Roc de Fer course gets face lift before women's downhill event


The women's downhill course, which knocked several skiers out of the Winter Olympics earlier this week, has been modified for today's downhill race.

The treacherous Roc de Fer, designed like the men's downhill run at Val d'Isere by former Swiss Olympic champion Bernhard Russi, was changed slightly to improve safety.

Workers shaved down the second of two jumps that had caused several spectacular crashes and ended the Olympics for Austrian Sabine Ginther and Canadian Lucie Laroche, among others.

Despite the course changes, however, the competitors still considered the twisting track tricky.

"It is a very tough downhill. There is no other course like it," said favorite Petra Kronberger of Austria, who is trying to win an unprecedented five skiing titles in one Olympics.

Meanwhile, American skier Kristin Krone, who broke a knuckle on her left hand in an accident earlier this week, will miss the downhill.

Krone, from Truckee, Calif., tried to work out yesterday morning but said she was unable to properly hold a ski pole.

"It didn't work out this morning with the hand," said Krone, who also sprained both knees in a high-speed fall that ended in a safety fence. "There were other body parts that didn't work well. It just wasn't worth it."

Dennis Agee, the U.S. ski team's Alpine director, said there will be only three Americans in the race -- Hilary Lindh, Edith Thys and Krista Schmidinger.

"We're not going to put anybody on this course if they're not 100 percent," Agee said.

And in Innsbruck, Austria, metal plates and screws were used in surgery to repair a bone in the back of Ginther, who fell on the course during a training run Tuesday. Her doctor said it will be perhaps six months before she can resume training. World champion Stefan Eberharter injured his left knee when he crashed in a training run and will miss tomorrow's Olympic super-giant slalom, Austrian Alpine skiing coach Werner Woerndle said.

Hubert Strolz, who narrowly failed to retain his Olympic combined title when he went off course near the slalom finish Tuesday, is expected to take Eberharter's place.

Using their heads

Olympic officials bent the rules for the sake of safety when they allowed bobsledders to use helmets bearing the logo of German automaker BMW.

The helmets, which apparently violated rules about advertising on uniforms and equipment, were approved for use by the International Olympic Committee after bobsled officials pointed out their superior strength.

That's why they call it doping

A biathlete from the former Soviet Union remained hospitalized yesterday, but Olympic officials wouldn't comment on a report that his illness stemmed from blood doping, the banned practice of transfusing an athlete with his own oxygen-rich blood to enhance performance.

Sergei Tarasov, a silver medalist at the 1991 world

championships, was admitted to a hospital in Chambery last Saturday with a "very severe infectious syndrome," according to Patrick Schamasch, chief medical officer for the Winter Games.

Flag on the play

American Michelle Kline was disqualified for interference after colliding with a Unified Team skater during the women's 1,000-meter speed skating event.

Elena Tiouchniakova fell when Kline ran into her during the crossover midway through their 2 1/2 laps around the 400-meter oval.

Tiouchniakova also was involved in a near-collision with silver medalist Ye Qiaobo during a lane change in Monday's 500 meters. Ye, who lost to America's Bonnie Blair by two-tenths of a second, blamed the mix-up for possibly costing her the gold.

A snowy Valentine

True love has blossomed at the Olympics for U.S. ski jumping coach Greg Poirer.

In a Valentine's Day newsletter, the U.S. team announced Poirer had proposed to his girlfriend, Shannon Regan, on the ski slopes of Courchevel and that she had accepted.

The quote

"The sled's going to come out of the hole like a jet. With [Brian] Shimer being one of the best drivers in the world, the combination is going to be lethal." U.S. bobsled coach John Philbin, describing the impact of having Herschel Walker as the pusher.

The new Eddie the Eagle

Bajro Cenanovic of Yugoslavia finished last in the men's 5,000 speed skating -- a full 45 seconds behind the next finisher.

Cenanovic was lapped by one skater, and became something of a crowd darling as he completed his cool-down laps.

He got huge ovations from the big contingents of Dutch and Norwegian fans, and some fans even started singing for him.

A good-nature Cenanovic waved to the crowd, and one of the fans threw a doll on the ice.

Worth their weight in gold

French athletes who strike gold at the Winter Olympics will get a cash bonus of $46,000 from the country's sports ministry.

French silver medalists will get $22,000 and bronze-medal winners $15,000.

Germany's sports aid foundation said German athletes at the Games would get grants for finishing in the top eight. Payments will range from $9,500 for the gold medal to $1,900 for seventh or eighth place.

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