McIntyre steals show in moguls LILLEHAMMER 94

February 17, 1994|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Writer

LILLEHAMMER, Norway -- Elizabeth McIntyre had just shared the moment of her life with the world in the 1994 Winter Olympics, and hardly anyone knew her name.

Or her game.

"Just call me Lisa," said McIntyre.

And the sport? MTV on ice, right?

"Hey, get real," said McIntyre to one reporter. "A lot of people find things ridiculous that I don't. But as long as I enjoy it and find it challenging, then I'm going to take it seriously."

McIntyre, with 25.89 points, won a silver medal yesterday in the women's freestyle skiing moguls, finishing behind Norway's Stine Lise Hattestad, who had 25.97. Russia's Elizaveta Kojevnikova won the bronze with 25.81.

American Donna Weinbrecht, defending gold medalist and easily the sport's most recognizable face, finished a disappointing seventh.

On the men's side, the defending champion also lost. Canadian Jean Luc-Brassard claimed the gold and Russia's Sergei Shoupletsov slipped in for the silver ahead of Edgar Grospiron of France, the winner two years ago.

Weinbrecht was the main reason a large media contingent appeared for the competition yesterday.

Her story of overcoming a devastating knee injury to defend her title rivaled those of speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen and their return to the Olympics.

But McIntyre, who grew up in Lyme, N.H., and now lives in Winter Park, Colo., stole some of Weinbrecht's publicity and became the sport's newest spokeswoman.

First, though, the sport has to be explained. Rock music blares in the background, and the skiers come barreling down a course of bumps, bouncing and bobbing around like a bunch of goggled mannequins tied to skis.

The skiers get points for speed and entertainment as they complete neat moves called twister spreads, double twisters and daffy twisters off ice ramps.

Nearly 25,000 people attended yesterday's competition. They rocked and swayed with ZZ Top, The Rolling Stones and Chubby Checker. Texas Twister -- not a move but a rock group -- was live. Races were started by the crowing of a rooster.

"It takes a combination of great skiing, coordination, artistry and courage," said McIntyre. "I let the music get me pumped up.

"A lot of people don't want to take the sport seriously, shredding the music and taking us lightheartedly because we have a lot of fun. But we're sincere people who work hard. People need to get to know us."

McIntyre is 28, has short chestnut brown hair and enjoys soccer and reading. A Dartmouth graduate, she got into the sport after toying with gymnastics and skiing.

Weinbrecht, 28, is from West Milford, N.J., hardly a skiing haven. She became the sport's star, winning 30 World Cup championships and the gold medal in the inaugural Olympic competition in 1992.

But 15 months ago, she ripped a tendon in her right knee. Weinbrecht seemed to have recovered, winning six of her last seven races.

Weinbrecht was in second place after her run yesterday, but the five remaining skiers beat her convincingly. Weinbrecht almost seemed relieved the competition was over.

"I'm a little disappointed because I trained so well this week and I was really pumped up," she said. "I don't know what happened when it came to count. I just got numb and I didn't have the right focus.

"It's one of those things that when you're off, you're way off. I wish things could have gone better, but it just didn't happen. I've got to be the champion without the gold."

The new champion with the gold is Hattestad. When she came to the starting gate before her final run yesterday, she looked down on the entire city of Lillehammer.

She was greeted by cheers and Norwegian flags. The fans chanted her name on a day when it seemed like the entire country was standing on the mountainside.

"I'm always nervous before a race, but when I looked down there, I got even more nervous," said Hattestad. "I knew Donna had a big jump, but I didn't know where she was.

"Once I finished my race, though, I knew I had done something special, and it was nice having the fans there to greet me when I was finished."

Hattestad says she plans to retire after this season. Both Weinbrecht and McIntyre plan to stay on the circuit.

And win. And defend a sport that critics say was invented on a ski bum's day off. Maybe at the next competition, Dire Straits will open the event by singing "Money For Nothing" and blaring out the words, "I want my MTV."

"I really don't care anybody says or does," said McIntyre. "It was a nice run. It was very well prepared. I had a lot of fun out there today. I'm a happy camper here in Norway."

* In the men's final, Frenchman Edgar Grospiron was another Olympic champion to fall, finishing third behind Canada's Jean-Luc Brassard and silver medalist Sergei Shoupletsov of Russia.

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