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U.S. athletes give sites a personal feel

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 24, 2002


If there's one lingering impression from these Winter Olympics, even more than the summer counterpart, it is that our country's medal winners of the past two weeks are, for the most part, ordinary people.

If there's one lingering impression from these Winter Olympics, even more than the summer counterpart, it is that our country's medal winners of the past two weeks are, for the most part, ordinary people.

They work at Home Depot, as we've learned, and have regular lives to which they'll return after tonight's closing ceremony. Visit their personal Web sites, and in many cases, they're literally personal, run by mom-and-pop operations that have followed the athletes' exploits since they were mere Olympic hopefuls.

Visit chrisklug.com, home to the bronze-winning snowboarder, and you'll see he freely lists his AOL address, perhaps dooming himself to a barrage of well-intended instant messages from fans. The site is registered in his name, with a phone number that connects you to his father's ski lodge in Aspen, Colo.

"He does most of the site himself, and up until a week ago, had responded to every e-mail he got," Warren Klug said of his son. "I guess I'm proud of him for all kinds of reasons."

Klug now has an overstuffed inbox that could keep him busy for the next four years -- his father says Chris will get to them, in time, once he's home from Salt Lake City.

Gold-medal speed skater Casey FitzRandolph's site -- at web-net-wi.com/casey -- is run by a two-person Web production company from outside Madison, Wis. FitzRandolph once drove 90 minutes to hand out pamphlets for Web-Net at a technology fair, and the day he won his medal, Karen Carlson sat by the computer waiting, keeping one eye on the official Olympics site for the good news.

"We had it all ready to go," she said. "When it said "gold', we clicked on "Publish.' He's a very nice, down-to-earth guy, a pleasure to work with."

GOOD CAUSE: Olympic Aid, a charity that supports sport and play programs for disadvantaged children around the world, has an impressive array of memorabilia up for auction at eBay.com.

One of the more popular items is an ice skate autographed by American gold medalist Sarah Hughes, donated days before her victory Thursday and drawing 36 bids by Friday, up to $1,525. A skate signed by bronze medalist Michelle Kwan wasn't far behind at $1,125. A sweat shirt signed by Canadian gold skaters David Pelletier and Jamie Sale was at $760, and an autographed (and yes, unopened) box of Kellogg's Corn Pops featuring skeleton gold medalist Jim Shea was drawing $205. Of course, the highest-priced item doesn't have anything to do with any athlete -- it's an Olympic parka autographed by NBC's Katie Couric, bidding at more than $4,000 Friday.

MORE OUTRAGE: NBC's Bob Costas is targeted by a group of protesters at petitiononline.com who object to his introducing Iran as part of President Bush's "axis of evil" during the Opening Ceremony broadcast and saying the country "threatens world peace and security." Their online petition, arguing "politics have no place in sports," has 4,200-plus signatures, putting it among the site's top 10 on Friday.

On the other hand, that group pales in number to the 60,000 who have signed on to boycott Fox TV advertisers until the network promises not to cancel the prime-time cartoon The Family Guy.

TID-BYTES: Bonus points to the alumni site for Great Neck North High School (gnnalumni.org) in Long Island, N.Y., for quickly recognizing Hughes on her gold medal. The school's official site doesn't mention the student, but the principal's letter is prescient: "Make this a year of making dreams come true by trying, doing and becoming. You can do it!" ... For a look ahead, bookmark www.torino2006.org, official site for the next Winter Olympics in Italy, or for a trip to past glory, try dorothyhamill.com or peggyfleming.net. Two final strange skating ones: baiul.org and tararulz.com.

-- If you have a question or comment about the Internet or a site to suggest, e-mail staff writer Greg Auman at auman@sptimes.com.

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