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U.S. medal contender in skating has mono

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U.S. Olympic speedskater Chris Witty has mononucleosis, a diagnosis she says explains her flagging performance on the ice lately.

Witty is in Norway for the world sprint championships. She withdrew from the event Friday after learning of the test results.

"It definitely explains everything," said Witty.

After setting a world record in the 1,000 meters in March, Witty has placed no higher than fourth in any World Cup race this season. Her recent performance left some asking if Witty, the only U.S. speedskater to reach the victory podium at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, still had it.

When coach Tom Cushman went to Witty's hotel room Thursday night to deliver the news, he paused so long that she started worrying.

"I'm not sick and dying, am I?" she said.

The mononucleosis diagnosis was almost a relief.

"It's just another obstacle," said Witty, who intends to try to recover before the Olympics, having qualified to compete in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meters.

"It's going to be tough," she added. "I have to really pay attention to what my body is telling me. But the hard training is all there."

Mononucleosis is an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Extreme fatigue is its most prominent symptom. Recovery can take a year for some patients.

"She doesn't have a year; she has four weeks," said Cushman. The Salt Lake Games begin Feb. 8.