Turner crashes short-track party LILLEHAMMER '94

February 25, 1994|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Sun Staff Writer

HAMAR, Norway -- Watch out world, here comes big, bad Cathy Turner and she's coming to your Winter Olympics.

Last night, America's short-track speed skating queen, just off the Ice Capades circuit, hit the big town looking for gold.

There were two kings in the crowd, Harald V and Johann Olav Koss. There were athletes dressed in Lycra and hard hats. And there was Turner, ready to bust loose.

She knocked over a Canadian in the semifinals.

She grabbed the leg of the world-record holder from China in the final.

And she won the gold in the 500 meters, quickly finding herself ensnared in an international incident.

Silver medalist Zhang Yanmei of China wildly protested the race and refused to shake Turner's hand. After the national anthem was played, Turner invited Zhang and bronze medalist Amy Peterson of the United States to the top of the podium for a joint celebration.

Peterson hopped up. But Zhang stormed off the podium, walking quickly across a red carpet, throwing a bouquet of yellow tulips onto the ice.

"The American skater has an obvious breaking of the law," Zhang said.

No wonder they call this roller derby on ice. The only thing missing was a Kansas City Bomber.

"I'm a little scared right now," Turner said. "I didn't think I had done anything wrong. These girls elbow everyone. I was just fighting my way to the turn. Was I going to say, 'OK, you go first?' "

Genteel, she ain't.

Turner, ex-lounge singer, ex-Ice Capades star, just may be the toughest speed skater of them all.

She refuses to back down.

"I am not a dirty skater," she said.

In the semifinals, she tangled with Canada's Isabelle Charest, the pair elbowing and spinning around a turn, crashing to the ice and sliding together toward the hard rubber mats that protect the skaters from the dasher boards.

Charest was disqualified for an illegal pass. And was outraged. Turner was allowed to re-run the semifinals and won the heat.

"Everybody is afraid of passing her," said Charest's teammate, Nathalie Lambert, who was eliminated in her quarterfinal heat when she clipped Turner's skate rounding a curve, fell off the lead and couldn't recover. "She's the only one in the sport who is a dirty skater, and she always gets away with it. She makes our sport look like roller derby. I hope she gets what she deserves."

Apparently, all Turner deserves are Olympic medals.

This was the fourth of her career and the second of these Games. In the 3,000-meter relay Tuesday, she bumped into a Chinese skater as the Americans sneaked in to claim a bronze after China was disqualified.

Turner said she was shaken heading into the final.

"Some of the Canadians were standing there, the guys had the dirtiest looks," she said. "I said, to Nathalie, 'I'm sorry.' And she said, 'Oh yeah, I bet you are.' I don't know what is going on. I earned this."

In the final, a 4 1/2 -lap sprint around a track laid out on a hockey rink, Turner had to come from behind to win.

It was Zhang who got the quick start, bolting ahead for two laps. But with 80 meters to go, Turner made her move, zooming around a turn, grabbing hold of Zhang's right leg with her left hand, absorbing a little kick and rocketing away with the gold.

When the race ended, Zhang chased after officials, grabbing her right leg to show them the alleged offense.

But they refused to budge.

This was Zhang's version of the incident: "At the turn, Turner used her arm and grabbed my right leg. And I lost my balance. I think a skater should use two legs and not three."

This was Turner's version of the incident: "How could I reach and grab her if I was in front of her? Maybe I put my hand down, but I was clearly in the lead."

The Chinese delegation filed a formal protest. Team leader Zhu Cheng Yi even read the protest letter at a news conference, saying, "We strongly request a fair judgment."

But a spokesman for the race committee announced, "The rules are as they are. The medals will stay as they are."

Turner was not exactly a thrilled winner.

"I was out there saying, 'I want to go home,' " said Turner, who will race Saturday in the 1,000 meters. "Obviously, they're making a big deal out of it. I expected to win the race. I won and I'm glad I won."

She also was delighted to win in front of her husband, Tim Bostley, who wore a T-shirt saying "Real Men Marry Athletes." The couple married in June, and Bostley, a veterinarian, had never before seen his wife race at the Olympics.

"I wanted him to see me as an athlete," Turner said.

Asked what he thought of his wife now, Bostley said, "She's tough. She's really tough."

No kidding.

* In yesterday's men's short-track competition, the Americans qualified for the finals in the 5,000-meter relay, joining Italy, Canada and Australia, but only one skater, Andrew Gabel, of Northbrook, Ill., qualified for the quarterfinals in the 500 meters.

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