. coach Peter Mueller.

Back to the future

Olympic gold medalists Kristi Yamaguchi ('92), Brian Boitano ('88) and Katarina Witt ('84, '88) and three-time U.S. champion Jill Trenary are all toying with the idea of trading in their lives on the pro circuit to skate again as amateurs in Lillehammer.

Rules of the U.S. Figure Skating Association allow the switch, and the skaters have to make their decisions by April 1. Insiders predict only Boitano will try it -- even though it has been five years since he last climbed a medal stand.

Collecting trouble

Lillehammer's Olympic logo, particularly its pins, has started an unprecedented "collectomania," a word invented by Norwegian officials. But Einar Henriksen, chief constable in Lillehammer, is worried about the escalation of the collecting fad. The Municipality of Lillehammer bought 100 manhole covers carrying Olympic symbols to brighten city streets, but the covers were barely in place when collectors starting stealing them -- exposing walkers and cyclists to unprotected shafts 10 feet deep. "This isn't 'collectomania' -- it's collecting madness," Henriksen said.

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