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Rings and things

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 3, 2002

WE HAVE YOUR DREAM TEAM: For the U.S. women's hockey team, it was billed as a pre-Olympic tour.

For the rest of the world it was pre-Olympic torture.

The defending gold-medal winners went 31-0 on the tour that began in September and traveled from China, across the United States and into Canada.

To say the Americans are heavily favored in Salt Lake City is a bit conservative. The United States destroyed the international competition on its friendly jaunt around the globe.

Take China. When they play the USA on Feb. 14, do not be shocked if the Chinese players seem intimidated. They went 0-6 against the USA on the tour. And were outscored 69-5.

Then there is Russia. The Russians were outscored 26-1. But, then again, they only played the USA three times.

Overall Team USA went 22-0 against international teams, including 8-0 against the defending world champion Canadians. The Canadians at least had three games decided by one goal. Germany, Sweden, China and Russia never got closer than six. "The Olympics take place over two weeks, so there is no time to look back on your achievements no matter what sport you play," coach Ben Smith said.

Yeah, whatever.

NOTHING TO LUGE: For a guy who won the first World Cup medal of his life last weekend, U.S. luge team member Tony Benshoof was talking pretty big.

"I think the Germans are on their heels a little bit," he said. "We're picking the right time to peak."

The United States had its best showing of the World Cup season last week in Germany. It took five medals and an overall title.

The USA never has won a gold medal in the luge in either men's or women's competition.

BEWARE THE GIFT OF A TROJAN HORSE: Olympic organizers are making sure athletes are as safe as possible everywhere they go. Including the bedroom.

Athletes will be able to pick up free condoms in the athletic village, a practice that has drawn a protest from an anti-abortion group. It also has not gone over well among politicians in the conservative state.

The Olympic organizing committee said 12,000 condoms were donated by a manufacturer, and they are available mainly for safety reasons.

"We're not distributing them," Vania Grandi told the New York Times. "They're available like aspirin, Tylenol, bandages."

Condoms were free at the Sydney Games in 2000 and were a huge hit with some athletes who said quality condoms were not available in their countries.

-- Compiled by John Romano from staff and wire reports.

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