Winter Olympics: Nightmare exit for the `Dream Team'

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The Independent Online
THEY came, they saw, they went back home. Just six days after their first appearance in these Games, the United States ice hockey team, crammed full of top National Hockey League players, was dumped out of the competition by Czech Republic.

After their 4-1 quarter-final defeat, the Americans - who have not won a medal in this competition since their team of college boys upset the mighty Soviet Union in the 1980 final - had a playing record as follows: played 4, won 1, lost 3.

CBS television, the American rights holders for the Games, had scheduled the match to go out live after the David Letterman show.

The result means CBS have lost one of their prime draws for the Games at a distressingly early stage. Not what was required, especially given the early indications that US viewing figures for these Games are down by a third on what they were for the 1994 Olympics.

The professional and highly paid NHL players, allowed into the Games for the first time here, were spread across many nationalities. "We don't have a Dream Team," Gary Bettman, the NHL Commissioner, said. "We have a Dream Tournament."

For all that, the US collection of NHL players was the flagship in a what was a promotional exercise on a huge scale. But after this dismal showing, the NHL franchise shop which has opened just around the corner from the Big Hat rink is unlikely to be doing much business in United States shirts.

"It's disappointing, because everybody expected us to be there at the end," the US forward Keith Tkachuk said. "We expected to be there at the end. But it didn't turn out that way. It's gonna be a long flight home."

The reception at the other end is not likely to be rapturous, as Mike Modano, scorer of their only goal, acknowledged: "We have to go back and face the consequences," he said. "We are going to have to answer some questions, since there was a lot of expectation here."

For the Czechs, however, the home reaction was enormous in a country which regards ice hockey as it's No 1 sport.

"I rang my girlfriend before the match and she told me everyone was watching on television and in the cinemas," said Martin Straka, who made the Czechs' equalising goal. "They were even showing it on TV in the schools."

The Czechs had 12 NHL players in their squad of 23 and it was one of those representatives - goaltender Dominik Hasek - whose contribution proved decisive.

The 33-year-old Hasek from the Buffalo Sabres - named three times as the NHL's most valuable player - did to the American forwards what Patrick Roy of Canada had done in the last of the round-robin matches, denying them at every turn.

The two goaltenders will come face to face in tomorrow's semi-finals, following Canada's 4-1 defeat of Kazakhstan. Russia, who beat Belarus by the same score, contest the other semi-final with Finland, who defeated Sweden, the Olympic title holders, 2-1.

Michelle Kwan, whom most observers believe will win the women's figure skating title tomorrow if she avoids serious errors, has taken a firm step towards that goal. The 17-year-old American won the short programme - worth one-third of the total score - with 0.5pts as opposed to the 1pt of her rival and compatriot, Tara Lipinski. Russia's Maria Butyrskaya stood third and China's Lu Chen fourth.

Surya Bonaly, the veteran French skater, ended up sixth and frustrated with the panel. "After 10 years, I am used to it. I am tired of crying and crying and crying," she said. "You can't control the judges."

Bjoern Dahlie, Norway's cross-country skier, won a record seventh Winter Olympics gold medal by the stretch of a leg. The 4x10km relay came down to a sprint in which Thomas Alsgaard, Norway's last man, finished 0.2sec ahead of the Italian Silvio Fauner by sticking out his ski.

Negano results and timetable

FREESTYLE SKIING

Men's aerials final

1 Eric Bergoust (US) 255.64pts

(world record)

2 Sebastien Foucras (Fr) 248.79

3 Dimitri Dashchinsky (Bela) 240.79

4 A Valenta (Cz Rep) 232.25; 5 B Swartley (US) 231.61; 6 A Mikhailov (Rus) 229.98; 7 C Rijavec (Aut) 227.60; 8 A Grishin (Bela) 220.99; 9 S Kravchuk (Ukr) 219.94; 10 N Fontaine (Can) 216.93.

Women's aerials final

1 Nikki Stone (US) 193.00pts

2 Xu Nannan (Ch) 186.97

3 Colette Brand (Swit) 171.83

4 T Kozachenko (Ukr) 167.32; 5 A Tsuper (Ukr) 166.12; 6 H Lid (Nor) 160.18; 7 Guo Dandan (Ch) 159.74; 8 Y Kliukova (Ukr) 153.15; 9 V Brenner (Can) 151.15; 10 O Yunchik (Ukr) 139.05.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

Men's 4 x 10km relay

1 Norway 1hr 40min 55.7sec

(T Alsgaard, B Daehlie, E Jevne, S Sivertsen)

2 Italy 1:40:55.9

(M Albarello, S Fauner, F May, F Valbusa)

3 Finland 1:42:15.5

(J Isometsae, H Kirvesniemi, M Myllyllae, S Repo)

4 Sweden 1:42:25.2; 5 Russia 1:42:39.5; 6 Switzerland 1:42:49.2; 7 Japan 1:43:06.7; 8 Germany 1:43:16.1; 9 Austria 1:43:16.5; 10 Estonia 1:44:20.9.

BIATHLON

Men's 10km sprint

(missed targets in brackets)

1 Ole Bjoerndalen (Nor) 27min 16.2sec (0)

2 Frode Andresen (Nor) 28:17.8 (2)

3 Ville Raikkonen (Fin) 28:21.7 (1)

4 V Maigourov (Rus) 28:36.0 (0); 5 J Nakums (Lat) 28:36.9 (1); 6 O Maluhins (Lat) 28:37.4 (1); 7 F Luck (Ger) 28:40.3 (1); 8 H Hanevold (Nor) 28:40.8 (2); 9 P Puurunen (Fin) 28:44.0 (0); P Carrara (Ita) 28:44.2 (2). British: 47 M Dixon 30:34.4 (0); 68 M Gee 33:00.3 (5).

ICE HOCKEY

Men's quarter-finals: USA 1 Czech Republic 4; Belarus 1 Russia 4; Canada 4 Kazakhstan 1; Sweden 1 Finland 2.

FIGURE SKATING

Women's short programme: 1 M Kwan (US) 0.5 pts; 2 T Lipinski (US) 1.0; 3 M Butyrskaya (Rus) 1.5; 4 Lu Chen (Ch) 2.0; 5 I Slutskaya (Rus) 2.5; 6 S Bonaly (Fr) 3.0; 7 E Liashenko (Ukr) 3.5; 8 V Gusmeroli (Fr) 4.0; 9 T Malinina (Uzbek) 4.5; 10 E Sokolova (Rus) 5.0.

MEDALS TABLE

G S B Total

Russia 8 4 1 13

Germany 7 8 7 22

Norway 7 8 4 19

United States 5 1 4 10

Canada 4 5 3 12

Netherlands 4 4 2 10

Japan 4 1 3 8

Austria 2 3 7 12

Finland 2 3 5 10

France 2 1 3 6

Switzerland 2 1 2 5

South Korea 2 0 0 2

Italy 1 4 2 7

Bulgaria 1 0 0 1

China 0 3 0 3

Czech Republic 0 1 1 2

Sweden 0 1 1 2

Denmark 0 1 0 1

Ukraine 0 1 0 1

Belarus 0 0 2 2

Belgium 0 0 1 1

Kazakhstan 0 0 1 1

TIMETABLE

Today (times GMT)

Alpine skiing: Women's slalom, first leg 00.30, second leg 04.00; men's giant slalom 02.15.

Nordic combined: 90m ski jumping team event 00.30.

Speed skating: Women's 1,000m, 06.00; women's 500m qualifying and final, men's 500m qualifying, men's 5,000m relay qualifying 10.00.

Biathlon: Women's 4x7.5km relay 04.00.

Television times: BBC2 07.45-8.45, 12.30-14.40, 19.00-20.00. Eurosport 24hr coverage.

Tomorrow

Alpine skiing: Women's giant slalom, first leg 00.30, second leg 04.00.

Cross-country skiing: Women's 30km freestyle 00.00.

Nordic combined: 4x5km relay team event 04.00.

Speed skating: Women's 5,000m 06.00.

Figure skating: Women's free programme 10.00.

Ice hockey: Men's semi-finals 05.45, 09.45.

Bobsleigh: Four-man first run 06.00.

Television times: BBC2 07.45-8.45, 12.30-14.40, 18.55-20.320. Eurosport 24hr coverage.

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