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Belarus boss vows to fire Games losers

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has vowed to fire all coaches and other sports officials whose athletes "did not live up to our expectations" at the Winter Olympics, a news agency said Friday.

"Everyone will be shaken up, including the Sports Ministry," he said in Nagano, Japan, according to the Interfax news agency.Russia knocked Belarus' hockey team out of competition with a 4-1 quarterfinal victory Wednesday.

Lukashenko, who also heads Belarus' national Olympic committee, said he had traveled to Nagano in part to see which sports should be developed in Belarus, and "what kinds of sports should be given state status."

Earlier this week, Lukashenko publicly accused Olympic organizers of a "mafia-style injustice" aimed at undermining Belarus' athletes following a decision to terminate the men's 10-kilometer biathlon race due to bad weather.

Belarus so far has won two bronze medals in Nagano. Its government has promised the winners of gold medals $40,000, silver medals $20,000 and bronze medals $15,000.

NAME GAME: German speed skater Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann has competed under three names at her four Olympics.

She was Gunda Kleeman, her maiden name, at the 1988 Calgary Games, where she finished seventh in the 1,000 and 5,000 meters as a 21-year-old.

Her name had changed to Gunda Niemann by the time she arrived in Albertville in 1992, having married a German judo competitor, Detlev Niemann, the previous year. She retained the Niemann name at Lillehammer two years later.

After divorcing Niemann and marrying her manager, Oliver Stirnemann, last July, she adopted a hyphenated name for the Nagano Games, where she won one gold medal and two silvers.

NO. 1 FAN: Even the Czech Republic's hospitalized president found time to root for the Olympic hockey team in its game against Canada.

As the live broadcast started Friday morning, Vaclav Havel was being examined by doctors following throat surgery he underwent on Wednesday. Nonetheless, Havel's aides said, the president's interest was intense.

"He insisted on being informed all the time," said his spokesman Ladislav Spacek, who watched the game in Havel's hospital room.

The Czech Republic won the game, 2-1, in a shootout to reach the gold medal game. The victory resulted in a big celebration on Prague's Wenceslas Square, with hundreds of mostly young fans honking horns, waving flags and shouting the names of their heroes.

COACH RESIGNING: The head coach of Norway's powerful Nordic ski team, Erik Roeste, is planning to step down after four years on the job.

According to the Norwegian news agency NTB, Roeste has decided to accept a job as head of purchasing for sports equipment giant Adidas in Norway.

Roeste, 37, took the coaching job after the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, where Norway's cross-country skiers took eight medals, three of them gold. He managed to keep the Norwegians on top, with a series of World Cup victories and a strong showing at Nagano.

ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY: Richard Callaghan, Lipinski's coach since December 1995, has coached Todd Eldredge and Lipinski to world gold medals before, but Lipinski has given him his first Olympic gold.

There has been some strain between Callaghan and Lipinski's agent, Mike Burg, and Callaghan and Lipinski's parents, including rumors of a split. But Burg tried to quell that kind of talk earlier in the week.

REMEMBER TO FLOSS: Athletes at the Nagano Games have had a dental clinic at their disposal.

The clinic is staffed by personnel from local hospitals, schools and private clinics, as well as volunteer dentists. It is equipped to provide services ranging from X-rays to root canals.

Of the more than 1,000 consultations, about 20 percent were for sport-related and pre-existing dental problems.

An IOC news release about the clinic noted that, "A growing trend in the field of sports dentistry recommends regular dental care as a factor in general health that can contribute to athletic performance."

BITTERSWEET BRONZE: Lyudmila Prokasheva of Kazakstan won the bronze medal in the women's 5,000-meter speed skating. It was a thrilling moment for her and her coach but apparently not for the rest of the country.

Prokasheva, 29, harshly criticized Olympic officials in the former Soviet republic for lack of support - financial and moral.

Prokasheva, in her third Olympics, said she knew speed-skating interest was waning when she won a bronze medal at the World Championships in Norway two years ago, and "I came home to no recognition at all."

She said she never received any money for training until October, when she got a stipend of $500 a month. But even after a seventh-place finish in the 3,000 last week, "they said that was not a result worth mentioning."

"When I finished today, I realized they didn't care at all," she said.

You heard right:

"It's a sport. If they wanted it to be ballet, they'd call it ballet. But this is a sport."

- Jack Lipinski, Tara Lipinski's father, answering critics that silver medalist Michelle Kwan's skating style is more artistic.

Fact is:

TNT speed-skating analyst Eric Heiden doesn't believe athletic goals are final and ultimate.

Since winning five speed-skating gold medals at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., Heiden has gone on to become an orthopedic surgeon at the University of California-Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.