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Family plan is golden

Motherhood fails to slow Zhurova

Mother Russia is an Olympic champion.

Juggling motherhood and speedskating, Svetlana Zhurova won gold in the women's 500-meter sprint yesterday in Turin with a 2-year-old son cheering her on back home near St. Petersburg.

''Now, I have a big fan of me that I can do it for," Zhurova said, breaking out in a huge smile.

Something sure clicked after she gave birth to Yaroslav -- ''Yary" for short -- 26 months ago. While many top athletes-turned-mothers never overcome the effects of pregnancy, Zhurova actually improved on the solid, but hardly spectacular results from her younger days.

She resumed training just over a year ago, lost some 40 pounds and came through last month with the biggest win of her career, capturing the world sprint championship at age 34. She topped that in Turin with the first medal -- of any color -- in her fourth trip to the Olympics.

Zhurova had a combined time of 1 minute 16.57 seconds over two 500s skated a couple of hours apart, beating out a pair of Chinese skaters who failed to give that country its first Olympic gold in long-track speedskating.

Wang Manli, the dominant female sprinter since the Salt Lake City Games, settled for the silver, 21-hundredths of a second behind the winner. Rising star Ren Hui took bronze in 1:16.87.

The four Americans were never a factor in an event once dominated by Bonnie Blair. Jennifer Rodriguez had the best showing, 11th, more than a second behind Zhurova.

Amy Sannes was 17th, Elli Ochowicz settled for 23d, and Chris Witty struggled to 28th -- next to last among the skaters who completed both runs.

''We're typically not on the podium," Sannes said. ''It's not like we had any hopes of ending up there. It would have been nice, but I don't think the results were unexpected."


The US men's curling team closed in on a spot in the medal round after it beat New Zealand in eight ends yesterday in Pinerolo, Italy, wrapping things up two frames early a day after a last-rock loss to Finland.

The Americans face host Italy (1-2) today. Throw in another game against the winless Germans and the Americans (2-1) probably need to steal just one or two more victories in their other four games to reach the medal round.

New Zealand (0-3) went scoreless for five straight ends despite having the last rock in four of them.

The US women remained winless through three games after falling to upstart Japan, 6-5, in extra ends.

The American women, silver medalists at the world championships and a medal contender in Turin, faced a big disadvantage in the 11th end because Japan had the chance to throw last. But the problem was exacerbated when American Cassie Johnson missed the target completely with her final throw. Japan needed only to put one in the target to win the game, and Ayumi Onodera did.

With their third consecutive loss, the American women probably need to win at least five of their next six matches to have a chance at the semifinals.


Lina Andersson and Anna Dahlberg of Sweden won gold in the women's cross-country team sprint in Pragelato, Italy, edging Beckie Scott and Sara Renner of Canada.

American Kikkan Randall, who was cleared Monday to compete after her hemoglobin suspension, teamed with Wendy Wagner to make the final in a surprise performance, earning the fifth and final spot out of the second semifinal. They placed 10th -- last -- in the final.

In the men's competition, Bjoern Lind and Thobias Fredriksson of Sweden won the gold, edging the tandem of Jens Arne Svartedal and Tor Arne Hetland of Norway.


Two-time defending Olympic champion Ole Einar Bjoerndalen faltered once again, this time in the 10K, allowing Sven Fischer to give the Germans their second straight gold medal in the men's biathlon in Cesana, Italy.

Bjoerndalen's teammates did well, with Halvard Hanevold winning silver and Frode Andresen bronze. But Bjoerndalen, favored in all five races in Turin, finished 12th. He lost out to German Michael Greis in Saturday's 20K.

American Jay Hakkinen finished 80th out of 90 competitors.

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