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Hometown hero wins gold

Jim Shea takes men's skeleton at Goodwill Games

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Posted: Sunday February 20, 2000 08:31 PM

  Jim Shea celebrates taking the gold in the men's skeleton. AP

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (AP) -- Jim Shea did it the hard way. He won gold Sunday in men's skeleton at the Winter Goodwill Games -- without a sponsor.

But when your grandfather is the oldest living American gold medalist from the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics and the whole town is rooting for you, Shea had what money couldn't buy and easily beat his teammate, Chris Soule.

"The support really made a difference for me," said Shea, whose 89-year-old grandfather, Jack, won two speedskating golds nearly seven decades ago and was there at snowy Mount Van Hoevenberg to soak in the moment. "It feels real good, but it's bittersweet. We still don't have a sponsor."

Shea entered the final two runs with a lead of more than a second over Snorre Pedersen of Norway and Soule. He won with a time of 4 minutes, 1.12 seconds, nearly three seconds faster than Soule.

"I got lucky," said Shea, who won the World Championship last season. "Anything can happen in any race. It's up for grabs."

Japan's Koshi Kazuhiro slid past Pedersen for the bronze.

"We're strong sliders and it's great to have the heated competition," said Soule, who finished second this season on the World Cup tour. "We're just trying to put it together. We're looking forward to 2002. That's what we're building up to."

The building already has begun. The Americans found out after the race that two Internet companies -- Ultimate Bid and MilestonesNetwork.com -- had signed on as team sponsors.

The race for gold in the two-man bobsled was won by Latvian star Sandis Prusis, who finished in 3:49.13. That was 22 hundredths of a second faster than Germany-1, piloted by Andre Lange, the current world champion in four-man.

Brian Shimer, who crashed twice in practice earlier in the week, turned in a gutsy performance for the United States, shaking off leg and rib injuries.

"I feel in my heart if I was healthy we could have won this race," said Shimer, who was limping noticeably. "In the third heat I had a great run going, went into the big Shady curve, and then my ribs just exploded [from the pressure]. It felt like somebody stuck me with a sword. I almost crashed."

He didn't, and collected bronze for the United States, which led the final medal count with 34 -- 11 gold, 10 silver and 13 bronze. Canada was second with 15 medals, eight of them gold, and Germany and Norway tied for third with nine medals.

The most exciting race of the day was staged in the 15-kilometer cross-country sprint relay. The American team of Justin Wadsworth of Bend, Ore., and Marcus Nash edged Brynjar Skjaerli and Ola Rygg of Norway for the gold.

The teletimer camera at the finish pegged the margin of victory at eight thousandths of a second -- about the tip of Nash's boot.

"Our goal at the beginning of the race was to just stay in contact with the leaders," said Nash. "It's a five-lap race for each man, so there's no point in leading if you're going to lose it at the end.

Nash went out in third on the last lap and took the lead before the final uphill, but as he approached the finish line he didn't realize he suddenly had a race on his hands.

"I thought once I rounded the final bend the race was over," Nash said. "But for some reason I chose the middle lane instead of the shortest route to the finish and he took advantage of that.

"I said, 'OK, I'm not going to lose it here.' I dug a little deeper. Fortunately, I'm pretty flexible. I was able to outstretch him."

Rygg tried in vain to reach ahead with his right foot and stumbled just past the finish line as the American twosome won despite a fall by Wadsworth on the seventh lap.

The final day was not without controversy. In the men's snowboard cross at Whiteface Mountain, a faulty starting gate left Ryan Neptune stuck at the top as his American teammate Seth Wescott sped to an easy victory.

Neptune protested and the race jury upheld it, nullifying Wescott's win. In the rerun, Neptune accidentally took out Wescott early in the race and Scott Gaffney of Canada won gold.

"That's the first time we've had that happen," said a disappointed Wescott, who finished fourth. "Usually they're on it and the stuff's done days ahead of time. It [the gate] just didn't have time to harden in the ground."

American Ann Battelle, beaten Saturday by Norwegian Kari Traa for the gold in women's moguls, came back to win the dual moguls. After Traa fell in the semifinals, Battelle easily defeated Aiko Uemura for the gold when the Japanese star caught a ski tip and missed her second jump on the steep Whiteface Mountain course.

"I'm relieved," said Battelle, of nearby Williston, Vt. "It's great to be able to pull it out. I saw Aiko mess up at the bottom. If you try to slow up, you're not going to make it."

The only injuries requiring hospitalization in the four days of competition occurred in separate accidents Sunday and involved two Canadians.

At Mount Van Hoevenberg, bobsledder Pierre Lueders crashed on his third run in the two-man, and snowboarder Kim Dunn of Calgary suffered a concussion when she fell during training for the cross event at Whiteface Mountain. Both athletes were taken to nearby Saranac Lake for treatment.

Dunn underwent a CAT scan and was in stable condition, according to Dr. William Smith. Precautionary X-rays were done on Lueders, who was pinned under his sled after it flipped near the bottom of the course.

The American bobsled team of Garrett Hines and Todd Hays also crashed moments later at about the same place on the track, but they were not injured.


 
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