Olympics Notebook

Lesson in humility for Gretzky's all-star Canadians
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The Independent Online

Canada's all-star ice hockey team, assembled by the great Wayne Gretzky and led by Mario Lemieux, got a rude awakening in their opening game against Sweden. Pressured to bring back the first gold in the national pastime for 50 years, they looked slow and sluggish and slithered to a 5-2 defeat.

"It was embarrassing," the Canada forward Paul Kariya said of Friday's defeat. Canada, though, could lose all three games in pool play and still end up with the gold medal. But this is not the way the team wanted to start, unable to get anything going against Tommy Salo, the Edmonton goalie who stopped 33 of 35 shots. "We got hammered. If we think we can play that way, we'll be going home on Thursday morning," Quinn said.

Dixon shooting for the sun

After six Winter Olympics, Michael Dixon might not be finished. The 39-year-old biathlete is considering trying for a place in the British shooting team for the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.

"Sunshine, lying down, no poles. I love a challenge," said Dixon, one of seven athletes to compete in six Olympics. "I've always wanted to try to get a medal for Britain and that's the bottom line. I haven't achieved it here. I've been close in the past many times, so it is appealing."

Dixon's biathlon strength is marksmanship. He made his Olympic debut as a cross-country skier in 1984. He switched to biathlon in 1987 and has competed in the biathlon in each of the last five Olympics, finishing 12th in the 20km in Albertville in 1992.

Hopes hang on Yang Yangs

It is tough enough for most in the West to sort out their Yin from their Yang. But the Chinese team in Salt Lake City have to find a way to differentiate between two of their short-track speedskaters who both glory in the name Yang Yang. The solution lies in initials, hence Yang Yang (A) and Yang Yang (S).

They are not masculine, but they are positive and one of them – (A) – went into the women's 500m final as favourite to win her country's first – or initial – Winter Games gold medal. Being good and quick is not always enough in the cut and thrust of short-track racing, especially in the shortest event, the 500m. Five times a world champion, (A) suffered disappointment in the 1,500m, finishing fourth, while (S) fared even worse, crashing near the finish.

Medal for bravery

One of the most compelling stories of the Games so far came in the men's snowboarding parallel slalom. The American Chris Klug is a liver transplant survivor who, just 19 months ago, was scared he would die for lack of a suitable donor. On Friday, he clutched a bronze medal. It felt like gold. "I was pretty scared while waiting for the operation," he said. "I wasn't thinking about snowboarding, or coming back and winning a bronze medal. I was just thinking about hoping to live."

Flying Leu lands record

The Swiss freestyle skier Evelyne Leu set the world record yesterday in qualifying for the Olympic aerials finals with a two-jump score of 203.16. Leu is one of only two women who try a triple flip with three full twists. She nailed it on her second run, earned a score of 99.42 and, combined with her first-jump score of 103.74, she had the record. The old record of 200.21 was set by Xiaoou Ji, of China, in 1998.

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