Olympics notebook

Track designer felt no pressure

He was not told to make it the fastest

Associated Press / February 24, 2010

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The designer of the crash-plagued Whistler Sliding Centre track said there was never any pressure from Olympic organizers to make the circuit as fast as possible.

“No, not at all, in no shape or form,’’ veteran track designer Ugo Gurgel said in a telephone interview from Berlin.

Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili was killed when his sled flew off the track at speeds nearing 90 miles per hour during a training run just hours before the Olympic flame was lit. After an investigation by local authorities, officials of the Vancouver Organizing Committee and International Luge Federation blamed the fatal crash on human error.

Asked whether the course was too fast, Gurgel replied: “It is fast. As I have said before, if fast means dangerous, then yes.’’

No conflict here
If an American referee is chosen to officiate tomorrow’s women’s hockey gold medal game, Canadian coach Melody Davidson won’t protest.

In fact, she’ll be thrilled.

Davidson said Leah Wrazidlo is a better choice than the two European referees also under consideration by the International Ice Hockey Federation for assignment for the final between the US and Canada.

Davidson respects Wrazidlo and sees no evidence of a national bias. Davidson said she prefers the consistency of North American referees over the sometimes-unpredictable standards of European referees.

Women’s hockey doesn’t allow bodychecking, but the rule is enforced inconsistently.

Fog is getting thicker
Bad weather has returned just in time for the final Alpine skiing at Whistler. Organizers worry that thick fog limiting visibility to 100 yards could create problems for the women’s giant slalom today. Additionally, 1-2 inches of snow was expected overnight, stopping before sunrise. Fog is to follow this, with more wet snow in the afternoon. Women’s race director Atle Skaardal saids the race could be delayed from its 10 a.m. start to the afternoon . . . Lindsey Vonn likes her new role for today’s giant slalom - underdog. After winning gold in the downhill and bronze in the super-G, Vonn doesn’t have much in the way of expectations for the giant slalom. That’s been her worst event, and the only discipline in which she’s never made the podium. “It feels kind of nice to be the underdog!’’ she wrote on her Facebook page.

Plushenko medal hoax
Russian men’s figure skater Evgeni Plushenko isn’t awarding himself a new medal. Or creating one, for that matter. Reports said a picture of the Olympic silver medalist’s latest prize was labeled “platinum of Vancouver’’ on Plushenko’s official website. His medal from the Salt Lake City Games was properly identified as silver. But agent Ari Zakarian said no one had authority to do this “stupid thing,’’ and Plushenko himself was not aware of it. Plushenko, coach Alexei Mishin, and even a few Russian politicians were furious with the results of the men’s competition. Plushenko, the heavy favorite, finished second to American Evan Lysacek despite being the only top contender to land a clean quadruple jump . . . Meet this year’s Olympic good luck charm: Scott Moir, half of Canada’s gold medal-winning ice dancing pair. Moir sat beside Canadian Alexandre Bilodeau to watch the women’s moguls competition, and the next night Bilodeau won gold in the men’s. Moir worked out with Maelle Ricker, and the next day she took the women’s snowboardcross. He said he was hanging out with speedskater Christine Nesbitt the afternoon before she captured gold in the 1,000 meters. Then Moir and partner Tessa Virtue won the ice dance Monday night . . . Vancouver police are keeping downtown liquor stores open at night, for now. Over the weekend, the police called on the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch to cut off sale of alcoholic beverages from its stores at 7 p.m. after widespread complaints about public drunkenness . . . Dan Brooks, whose father, Herb, led the Miracle on Ice team to a gold medal 30 years ago today in Lake Placid, said his father would be delighted by the Americans’ success here. He said his father, who died in 2003, probably would have celebrated today’s anniversary by hanging out with pals at a coffee shop.