RUSSIA SPOOR OLYMPIANS
Bear Market for Precious Metals
Some of Russia's best athletes have gotten a hard lesson in hard currency. Before the 1998 Nagano Winter Games the Russian Olympic Committee promised bonuses to athletes and coaches who brought home medals: $50,000 for a gold medal, $30,000 for a silver, $20,000 for a bronze. After Russians won nine golds, six silvers and three bronzes, the committee put more than a million dollars into accounts for the medalists and coaches at the Russian Bank for Reconstruction and Development (RBRD).
Most of them quickly withdrew their cash in dollars, which proved to be a wise move when Russia's banking system collapsed last year. The ruble, which had been trading at six to the dollar, plunged to 20 to 1. (It's now at more than 25 to 1.) Then, last fall, the RBRD announced that $2.2 million of the Olympic committee's money had been mistakenly sent to the State Bank for Foreign Trade. Nine Olympians were out in the cold as the two banks spent the last year wrangling over the money.
Last month a judge ordered the state bank to pay up. But for many athletes and coaches, the damage was done. Zinetulla Biyaletdinov, an assistant coach of the men's silver-medal hockey team and the last Olympian to cash in his bonus, got the equivalent of about $7,200—less than a fourth of what he'd been promised. Biyaletdinov vows never again to entrust his money to the Russian banking system. "I will keep it in a banka instead," he says with a smile. Banka is Russian for "glass jar."
TWO SCHOOLS, ONE COACH
Minnesota Twin Bill
When the ski teams of tiny liberal arts colleges Carleton and St Olaf meet this winter, the losers won't be able to say, "We got outcoached." Two weeks ago the schools, whose campuses are less than a mile apart in Northfield, Minn., hired Mike Nightingale to coach their Nordic ski teams. As far as the NCAA can determine, it's the first time that one coach has guided two teams in the same league.
By coaching at the two Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schools, the 31-year-old Nightingale—a St. Olaf alum who has worked as an instructor at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Marquette, Mich.—will be able to combine two part-time salaries into one paycheck. By sharing Nightingale, Carleton and St. Olaf get a coach with better qualifications than either could otherwise afford. Nightingale will have an office at each school that will be linked electronically to his home in St. Paul. "Logistically it made sense," says Nightingale. "The two teams have always practiced together informally. I saw the Carleton team on a daily basis when I was skiing at St. Olaf."
Recruiting could get tricky, though Nightingale thinks it will be easy to decide which college fits a prospective skier. "The schools couldn't be more different," he says. "Carleton is liberal, and St. Olaf is more conservative. They draw different students." Both, however, are accomplished in Nordic skiing. Carleton won the 1999 U.S. Collegiate Snowsport Association men's title last March, and St. Olaf finished 22nd in the most recent NCAA championships.
Nightingale's biggest worry may be sartorial. He has no idea how he'll incorporate both the gold and black of St. Olaf and the maize and blue of Carleton into his game-day duds. "I'm going to need a very special outfit," he says.
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