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U.S. medals in 500, finishes 4th in relay

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 24, 2002

SALT LAKE CITY -- Apolo Anton Ohno didn't get the call this time. Or the medal.

SALT LAKE CITY -- Apolo Anton Ohno didn't get the call this time. Or the medal.

Hoping to win his third medal, Ohno was disqualified in the semifinals of the 500-meter short-track speed-skating event Saturday, then he anchored a U.S. team that finished fourth after a fall in the 5,000-meter relay.

"I got a silver medal and a gold medal," Ohno said. "It's real hard to walk away not feeling good about that."

Ohno's teammate, Rusty Smith, experienced the highs and lows of short track, winning a bronze in the 500, but falling in the 5,000 relay to take the Americans out of contention.

"I think he hit a block," Ohno said. "If Rusty didn't fall, I think we were in good position. I would have been out there the final two laps and could have pulled some magic."

The Americans' difficulties led to two gold medals for Canada. The Canadian team won the 5,000 relay, and the man who crossed the finish line, Marc Gagnon, also won gold in the 500. Italy and China were second and third in the relay.

In the 500, Ohno collided with Japan's Satoru Terao on the next-to-last turn. After the collision, Ohno finished third, so he would not have advanced even if he was not disqualified.

"I was kind of holding back and he got too close," Ohno said. "It's all right. I still have the relay."

Gagnon won the 500 in 41.802 seconds and teammate Jonathan Guilmette won silver.

Smith, 22, of Sunset Beach, Calif., was a surprise winner in his semifinal heat. He got the quickest start in the final and led through the first four laps. Gagnon made his move coming off the next-to-last turn, passing Smith on the inside. The other Canadian also got by, but Smith stuck his blade across for bronze.

"You always beat me, man," Smith said to Gagnon, patting the Canadian on the back.

Gagnon pumped his fists as he crossed the line, having won his first individual gold. A four-time world champion, he was the sport's dominant skater through much of the 1990s but always came up short in the Olympics. Japan's Takafumi Nishitani, the defending Olympic champion, was knocked out in the quarterfinals, finishing third in the race won by Smith. Li Jiajun of China, the reigning world champion in the 500, fell in his quarterfinal.

Caroline Hallisey was the only U.S. woman skating on the final night of short track. She was eliminated in the 1,000 quarterfinals.

China's Yang Yang (A) won in 1:36.391. South Korea's Ko Gi-Hyun won the silver and China's Yang Yang (S) won bronze.

The competition was held before another packed house at the Salt Lake Ice Center, which included former New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani.

SPEED SKATING: Germany's Claudia Pechstein won her third consecutive Olympic title in the 5,000 meters, skating to a world record for her second gold of these Games.

Pechstein joined Bonnie Blair as the only speed skaters to win three consecutive Olympics. Blair won the 500 in 1988, '92 and '94.

Pechstein skated the 121/2-lap race in 6:46.91, bettering by 2.31 seconds the mark set 90 minutes earlier by the Netherlands' Gretha Smit.

Smit won silver in 6:49.22. Canada's Clara Hughes took bronze in 6:53.53.

Pechstein won gold in the 3,000 with a world record Feb.10. She has seven Olympic medals, including four golds.

Pechstein's main rival, countrywoman Anni Friesinger, faded to sixth. Pechstein paused on her victory lap to hug Friesinger, with whom she has had a frosty relationship.

The United States' Catherine Raney was ninth in 7:06.89, 10 seconds lower than her personal best, and Annie Driscoll was last among 14, with a 7:35.23 that improved her personal best by almost 12 seconds.

ALPINE SKIING: France's Jean-Pierre Vidal, who three years ago severed ligaments in both knees in a training accident and spent 45 days in a wheelchair, won the slalom by .76 seconds over teammate Sebastien Amiez. Alain Baxter won bronze, becoming the first British skier to win an Alpine medal.

Vidal won in 1:41.06. Amiez finished in 1:41.82 and Baxter in 1:42.32.

Vidal, who turns 25 today, led by 2.15 seconds over Amiez after the first run and delicately twisted down the slope in his second run to win the gold.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: After failing and then passing a blood test, Spain's Johann Muehlegg rallied over the final 10 kilometers of the 50-kilometer classic, winning his third gold of the Games by overtaking Russia's Mikhail Ivanov.

Muehlegg was among 13 selected at random before the race to be tested for high levels of hemoglobin, an oxygen-carrying molecule in red blood cells that can increase endurance.

Muehlegg's first test showed a hemoglobin level above the limit of 17.5. Five minutes later, Muehlegg was tested again. And this time, he was under the threshold.

Muehlegg, who also won gold in the 30K freestyle and 10K pursuit, said a change in diet during the past few days, combined with a bout of diarrhea Friday night that left him dehydrated, might have contributed to his initial high blood levels.

By the 33.4-kilometer mark, Ivanov led by nearly 39 seconds. Muehlegg had a burst of energy, though, getting within 16.4 seconds with 9.5 kilometers to go.

Estonia's Andrus Veerpalu won the bronze. John Bauer was the top American in 35th. Andrew Johnson was 53rd, and Justin Wadsworth didn't finish.

BOBSLED: Prince Albert of Monaco, appearing in his fifth Olympics, crashed during the third run of the four-man and slid sideways across the finish line.

Driving the red Monaco-1, Prince Albert got too high on one of the curves on the lower part of the course and flipped the sled. As it toppled over, the prince's head slammed into one of the side walls.

He was unable to right the sled, and it skittered past the finish line on its side, spraying snow and ice. Prince Albert and his crew appeared to be uninjured.

Later, Slovakia-1, piloted by Milan Jagensak, crashed in the same spot. It too slid to the finish on its side.

During Friday's first two heats, sleds from New Zealand and the Virgin Islands crashed in their first heats and didn't make second runs.

Meanwhile, Germany's Christoph Langen, the defending gold medalist, dropped out with a foot injury. He partially tore a plantar fascia in his left foot during the start of Friday's second heat. The 39-year-old was sixth after the first two rounds.

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