Competitions winnowing athletes for Salt Lake Games

Eldredge has a problem

U.S. bobsledders shine

Olympics

Notebook

November 25, 2001|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

With slightly more than two months remaining before the start of the Winter Olympics, athletes are deep into the competitions that will determine who will go to Salt Lake City.

Also on the way to Utah is the Olympic torch, which was lighted Monday in Olympia, Greece, the site of the first Games, and will reach the United States on Dec. 4.

The flame will be carried through 46 states - with a stop in Baltimore on Dec. 22 - by 11,500 volunteers, each of whom will carry the torch two-tenths of a mile.

Then, on Feb. 8 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, the flame will be used to ignite the Olympic Caldron, signaling the start of the 19th Winter Games. It will be extinguished Feb. 24.

Figure skating

In the City of Lights, Russian Alexei Yagudin left American Todd Eldredge in the dark to win the Lalique Trophy Grand Prix title - the first program in the Olympic season.

The triple world champion, dashing in his black outfit with gold breastplate, pleased the Paris crowd with a quadruple toe-triple toe combination and six clean triple jumps.

Eldredge, by comparison, wore a simple black outfit and stuck to a sedate program that included seven triple jumps - but no quad. He also was the victim of a spill while performing a triple axel, double toe loop.

Eldredge has little time left to incorporate the quad, considered an essential part of a medal-winning performance.

Germany's Andrejs Vlascenko was third and American Johnny Weir was fourth.

The women looked more like roller derby combatants than skaters, with programs punctuated by spills and other missteps.

But Russia's Maria Butyrskaya managed the fewest errors and captured first place over Americans Sarah Hughes and Sasha Cohen.

Butyrskaya had an error-free short program, but the same could not be said of her free skate. She fell on a triple lutz, then blew a combination jump and a triple toe loop before falling on the triple salchow.

Despite a tired-looking long program that included a clumsy fall, Hughes moved up from fourth in the short program to finish second.

Cohen looked the least comfortable. The 17-year-old tumbled on a lutz and then fell to the ice while skating backward.

Russia's Viktoria Volchkova, who fell three times in the long program, dropped from second to a fourth-place finish.

Olympic silver medalists Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze of Russia captured the pairs title over Americans Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman.

Bobsled

American Todd Hays has the Midas touch. The driver from Del Rio, Texas, won his third consecutive World Cup event last weekend in the two-man competition held in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Hays and brakeman Garrett Hines, aboard USA 1, finished with a two-race time of 1 minute, 52.16 seconds.

Earlier this month, Hays took gold in Calgary, Alberta, in both two-man and four-man bobsled.

The silver medal in Lake Placid was won by the Swiss team of Martin Annen and Cedric Grand with a combined time of 1:52.40. The bronze went to Pierre Lueders and Mark LeBlanc of Canada in 1:52.46.

The men's World Cup tour continues in Winterberg, Germany, on Dec. 1-2.

Meanwhile, the U.S. women's team placed three sleds in the top five in World Cup competition in Konigssee, Germany, last weekend.

Driver Jean Racine and brakeman Bethany Hart won the silver in World Cup No. 4, with a time of 1:40.09. Bonny Warner and Gea Johnson placed third in 1:40.20. Jill Bakken and Shauna Rohbock took fourth place in 1:40.29.

The event was won by Germany's Susi Erdmann and Tanja Hees with a two-race time of 1:39.95. Francoise Burdet and Katherina Sutter of Switzerland placed fifth.

Skeleton

It's been more than five decades since athletes in this sport prepared for Olympic competition.

The event uses a tiny sled, like luge, but athletes slide down the bobsled track head first, their chins about two inches off the ice, using body position to steer. Skeleton was dropped from the Olympics after the 1948 Games, when organizers became concerned about athlete safety.

Thirty-eight men and 25 women competed last weekend in the first of five World Cup events in Konigssee, Germany.

American Chris Soule won the silver medal, with a total time of 1:40.65. Switzerland's Gregor Stahli won the event in 1:40.50. Third place went to Canada's Jeff Pain in 1:40.88.

Soule's teammate, Jim Shea Jr., finished the race in seventh with a time of 1:41.18. No other American man finished in the top 10.

On the women's side, Lea Ann Parsley was the top U.S. finisher in sixth place in 1:44.65. Germany's Steffi Hanzlik broke the track record on her way to the victory with a first-heat run of 51.41 and a two-race total of 1:43.20.

Speed skating

For the second straight weekend, American Jennifer Rodriguez earned a World Cup silver medal in the 1,500-meter competition last weekend in Innsbruck, Austria.

The Miami resident skated to a time of 2:00.87, finishing .34 of a second behind gold medalist Anni Friesinger of Germany, 2:00.53.

Germany's Claudia Pechstein finished third in 2:00.91.

Rodriguez picked up her first World Cup silver medal the previous weekend in Berlin, finishing behind Friesinger. Her standings qualify Rodriguez for the U.S. Olympic team in the 1,500 meters.

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