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Sports Update

  |   Feb. 20, 2002 at 11:57 PM
In Sports from United Press International

U.S. collecting gold medals at unexpected pace

ST. LOUIS, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- From the sentimental victory of a third-generation Olympian in the morning to a yet another controversial race late at night in short-track skating, the United States continued to collect medals Wednesday at a rate thought impossible prior to the Winter Games.

Three of the seven golds awarded Wednesday went to Americans and the United States men's hockey team made it into the semifinals as well.

There was also glory for Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerdalen, who became just the third athlete in Winter Olympics history to win four gold medals in the same Games; Croatian Janica Kostelic, who claimed her second gold and third overall; and German Anni Friesinger, who set yet another world record at the speed-skating oval.

There was, however, immense heartbreak for Sweden, which won the Olympic hockey gold medal eight years ago and hoped to do so again in Salt Lake City. But a puck that traveled 80 feet along the ice somehow eluded one of the best goaltenders in the world with less than three minutes to play and allowed giant underdog Belarus to eliminate Sweden from medal contention, 4-3.

"This wipes out all our hard work and is a huge disappointment," said Swedish captain Mats Sundin. "Our dressing room is a disaster area."

As the Olympics headed into the second half of their final week, snow fell throughout the area -- playing havoc with outdoor competitions.

There was little the weather could do, however, to slow down the fervor of the American Olympic effort. Prior to these games, the United States had never won more than six gold medals at a Winter Olympics and never more than 13 medals overall.

By the end of the competition Wednesday, the Americans had nine golds and a total of 26 -- double their previous best effort.

With snow piling up in the Olympic city, Croatia's one-woman gang won her second gold medal and third overall, Norway's Ole Einar Bjoerdalen won his fourth gold of the Winter Games--becoming only the third athlete ever to do so--and another world record was turned in on the speed skating oval.

A busy day at the Olympics began with the first men's skeleton race since 1948 and the first women's skeleton race ever.

Jim Shea wasted no time in stealing the spotlight. His father competed in the 1964 Olympics in cross-country skiing and his grandfather, Jack Shea, won two gold medals in speed skating in 1932. All three were to have carried the Olympic torch during the opening ceremony, but Jack Shea died just months prior to the Olympics from injuries suffered in an automobile accident.

With his grandfather's picture tucked safely away in his helmet, the first third-generation Winter Olympian in history led after the first run in the skeleton event. Then, on the second run, he trailed by .01 of a second at the last timing check point. Between that spot and the finish, however, he picked up a few precious hundredths of a second on world champion Martin Rettel of Austria and won the gold.

Making the moment even more special was the fact Shea's gold medal was the seventh won by the United States in the Games, setting an American record for a Winter Olympics. The total grew to eight moments later when Americans Tristan Gale and Lea Ann Parsley finished 1-2 in the women's skeleton to boost the medal supply. The bronze in women's skeleton went to Alex Coomber of Britain. It was that country's first medal of the Olympics and brought the total of nations winning at least one medal to 25 -- most ever in a Winter Games.

Norway equaled its record Winter Olympics gold total by capturing its 10th in the men's biathlon relay--edging Germany in a tight finish. On the Norwegian team was Bjoerdalen, who won all four gold medals available in biathlon.

The only other athletes to win four gold medals in a single Winter Olympics have been American speed skater Erik Heiden, who won five in 1980, and Russian speed skater Lydia Skoblikova, who captured four in 1964.

Janica Kostelic of Croatia also added to her medal haul by winning the slalom on the new fallen snow. It was her second gold and third medal overall, coming after Croatia had never before won a Winter Olympic medal. Of the 70 slalom skiers who began the competition, just 39 could complete the two runs in the difficult conditions.

At the Utah Olympic Oval, Germany Anni Friesinger established yet another speed skating world record by winning the 1,500-meter event in 1:54.02. She edged teammate Sabine Voelker with Jennifer Rodriguez of the United States earning the bronze. Eight events have been skated at the oval and six have produced world records.

While Norway led in the race for gold medals with 10, Germany had the overall lead with 31.

There will be no medal, however, for the Swedish hockey team, which had aspirations of gold after winning the Olympic title eight years ago. Sweden was a huge favorite in the first of the day's four quarterfinals, but lightly-regarded Belarus fought the Swedes to a standoff and then got an enormous break to come away with a 4-3 victory.


Tiger Woods upset in first round

CARLSBAD, Calif., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval are among the biggest names in golf, but all three were sent packing Wednesday after the first round of the World Golf Championships-Match Play Championship.

Australia's Peter O'Malley became the first No. 64 seed to win a match in the history of the four-year event, shocking Woods, the world's top-ranked player, 2 and 1.

"I had a no-lose situation, really, " said O'Malley, who closed out the match by holing a 20-birdie putt on No. 17. "No one expected me to win, so I can just go out there and play my game and if I win, well, it's great and if I don't, it doesn't really matter."

Woods' loss seemed to create a domino effect. Moments later, No. 63 John Cook drained a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 16 to oust Mickelson, the No. 2 seed, 3 and 2.

Duval seemed ready to advance, leading No. 62 Kevin Sutherland by two holes with two to play. But Sutherland added to the day's fireworks by winning the final two holes with birdies, then ousting Duval on the second playoff hole. He tapped in for birdie on the par-5 second hole to clinch the victory.

The other top seeds--No. 4 Sergio Garcia of Spain, No. 5 Ernie Els of South Africa, No. 6 David Toms, No. and reigning U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen of South Africa, No. 8 Davis Love III, No. 9 Vijay Singh of Fiji and No. 10 Chris DiMarco--had no trouble moving into second round.

Regarded as the world's best match play competitor, Woods got a rude awakening from his lesser-known opponent, who qualified for the tournament only when Jose Coceres withdrew with a broken arm. O'Malley, a 35-year-old with only five career victories, tied for second behind Els at the Heineken Classic earlier this month.

Woods did not find the day very pleasant. Until sinking a 25-foot birdie on 16, he was in position to be the only player in the 64-man field not to register a birdie. He also complained that the greens were too bumpy.

The loss continued a disappointing start to the 2002 season for Woods. He tied for 10th at the Mercedes Championship and tied for 12th at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am before tying for fifth at the Buick Invitational. He did not play in last week's Nissan Open, citing fatigue.


Eddie Sutton gets 700th victory

AUSTIN, Texas, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton collected his 700th career victory Wednesday as the Cowboys posted an 85-80 victory at Texas.

Sutton boosted his career record to 700-275, including a 270-111 mark in 12 seasons at Oklahoma State, his alma mater. He is the 18th coach to reach 700 wins and the sixth among active coaches.

Sutton has made 22 NCAA Tournament appearances in a career that has included stops at Creighton, Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma State. He and Georgia State coach Lefty Driesell are the only coaches to lead four different schools to the NCAAs.

A four-time national coach of the year, Sutton joins Driesell, Jim Phelan, Bob Knight, Jerry Tarkanian and Lou Henson on the list of active coaches to reach the 700-win plateau. Only Tarkanian and Knight have higher winning percentages.

Sutton has had 21 20-win seasons and just one losing season in his 32-year coaching career.


Tyson may get DC license

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- A heavyweight title fight between champ Lennox Lewis and former champ Mike Tyson, a bout looking for a home, seemed to be headed Wednesday to Washington and the MCI Center, tentatively on June 8, the Washington Post reported.

The D.C. Boxing and Wrestling Commission gave its initial blessing Tuesday to Tyson's license application, the fight's main sticking point, and an event eagerly pursued by Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

The Post said, however, announcement of the commission's action "prompted a furious backlash." Business and church leaders and political activists warned the city it could lose its reputation as a wholesome tourist destination by playing host to the boxer, whom Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes recently dubbed "a sexual predator." It was Barnes' comment that led to fight promoters to drop Atlanta as a possible site.

The fight was to have been staged in Las Vegas in April but the Nevada Boxing Commission refused to grant Tyson a license. But, the three-member D.C. commission, meeting behind closed doors, unanimously welcomed Tyson's application at a time when authorities in four states have opposed bids by the boxer, a convicted rapist with two other investigations pending for alleged sex crimes. One member of the commission went so far as to say that approval of a license for Tyson was all but certain. A formal vote is scheduled for March 12.


Braves lose Dave Martinez

KISSIMMEE, Fla., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Dave Martinez, a key veteran bench player for the Atlanta Braves, Wednesday revealed that he will undergo right knee surgery on March 1 that could end his season.

The 37-year-old Martinez, who could have seen time with Atlanta at first base or either corner outfield position, was diagnosed with chronic patella tendinitis in the knee late last season. He had hoped that rest would remedy the situation but he was still bothered by swelling and soreness and operated for surgery.

Dr. Koco Eaton will perform the surgery, which is similar to the one that forced St. Louis slugger Mark McGwire to retire.

Martinez hit .287 in 120 games last season but was a key contributor before the knee began to bother him. He hit .328 with 10 extra-base hits and 24 runs scored before the All-Star Game and .233 with six extra-base hits and nine runs scored after the break. Martinez is a career .276 hitter with 91 homers and 580 RBI in 1,918 games.


Rogers, Delk to Celtics

BOSTON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The Boston Celtics, rumored to be contemplating a trade for Denver guard Nick Van Exel, made another trade Wednesday to improve their depth as they acquired forward Rodney Rogers and guard Tony Delk from the Phoenix Suns for rookie swingman Joe Johnson, guards Randy Brown and Milt Palacio and a first-round pick in the 2002 draft.

The Celtics (31-23) own the second-best record in the wide-open Eastern Conference and are coming off a wild 109-108 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.

There were reports that the Celtics offered guard Kenny Anderson and Johnson in a package for Van Exel. But the Boston Herald reported that the Celtics would not make the deal unless Van Exel waived the final two years of his contract, valued at $26.5 million.

The trade deadline is Thursday at 6 p.m. EST.


NFL must decide on franchise players

NEW YORK, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- The Philadelphia Eagles have already slapped a franchise tag on free agent linebacker Jeremiah Trotter. Tight end Tony Gonzalez and linebacker London Fletcher may be next.

NFL teams have until Thursday at 4 p.m. EST to designate their unrestricted free agents as franchise or transition players, which gives them the right of compensation or first refusal.

The Eagles have been unable to reach a multi-year agreement with Trotter, forcing them to use a franchise player designation. A two-time Pro Bowler, Trotter has led the Eagles in tackles each of the last three years. At 25 years of age, Trotter would have been a hot commodity on the free agent market if not restricted by the tag.

Franchise players must be offered a minimum of the average of the top-five salaries at their position or a 20-percent salary increase, whichever is greater. But the original club can match any offer and retain the player, or receive two first-round draft choices as compensation if it decides not to match.


Williams, Seles advance in Dubai Open

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- After learning that she will become the No. 1 player in the world a day earlier, top seed Venus Williams moved into the quarterfinals of the Dubai Women's Open Wednesday.

Williams defeated Russia's Anna Kournikova for the second time in as many weeks, posting a 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) victory in the second round. She also defeated Kournikova in the quarterfinals of the Proximus Diamond Games at Antwerp, Belgium and has won all seven of their meetings.

Seles, the second seed here, cruised to a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Italy's Tathiana Garbin. Seles also is coming off a tournament triumph. She captured her 52nd career title with a straight-sets victory over Tamarine Tanasugarn on Sunday in the Qatar Open.

The 28-year-old Seles is within three titles of Britain's Virginia Wade for seventh place on the WTA list of most career tournament victories in the Open era (since 1968).


Mattiace heads depleted Tucson Open

TUCSON, Ariz., Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Len Mattiace won his first PGA Tournament last week and gets a chance to go back-to-back in a depleted field at the Tucson Open beginning Thursday at the Omni Tucson National Golf Resort and Spa. The top 64 players in the world golf rankings are participating in the Match Play Championship at Carlsbad, Calif.

Mattiace, Fred Funk and Jay Don Blake are the top players on the PGA money list in this event.

Mattiace shot a 15-under-par 269 to win the Nissan Open last Sunday for his first PGA Tour victory, earning the first prize of $666,000 to move into eighth place on the money list. He has played in more than 190 events.

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