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WINTER OLYMPICS : Notebook : Swiss Skiers Make Good Showing on a Very Windy Downhill Course

Times Assistant Sports Editor

Swiss skiers overcame extremely high winds to post three of the five fastest times in Friday’s training run for the Olympic men’s downhill race.

Italian Danilo Sbardellotto was the quickest, flying down the slightly shortened course in 1 minute 47.84 seconds. Then came Switzerland’s Franz Heinzer, .14 behind, followed by Austria’s Guenther Mader, .17 back, and two more Swiss--Pirmin Zurbriggen and Peter Mueller, who were .31 and .67 slower than the leader, respectively.

It was the fourth practice session for Sunday’s Alpine opener. A scheduled fifth training run was called off because of the blustery weather.

Zurbriggen, the current World Cup leader, has finished 1-1-9-4 in the four runs so far and seems to have the course down cold, though perhaps not to the extent that Bill Johnson had Sarajevo figured out four years ago. Johnson dominated the training runs, then won the race, as he said he would.

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Johnson didn’t qualify for the U.S. team this time due to injuries, but his buddies don’t seem to miss him.

Jeff Olson, who was 30th fastest Friday, said of Johnson: “He hadn’t been skiing that well, so our chances really haven’t been affected by his absence. The things he said about us not being as good as him and how ‘I’ve been there and they haven’t’ just went in one ear and out the other. The rest of us are working well together, and it’s a good thing for the future to have a young team here in the Olympics.”

Two American downhillers--A.J. Kitt and Doug Lewis--found the wind, which gusted to 80 m.p.h., especially troublesome Friday, missing gates on the way down and being disqualified.

Rob Boyd, one of Canada’s favorites, met a similar fate.

Felix McGrath, who excels in the slalom, has also skied in the downhill training runs, turning in respectable times, and could be an American medal surprise in the combined.

This event, new to the Winter Olympics, consists of a separate, slightly shorter downhill Monday and a slalom Tuesday. It’s for all-around skiers who are proficient in both the high-speed and technical races, but possibly not a winner in either.

Marc Girardelli, Luxembourg’s one-man ski team, failed to finish Friday’s downhill training run. He has a sore left elbow but said it bothers him mainly in the slalom.

A two-time World Cup overall champion, Girardelli was hampered by a shoulder injury last season. The winter before, it was a knee.

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Girardelli, Zurbriggen and West Germany’s Markus Wasmeier are all medal threats in the combined, if they decide to enter the event in addition to the four individual races.

After the incident at the Pan American Games in Indianapolis last summer, when the U.S. State Department refused to allow a Chilean shooter into the country, the U.S. Olympic Committee believed it had assurances from Secretary of State George Schulz that the USOC would be consulted about such problems in the future.

But the State Department since has denied visas to one North Korean speed skater and three team officials, who had been invited to compete in the world short-track championships this week in St. Louis. The speed skater needed to compete in St. Louis in order to qualify for the Winter Olympics, where short-track speed skating is a demonstration sport.

Officials of the Anchorage Organizing Committee, which is bidding for the 1994 Winter Games, were concerned that this incident, coming on top of the one in Indianapolis, would damage their efforts. International Olympic Committee members might not want to award the Games to a U.S. city if there is no guarantee that all athletes will be admitted into the country.

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One IOC member who was particularly disturbed was Anita DeFrantz of Los Angeles.

“I’m very disappointed that our government is still using athletes for foreign policy,” she said. “I thought we were done with that in 1980. If it continues to happen, I feel we are faced with the possibility that there will not be any more international sports events in our country.”

The State Department has a policy to closely scrutinize visa requests from North Koreans in light of evidence that North Korea was involved in the recent bombing of a South Korean airliner. All 115 people aboard were killed.

But a State Department spokesman told the Anchorage Daily News that a mistake was made when the North Korean speed skater and officials were denied visas and that they would have been granted if the person responsible had known they wanted to come to the United States for an Olympic-related competition.

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USOC President Robert Helmick said Friday he will work toward better communication with the State Dept.

Torgny Mogren, the Nordic World Cup leader, is suffering from a cold and may give up his place in Monday’s 30-kilometer cross-country race to veteran Swedish teammate Thomas Wassberg.

Mogren, Gunde Svan and Jan Ottosson give Sweden the 1-2-4 rankings in the Cup standings, while another Swede, Christer Majback, is No. 9. Wassberg, 31, who won an Olympic gold medal in 1980 and two more in ’84, is No. 11.

The women’s 10K launches cross-country competition Sunday.

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Visitors here are getting considerably more than a taste of Calgary’s fabled weather swings.

Early in the week, temperatures hovered around zero, often dipping below. Then, Wednesday evening, the warming Chinook winds blew in over the mountains, turning the city to a puddley paradise.

People who only a day earlier had been concerned about staying warm were suddenly kicking themselves for not bringing lighter clothing, and there was at least slight concern about the loss snow.

Local residents, however, cautioned that a Chinook paradise weather is a fool’s paradise. “It could last three hours or three weeks,” said one.

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Apparently he knew whereof he spoke. On Friday morning, Environment Canada issued this weather warning:

“An Arctic-type frontal disturbance is forecast to move southward through Calgary before noon on Saturday. Strong northerly winds of 60 k.p.h. with gusts to 90 k.p.h. (35 and 55 m.p.h.) will accompany the frontal passage along with falling temperatures and occasional snow and blowing snow. These conditions will combine to cause high wind chills.”

Sounds as though a freezing time will be had by all at opening ceremonies, scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. local time.

Biathlete Lyle Nelson, a West Point graduate with a master’s degree from USC and now working on a doctorate in human development at the Fielding Institute in Santa Barbara, will be the flag bearer for the U.S. team in today’s opening ceremonies.

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Nelson, 39, has competed internationally for 14 years and has been in three Olympics.

Prince Alexandre de Merode of Belgium can breathe a sigh of relief today. The Alberta nurses’ strike that had the International Olympic Committee’s medical chief in such a dither a few days ago was settled late Thursday night.

De Merode had been concerned about the medical well-being of the athletes gathered here.

Among other things concerning the police here is a counterfeit Olympic pin operation.

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Some of the pins being copied are two commemoratives commissioned by Calgary police.

Calgary Mayor Ralph Klein during a press conference on what the Winter Games mean to his city: “The Olympics are once in a lifetime, like mumps.”

Incidentally, if you ever are called upon to address a Canadian mayor, you call him your worship.

Times Assistant Sports Editor Mike Kupper and staff writer Randy Harvey also contributed to this story.

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