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Some canceling training in Utah

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Citing concerns over the safety of American air travel, several long-track speedskaters, bobsledders and skeletoneers have called off pre-Olympic training sessions in Utah and North America.

Since last week's deadly terrorist attacks, speedskaters from two countries have abandoned plans to practice at the Olympic Oval in Kearns.

Members of the Japanese and German long-track speedskating teams will forgo their September practice trips to Kearns because of lingering fears after four commercial jets were hijacked and crashed last week into the Pentagon, World Trade Center and rural Pennsylvania, said Christa Taylor, oval spokeswoman.

"It's the air travel," Taylor said. "Officials at their governing bodies decided they didn't want their athletes to fly."

German skating officials have decided to keep athletes in Berlin until at least November. The Japanese team will likely put off traveling until late October or November, Taylor said.

Beyond speedskating, the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, based in Lake Placid, N.Y., canceled two training events in Calgary scheduled for mid-September "because either people couldn't travel or didn't want to travel," federation executive director Matt Roy said.

"We hope that in the future . . . as little as possible would be affected," Roy said.

The U.S. Curling Association is requiring that all athletes provide foreign travel itineraries to association officials when traveling abroad.

Indeed, safety has become a worry for many winter sports athletes, who spend much of the winter country-hopping from competition to competition.

"I also feel very scared to fly now," U.S. biathlete Andrea Nahrgang, said. "I think athletes are at high risk on planes, because we travel so much. National and world level athletes are going to Europe four or more times a year."

But while there are lingering anxieties, most sport teams and national federations are going about business as usual and no winter sports competitions have faced cancellation.

Wednesday the Salt Lake Organizing Committee expressed concern about the alternative Olympic accommodations arranged for cross county skiers and biathletes near Soldier Hollow outside Midway.

SLOC President Mitt Romney said Wednesday that security at the alternative site will be beefed up but didn't elaborate.

Salt Lake organizers were told by the IOC in 1998 that they'd have to provide alternative housing for competitors who didn't want to make the long trip between the Wasatch Mountain State Park venue and the university dorms — home of the secure Olympic Village where most athletes will stay.

Organizers, then, reserved hotel rooms at the Homestead Resort and other properties in the area that will be used by athletes from a number of countries, including Norway, Japan and Slovenia.


Contributing: Joe Bauman, Lisa Riley Roche, Donna Kemp Spangler and Steve Speckman

E-MAIL: bsnyder@desnews.com