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WORLD SPORTS SCENE : Skaters Still in Shock Over Grinkov Death

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sergei Grinkov was laid to rest Saturday in the Vagankovskoe Cemetery in Moscow, reserved for the nation’s heroes.

Thousands of Russian mourners and members of the international skating community attended a memorial service, which was held at the skating rink where Grinkov began his career as a teen-ager. His wife and skating partner, Ekaterina Gordeeva, held a candle as she stood next to the open casket, which lay on the ice in the center of the rink.

Grinkov’s death last Monday of a heart attack caused by a blocked artery continues to shock his fellow skaters, who have crumpled in sorrow for Grinkov’s young widow and 3-year-old daughter, Daria.

“God, why do you take such good people from me?” Olympic champion Oksana Baiul said. Baiul’s mother was in her 30s when she died of cancer in 1992.

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Grinkov was 28. Gordeeva is 24. Only a few weeks ago, Gordeeva told 1968 Olympic gold medalist Peggy Fleming that the couple wanted more children. They were making plans to fit that into their lives.

Olympic champion Scott Hamilton was at the rink in Lake Placid, N.Y., when Grinkov collapsed. Grinkov and Gordeeva were practicing for a “Stars on Ice” pre-tour show scheduled for last Saturday night. It was postponed until Sunday.

Hamilton, also a cast member, said that when Grinkov suffered a back injury earlier this year he started lifting weights and became even stronger. Hamilton said Grinkov was a like a “rock” and in the best shape ever.

Bob Young, executive director of International Skating Center in Simsbury, Conn., where Grinkov and Gordeeva trained, said he never even knew Grinkov to be sick.

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In Moscow, Russian sports officials told the Associated Press they found nothing wrong with Grinkov when he was examined before the 1994 Winter Olympics, where he and Gordeeva won their second gold medal for pairs skating. Their first came in 1988.

“I doubt the diagnosis of American doctors saying he died of a heart attack,” said Dr. Lev Markov of the Moscow sports health center.

But Grinkov’s father also died of a heart attack, at 52. Dr. Francis Varga, who performed Grinkov’s autopsy, said high blood pressure had enlarged the heart and death was almost inevitable.

Varga said the problem could have been detected through a routine stress test, but said there was no reason to give an apparently healthy young athlete such a test.

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“Just because you are an elite athlete does not make you immune to coronary heart disease,” Varga said.

Further testing, including a steroid profile, will be done at the New York State Police Laboratory. Gordeeva reportedly wants to head off any rumors concerning drugs.

Those attending the ceremony in Moscow included Olympic champions Baiul and Viktor Petrenko, who trained with Grinkov and Gordeeva in Simsbury. Hamilton also attended.

In addition to two Olympic titles, Grinkov and Gordeeva also won four world championships, two European titles and the Soviet national championship as amateurs. They were married for 4 1/2 years, partners for life.

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Japanese speedskater Nami Nemoto was stabbed in the shoulder Sunday in Berlin and suffered a slight wound in what police described as a skinhead attack, though police said they could not confirm whether the motive for the attack was hate of foreigners.

The stabbing took place as Nemoto was jogging near Berlin’s ice stadium to warm up for a race in the World Cup.

Four to six youths riding bicycles suddenly surrounded her, and one stabbed her with a pointed object, police said.

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Nemoto later took ninth place in the 3,000 meters, which was won by world champion Gunda Niemann of Germany.

“This deeply affected me and gives a very negative image of the Germans,” Niemann said.

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A plan to stage a special track meet in Sarajevo next Sept. 9 is under way, according to The European.

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The meet, which was the idea of Primo Nebiolo, president of the International Amateur Athletic Federation--which governs track and field--reportedly has the full backing of Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, would bring track and field athletes to Sarajevo from Milan after the Grand Prix meet.

Samaranch has reportedly earmarked $1 million toward the rebuilding of the damaged stadium in the Bosnian capital.

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The increase among positive drug tests among weightlifters--64 athletes from 31 countries were recently banned from the sport for life--is due to new drug-testing techniques, according to the International Weightlifting Federation.

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In 1994, there were 17 positive tests out of 1,996; so far this year there have been 64 of 1,031 tests.

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Five to seven exhibition games played by the U.S. Olympic baseball squad before the Games will be against Cuba.

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Croatia’s national basketball team coach Alexander Petrovic has been dismissed, partly because of unrelenting criticism from several of the country’s stars, reports say.


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