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Virgin Islands bobsled team: Godzilla on ice

As usual, many of the more than 30 bobsled teams competing in the Olympics sport some distinctive paint jobs. None is more distinctive than that of the Virgin Islands.

The four-man sled is painted a brilliant green and black, and looks like a giant lizard, eerie eyes and all on the front.And say this for the crew. They know where to get the job done.

"We were going to get it painted in Park City (Utah)," driver Zachary Zoller said. "Thank god we didn't go there. That's where that Roselli sled burned down. We brought it up to Calgary and got a local artist, Gary Taylor, and he didn't hardly charge us anything."

U.S. bobsledder Bruce Roselli lost his sled in a Park City paint shop two days before Christmas. It caught fire while a fresh coat was being put on.

Zoller said the sled is supposed to be an iguana.

"But everybody in Japan thinks it's Godzilla," he said. "It's a mean-looking iguana, I guess."

UNHAPPY READERS: Some Swedes are making it clear they didn't like a newspaper reporter's disclosure that Ulf Samuelsson carried an American passport.

The report in Svenska Dagbladet, a Stockholm newspaper, resulted in Samuelsson being kicked out of the Olympics.

The newspaper reported a steady stream of e-mail messages, faxes and telephoned threats directed at reporter Janne Bengtsson.

"People like you are the reason Sweden should reintroduce the death penalty," one message said. "Traitors like you should get a new passport!" was another example.

Per-Olof Olsson, the paper's sports editor, told the national news agency TT that readers misunderstood the newspaper's role.

"We didn't go to Nagano to root for Sweden's hockey team or Sweden's competitors, but to offer our readers a good, comprehensive coverage," Olsson said. "I have spoken to Janne and I think he had a good reply. He said, `I just did my job, others didn't do theirs.' "

RATINGS GAME: With six nights left in the Olympics, CBS is on track for the lowest rating in 30 years from the Winter Games.

After 11 nights of coverage, CBS is averaging a 16.4/27, 37 percent behind the 25.9 from Lillehammer and 15 percent below the 19.2 from Albertville.

The ratings news is not all bad for CBS, which has won every half hour in prime time since the Olympics began and should make $40 million despite not reaching the 19.5 rating it guaranteed advertisers.

THANK YOU: When the German women swept the medals in the combined event at Alpine skiing, gold medalist Katja Seizinger and silver medalist Martina Ertl jumped from the victory stand and ran toward the crowd to throw their bouquets of flowers to the spectators.

Bronze medalist Hilde Gerg headed up the hill to where hundreds of gray-clad Olympic volunteers had gathered to watch the flower ceremony.

The volunteers had worked through horrible weather in the two weeks of Alpine skiing in Hakuba, and Gerg wanted to acknowledge their efforts. She threw her bouquet to them.

OLYMPIC FEVER, CATCH IT: They have it and don't want it.

Actually, it's probably just a common cold that has scores of athletes wheezing, coughing and running temperatures. At least 56 athletes have been reported sick with flu-like symptoms at the Olympic Village, and that doesn't include those treated by doctors for their own teams.

"This flu is brutal," said Canadian figure skater Elvis Stojko. "I've seen tons of people walking around the village, coughing their brains out."

Stojko, perhaps the best known patient in the Olympic Village, got sick the day before the opening ceremony. He said flu-related swelling hindered acupuncture treatments he needed for a torn muscle. The pain of the injury, in turn, left him unable to complete the jumps he needed to contend for a gold medal. He ended up with silver.

"It just totally knocks you out. First you start getting a headache. You have trouble thinking and focusing."

Atsushi Sugiyama, deputy director of the clinic at the Olympic Village, said the outbreak was at its worst last week, Kyodo News reported.

U.S. team officials said the flu hasn't been a problem for its athletes. But some top contenders from other countries have struggled with flu symptoms in competition, or have had to withdraw altogether:

- Germany lost figure skater Tanja Szewczenko, its leading hope for a medal, and speedskater Ulrike Adeberg.

- Norway's Adne Sondral, the 1994 gold medalist in 1,500-meter speedskating, was forced to withdraw before the 1,000-meter race.

- Canada's top pairs figure skaters, Marie-Claude Savard-Gagnon and Luc Bradet, both caught the flu and ended in 16th place.

You heard right:

"I guess the gap's been closed."

- Canadian women's hockey coach Shannon Miller, after the United States won the gold medal, ending Canada's reign as No. 1 in the world.

Fact is:

Hockey's Team USA leads the way in e-mail messages received (4,672) during the 1998 Winter Olympics. Hockey's Team Canada is second with 1,851 messages, followed by the U.S. Figure Skating Team, 1,126; the Jamaican Bobsled team, 1,063; and the Japanese men's hockey team, 976.