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Speed Skating
Johnette Howard
February 09, 1998
Those noises coming from the M-Wave arena will be clapskates clapping and records breaking. Since the U.S. is without retirees Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen, Dutch men and German women will be the ones making the racket. In short track, Korea will cause most of the commotion.
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February 09, 1998

Speed Skating

Those noises coming from the M-Wave arena will be clapskates clapping and records breaking. Since the U.S. is without retirees Bonnie Blair and Dan Jansen, Dutch men and German women will be the ones making the racket. In short track, Korea will cause most of the commotion.

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500 METERS
February 19

[Gold]Chun Lee Kyung, Korea
[Silver]Yang Yang, China
[Bronze]Wang Chunlu, China
U.S. Three-time Olympic medalist Amy Peterson and 19-year-old Erin Porter look good for the top eight.

1,000 METERS
February 21

[Gold]Chun Lee Kyung, Korea
[Silver]Isabelle Charest, Canada
[Bronze]Kim Yoon Mi, Korea
U.S. Peterson, Porter and Erin Gleason—the American-record holder at 1,500—are top 10 material.

3,000-METER RELAY
February 17

[Gold]Korea
[Silver] China
[Bronze] Canada
U.S. The team includes two-time Olympic champ Cathy Turner, but at 35 her medal days are over.

Chris Witty

America's best speed skater has a pierced navel, a fondness for playing grunge rock on her electric bass and a desire to own a Harley-Davidson. "I almost bought a Heritage Softail this summer," says 22-year-old Chris Witty. "It was cammed out, had all new pipes, a custom paint job, everything." She sighs. But the Olympics were on the horizon, so Witty passed on the Harley after hearing about an Italian skater who'd had a career-ending motorcycle accident. So how does Witty get around her town? She grins. "I bought an '81 Porsche instead."

That's Witty—incorrigibly free-spirited and exceedingly flexible. She enters the Winter Olympics as the world-record holder and gold medal favorite at 1,000 meters, and as a contender at 500. Yet she still drives U.S. speed skating program director Nick Thometz to distraction with everything from her indulgence in pizza and ice cream ("Nick says my body is a temple") to her laid-back demeanor ("whatever, man" is a pet phrase). Her realistic ambition of qualifying for the 2000 Summer Games in sprint cycling makes Thometz fret that his skater could crash on a steeply banked cycling oval, but Witty shrugs and says, "Aw, nine times out of 10 a cyclist just loses a little skin on the track—and, O.K., maybe breaks a collarbone." Whatever.

Growing up in West Allis, Wis., a suburb of Milwaukee, Witty rode dirt bikes and skateboards with her three older brothers, but her first speed skating race was a glimpse of what was to come. Chris, then nine, won by such a big margin that she had already reached her mom in the grandstand when the other kids straggled in.

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