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U.S. luge teams leave mark in Nagano

A pair of United States teams have made great strides in the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, but only one has any hardware to show for it.

The luge squad not only claimed its first medals in American history but also posted impressive results in all three events - the men's singles, the women's singles and the men's doubles.Earlier in the week, Wendell Suckow finished a solid sixth after four men's singles runs spread over two days. There had been a chance for him to medal, since he had won last year's World Cup race held at the same Spiral track in nearby Iizuna Kogen.

Meanwhile, the American women placed back-to-back-to-back - sixth, seventh and eighth - in their two-day singles competition.

The cake's icing came Friday as the U.S. captured silver and bronze in the men's doubles at The Spiral. Chris Thorpe (who suffered a broken hand just after Christmas) and Gordy Sheer finished second, just .022 seconds in aggregate time after the two runs, while Mark Grimmette and Brian Martin took third.

"The only thing that could have been sweeter than winning the silver and the bronze medals was for our two teams to tie for the gold medal and stand on the podium together," said Grimmette.

The two medals upped the current U.S. total to six overall - two gold, a silver and three bronze.

Meanwhile, the outlook of American speed skating is not as bleak as first thought in the post-Bonnie Blair and post-David Jansen era. In fact, Americans have recorded four top-eight finishes in the first week at Nagano, compared to just one top-eight finish in the same events four years ago in Lillehammer.

The high finishes are bolstering medal hopes for the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.


U.S. update: The American doubles duos credited their success to an extended stay in Park City. They remained to train on the Utah track while the Olympics singles events were being contested in Japan.

U.S. results: Men's doubles (Friday) - Chris Thorpe/Gordy Sheer, silver medal (2nd after 1st run); Mark Grimmette/Brian Martin, bronze medal (3rd after 1st run).


U.S. update: More delays and cancellations Saturday in Hakuba, with the women's downhill postponed and men's Super G start delayed with the possibility of being canceled. Tommy Moe fell considerably short of defending his downhill crown, but he and two other Americans finished in the top 15 on the Happo'one course that sent several top skiers hurtling through crash fences.

U.S. results: Women's downhill (Saturday) - postponed. Men's Super G (Saturday) - delayed. Men's downhill (Friday) - Kyle Rasmussen, 9th; Tommy Moe, 12th; Jason Rosener, 15th, A.J. Kitt, DNF. Men's combined downhill (Friday) - No U.S. competitors.


U.S. update: Todd Eldredge enters Saturday night's free program in medal contention, trailing Russia's Ilia Kulik and longtime Canadian counterpart Elvis Stojko after Thursday's short program. And in Friday night's ice dancing compulsories, the top-ranked U.S.

tandem of Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow are ranked seventh. Watch for Michael Weiss to attempt the first-ever quadruple lutz in his free program.

U.S. results: Ice dancing compulsory dance 1 (Friday) - Elizabeth Punsalan/Jerod Swallow, ranked 7th; Jessica Joseph/Charles Butler, ranked 22nd. Men's singles short program (Thursday) - Todd Eldredge, ranked 3rd; Michael Weiss, ranked 11th.


U.S. update: American Chris Witty finished the first day of 500-meter competition with a time better than the previous Olympic mark at the start of the race - but so did five other racers ranked ahead of her.

U.S. results: Women's 500-meter first race (Friday) - Chris Witty, 6th; Moira D'Andrea, 18th; Becky Sundstrom, 25th; Amy Sannes, 27th.


U.S. update: With the women taking the day off as the top men's teams made their debut, the U.S. had a tough time adjusting to the larger international rink size, which minimizes hitting and corners work while emphasizing open-ice skating and puck work. Team USA should take a breather Saturday against Belarus.

U.S. results: Men's - lost to Sweden 4-2 Friday.


U.S. update: With the American women already eliminated after preliminary play, the U.S. men needed to work their way through two tiebreakers to reach Saturday's semifinals - and they had to beat defending world champion Sweden in the first tiebreaker. The Americans did just that with a 5-2 victory Friday and now must defeat host Japan in the second tiebreaker to stay alive.

U.S. results: Men's - defeated Great Britain 6-3 Friday, defeated Sweden 5-2 Friday (tiebreaker). Women's - defeated Japan 10-2 Friday.


U.S. update: None of the Americans could nail strong back-to-back jumps. Todd Lodwick could muster only a 29th-place ranking after the first jump before improving dramatically to 13th. Next up for the Nordic combined - the cross country competition.

U.S. results: Jumping (Friday) - Todd Lodwick, 13th (29th after 1st jump); Billy Demong, 19th (8th after 1st jump); Dave Jarrett, 34th (18th after 1st jump); Tim Tetreault, 39th (40th after 1st jump).