Nagano Diary

February 9 1998

Nagano Diary

February 9 1998

Nagano Diary

A Canadian Guide to the 1998 Winter Games

FEBRUARY 7-22

On top of the sports world

DAY 1 7 FEBRUARY

CBC: 8 a.m.-l p.m. and 7-11 p.m. (opening ceremonies, the men’s downhill) CBS: 4-6 p.m., 8-11 p.m. and 11:35 p.m.-12:35 a.m (All times EST.)

Nagano used to be a temple town. Now, it welcomes pilgrims of a different kind.

Nagano, Japan, was once known only for its orchards, its clear rivers and its Zenkoji Temple, a sixth-century Buddhist shrine. Despite a substantial postwar industrialization, it has remained a relative backwater compared with larger Japanese cities. But for 16 days starting on Feb. 7, the city of two million, 170 km northwest of Tokyo, will be the centre of the sporting universe as host of the XVIII Winter Olympic Games. Three thousand athletes are descending on Nagano, each with dreams of glory. As a country, Canada heads to the Land of the Rising Sun with more firepower than at any previous Winter Olympics. The approximately 150-member team has serious medal contenders in figure skating, bobsleigh, hockey, longand short-track speed skating, freestyle skiing, snowboarding and curling. Together, they should eclipse the Canadian record of 13 medals, set at Lillehammer in 1994. “It will definitely be our best Winter

Games ever,” predicted Canadian Olympic Association head Carol Anne Letheren. If everything falls into place, she added, “it could be phenomenal.”

In the Nagano diary on the following pages, Maclean’s outlines the people, the events and the places of interest to Canadians for each day of the Games. Because of the time difference—Japan is 1272 hours ahead of Newfoundland, 14 hours ahead of Central Canada and 17 hours ahead of British Columbia— readers will have to consult local listings for exact broadcast times for events. In some cases, events will be shown in Canada the night before their scheduled time in Japan. The opening ceremonies on Feb. 7, for instance, will be seen late on Feb. 6 in Canada, and coverage of the men’s gold-medal hockey game on Feb. 22 will begin at 8:30 p.m. PST on Feb. 21.

The guide to the Games was prepared by contributor Steve Brearton, Sports Editor James Deacon, Executive Editor Bob Levin, Art Director Nick Burnett and Designer Eric Legge.

General Motors of Canada, a proud sponsor ofCBC’s broadcast of the Winter Games, is pleased to join Canadians in cheering on our team in Nagano. For 16 days in February, Canadians will be following the daily exploits of our athletes and we are pleased to support this special pullout armchair guide to the Games.

DAY 2 8 FEBRUARY

CBC: 12-4:30 a.m., 6-9 a.m. (repeated 9 a.m.-12 p.m.), 2-5 p.m. and 8-11 p.m. CBS: 36 p.m., 8-11 p.m. and 11:35 p.m.-12:35 a.m. (All times EST.)

DAILY HIGHLIGHTS

Fi§ure skating may get better TV ratings in North Ktf America, but in Europe the Winter Games’ glamor event is still the men’s downhill ski race. At Hakuba today, Hermann Maier and his Austrian teammates, who have dominated the World Cup circuit this season, are the heavy favorites, leaving 1994 bronze medallist Edi Podivinski of Edmonton and Brian Stemmle of Aurora, Ont., with only outside shots at the podium.

On the ice, Canada kicks off the first-ever women’s Olympic 'A* hockey tournament against the ‘ 1

SPOTLIGHT

MARK FAWCETT is

Canada’s chairman of the board—at least on snow.

The 25-year-old from Saint John, N.B., is the top Canadian contender in the men’s giant slalom snowboarding competition, which begins today on Mount Yakebitai, just northeast of Nagano. The veteran racer took up the sport 13 years ago after attaching his skateboard to a snowboard so he could “skate” in winter. By 1991, he had won his first North American super-G title, and last season Fawcett finished second overall on the international circuit. His main competition today is expected to come from France’s Nicolas Conte, American Jeff Greenwood and fellow Canuck Ross Rebagliatti of Whistler, B.C.

THE DOWNHILL COURSE

The men’s downhill competition got nasty months before a skier even left the gate. When the Nagano Olympic Committee first unveiled the downhill course at the Happo’one ski area in Hakuba, 40 km northwest of Nagano City, the Fédération international de ski complained it was too short and not demanding enough. At one point, federation president Marc Hodler threatened to pull the event from the Games (he later claimed it was a joke) and compared Makoto Kobayashi, the organizing committee’s director-general, to Fidel Castro. Kobayashi maintained that adding to the course would threaten the fragile alpine environment, but eventually gave in and moved the start line farther up the mountain.

DAY 3 9 FEBRUARY

CBC: 12-3 a.m., 5-9 a.m. (repeated 9 a.m.-l p.m.), 2-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. CBS: 8-11 p.m. (All times EST.)

HOn the trails, Montrealer Myriam Bédard, double gold medallist in Norway in 1994, defends her title in the women’s 15-km biathlon. It has not been a banner season for Bédard—her top showing so far is a 15th-place finish in Sweden—but she cannot be counted out.

Elsewhere, Canada plays an improving Chinese team in women’s hockey, and in men’s luge, aficionados will be watching top-ranked Italian Armin Zoeggeler challenge the two-time Olympic champion Georg Hackl of Germany at the Spiral on the outskirts of Nagano City. The lone Canadian in the event is Clay Ives of Bancroft, Ont.

Salisbury, N.B., native STACY WILSON, the captain of the women’s national hockeyteam, is one of the lesser-known members of the squad. She played in a boys’ league in the 1970s until, at age 13, she was forced to hang up her skates because she felt she was too small to play with boys at that level.

She resumed competing again at Acadia University and, four years later, she was selected to play for the national team.

A strong two-way forward, Wilson, 32, figures 1998 is likely her last opportunity to play at the Games.

“The Olympics are the ultimate goal in an athlete’s life,” says Wilson. “I’m going to give it everything I have.”

THE BIATHLON CIRCUIT

Nozawa Onsen Village is renowned in Japan for its medicinal hot springs, but for the purposes of the Games it is the site of the biathlon course. Authorities had to secure special exemptions to Japan’s strict gun-control laws to accommodate a sport that requires competitors to race on cross-country skis and shoot at targets with rifles.

DAY 4 10 FEBRUARY

CBC: 12-3 a.m., 6-9:30 a.m. (repeated 9:30 a.m.-l p.m.), 2-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. CBS: 12:35-1:35 a.m. and 8-11:30 p.m. (All times ESI)

DAILY HIGHLIGHTS

Bln Karuizawa, Sandra Schmirler of Regina and

Mike Harris of West Hill, Ont., begin their respective campaigns for curling gold with matches against American rinks in preliminary action.

HAt the White Ring arena, Canada’s two pairs teams— Kristy Sargeant and Kris Wirtz, and Marie-Claude SavardGagnon and Luc Bradet—will skate their short programs against the Russian favorites Marina Eltsova and Andrei Bushkov.

In only his second season on the national longtrack team, JEREMY WOTHERSPOON of Red Deer, Alta., has rocketed to the top of the speed-skating world.

While he had been considered a hot prospect, no one at Speed-skating Canada predicted Wotherspoon would start the current World Cup season with four victories, sweep the men’s 500-, 1,000and 1,500-m events at the Canadian Olympic trials in December, and set a new world record in the 1,000 m. There is more.

“I still feel it is possible to go faster,” he says. And that is likely what it will take to win gold at the skating oval in Nagano, when he will face other top contenders Manabu Horii of Japan and Lee Kyu-Hyuk of South Korea.

THE CLAP SKATE

The revolutionary Clap Skate blade design has helped speed skaters shave seconds off previously unassailable world records. Invented in Holland more than 30 years , the design did not gain acceptance in the skating world until last year. The skate is hinged at the toe of the boot so the heel lifts at the back of the skate, which decreases drag by increasing the amount of time that the blade remains on the ice.

DAY 5 11 FEBRUARY

CBC: 12-3 a.m., 5-9 a.m. (repeated 9 a.m.-l p.m.), 2-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. CBS: 1:05-2:05 a.m. and 8-11 p.m. (All times EST.)

Italian skier Deborah Compagnoni, the prohibitive favorite, tries to repeat as Olympic champion in the women's super giant slalom.

At the ski-jumping venue at Hakuba, Masahiko Harada, one IBK of Japan’s best medal hopes, will compete in the 90-m event.

HAt the M-Wave skating oval in Nagano, long-track speed skater Ingrid Liepa of Ottawa takes on world record holder Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann of Germany in the women’s 3,000 m.

SPOTLIGHT

On the slopes of the I¡zuna Kogen ski area north of Nagano City, JEAN-LUC BRASSARD

of Valleyfield, Que., competes in the finals of men’s moguls and kicks off what could be the start of a Canadian freestyleskiing gold rush. The team is so strong that Brassard, the defending Olympic champion, may get his toughest challenges from Stephane Rochon of Laval Que., Dominik Gauthier of Levis, Que., and Ryan Johnson of Calgary.

The introduction of snowboarding to the Olympics also takes snowboarding jargon out of the X-Games milieu and into the mainstream.

Some examples:

Freestyle: refers to performing tricks and manoeuvres in the half-pipe or on a slope

Half-pipe: a snow course shaped like a pipe cut lengthwise

Regular-footed: riding a snowboard with the left foot

forward. A rider is “goofy-footed” when the

right foot is forward

Bail (or pack or crater): fall down

Boost: catching air off a jump

Corkscrew: a fast and tight rotation

Fakie: riding backwards

Inverted aerial: when the rider is upside down in the air. 360: a single complete rotation (720 entails two complete rotations, and so on)

DAY 6 12 FEBRUARY

CBC: 12-3 a.m., 5-9 a.m. (repeated 9 a.m.-l p.m.), 2-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. CBS: 12:35-1:35 a.m. and &-11 p.m. (All times EST.)

Norwegian king of the hill Terje Haakonsen is _boycotting today’s freestyle half-pipe event because he objects to the secrecy and lavish living of the International Olympic Committee members. That leaves the gold up for grabs among the snowboarding elite, including Brent Carpentier of Mont Tremblant, Que. The women’s event is less controversial but no less competitive. Calgary’s Tara Teigen and Vancouver’s Natasza Zurek will challenge American Shannon Dunn.

HAt the M-Wave, speed skater Neal Marshall of Coquitlam, B.C., hopes to overcome a season-long battle with exerciseinduced asthma to gain a spot in today’s 1,500-m competition. Marshall was the overall World Cup champion at 1,500 m in the 1994-1995 season. Kevin Overland of Calgary, Jeremy Wotherspoon of Red Deer, Alta., and Steven Elm of Ottawa are the other Canadians in a field led by Rinte Ritsma and Ids Postma of Holland.

At a five-kilometre classic race in Italy in mid-December, BECKIE SCOTT of Vermilion,

Alta., did something that no Canadian woman has done in a decade—she cracked the top 10 at a World Cup cross-country ski race, with an eighthplace finish. Although Scott, 23, is the only Canadian woman competing on the World Cup circuit this season, she will not be alone in Nagano:

Sara Renner of Canmore,

Alta., and Milaine Theriault of St-Quentin, Que., also qualified for the Olympics in the five-kilometre and 15-km classic events, and the 10-km pursuit and 30-km free events. The race today is the 10-km pursuit, and the favorites are Bente Martinsen of Norway and Larissa Lazutina of Russia.

KANBAYASHI PARK

The alpine resort at Yamanuchi Town, in the Higashidate and Yakebitai mountains, hosts the slalom and snowboarding events. The first ski resort in the area dates to 1921. Today, the best known is Shiga Kogen, one of the largest ski centres in the world, attracting two million visitors annually. The snowboard half-pipe event is held in the Kanbayashi Snowboard Park in Yamanuchi Town and the snowboard giant slalom and alpine slalom events will be at nearby Mount Yakebitai. The Yamanouchi area also boasts nine outdoor hot springs.

DAY 7 13 FEBRUARY

CBC: 12-3:30 a.m., 4:303:30 a.m, (repeated 9 a.m.-l p.m.), 2-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m, CBS: 12:303 a.m. and 8-11 p.m, (All times EST.

LIGHTS

Edi Podivinski of Edmonton competes in the men's super-G race in Hakuba, but it, like the downhill, is dominated by Austrians, led by Stefan Erberharter and the ubiquitous Hermann Maier.

FT52 *n women s hockey, Team Canada plays Finland. ¡Jil In Karuizawa Town, both Canadian rinks continue round-robin play in curling.

SPOTLIGHT

Five years can be a lifetime for an athlete. KATE PACELINDSAY was only 23 when she claimed the world downhill champi onship in MariokoShizukuishi, Japan, in 1993. The North Bay,

Ont., skier went on to compílelo top five finishes, including two firsts, by the 1995 season.

Since then, however,

Pace-Lindsay has been plagued by a series of minor injuries, and she enters her second Olympics in a prolonged slump. But she remains one of the great gliders on the circuit, which should give her a fighting chance when she bursts out of the gate in tonight’s women’s downhill (although it is scheduled for Saturday, it will be televised Friday night in Canada because of the time difference).

THE BIG HAT

The Big Hat in Nagano is one of two hockey venues and the site of the women’s final. Named for the profile of the roof, the building is glass, steel and concrete on the outside, while

the inside features visible steel beams and perfect sight

lines. The arena has a retractable roof that will be used in

summer when the building is turned into a municipal swimming pool. The second hockey venue and site of the men’s final is the Aqua Wing in central Nagano.

DAY 8 14 FEBRUARY

CBC: 12-3:30 a.m., 4:30-9:30 a.m. (repeated 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.), 2:30-5:30 p.m., 7-10 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.-3 a.m. CBS: 12:303 a.m., 2:303 p.m., 7-11 p.m. and 11:35 p.m.-2 a.m. (All times EST.)

B Canada’s curlers begin their medal rounds in Karuizawa Town.

QAt the Spiral in Nagano, Pierre Lueders takes the first of two runs in the two-man bobsleigh competition.

□ On the slopes, Kate Pace-Lindsay of North Bay, Ont., hopes to regain her world championship form in the women’s downhill, but Katja Seizinger, a six-time winner on the World Cup circuit this season, is the favorite.

a In hockey, Canada’s women play the United States, and the men take on Sweden.

SPOTLIGHT

ELVIS STOJKO can do in Nagano what no other Canadian has ever done—win gold in men’s figure skating. The 25-yearold from Richmond Hill, Ont., is the best jumper and the most consistent performer in the sport, and when the competition concludes today, he will likely unleash his trademark quadruple toe loop. But the three-time world champion is no shoo-in. The contenders include American Todd Eldredge and two Russians, 1997 European champ Alexi Yagudin and Ilia Kulik, each of whom has the talent to win—if they handle the crushing pressure of an Olympic final.

The Spiral bobsleigh and luge track was constructed in an 18-hectare wooded area near Mount lizuna, located on the northern boundary of Nagano City. The track follows the natur^ , al topography and has two unique uphill sections. The ice on the track já ^ is monitored in 56 places to en^ £ ¿S' sure a consistent temperature.

Red may be the traditional Valentine's Day color, but CATRIONA LEMAY DOAN would prefer gold in 1998. The world's top female sprinter this season and holder of the 500-rn world record, LeMay Doan is the favorite at the M-Wave in the 500-rn speed-skating final. In fact, she is a triple threat: the 27-year-old from Saskatoon has dominated the 500 m, holds the world record at 1,500 rn and is the World Cup points leader over1,000 rn. And after breaking her own 500-rn record in December, she told reporters: "I made a couple of mistakes-I can still go faster." Today, she and 1994 silver medallist Susan Auch of Winnipeg battle American Kathy Witty in the women s 500 m final

THE. WHITE RING rBuilt on the site of an ancient battlefield, the White Ring arena features a roof designed to look like a droplet of water. It is the only indoor facility to host two sports-figure skating and short-track speed skating. The building rises nearly 40 m and its rounded stainless-steel panels are designed to symbolize the grace and beauty of figure skating. Temporary refrigeration equipment will be removed after the Olympics and a wooden floor will be built to convert the White Ring into a gymnasium.

DAY 9 15 FEBRUARY

CBC: 5-9 a.m. (repeated 9 a.m.-l p.m. ), 2-5 p.m., 7-11 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.-3 a.m. CBS: 46 p.m., 8-11 p.m. and 11:35 p.m.-2 a.m. (AII times EST.)

The curling finals will both be played today at Kazakoshi Park Arena in Karuizawa Town. Sandra Schmirler’s Regina rink and Mike Harris’s

quartet from West Hill, Ont., went to the Games as gold-medal favorites—Schmirler is a threetime world champion, while Harris had to defeat several world champions to win the Olympic trials in Brandon, Man., last November.

H Canadian skaters Shae-Lynn Bourne and Victor Kraatz perform their original dance. Biathlete Myriam Bédard defends her 7.5-km title.

PIERRE LUEDERS is the dominant pilot on the World Cup two-man bobsleigh scene thanks to his powerful starts and precise driving.

Today, the threetime world champion will take on the Spiral, a track built into the foothills of Mount lizuna just north of Nagano. Lueders used three different brakemen in his first three World Cup wins this season, and even now he may not decide between Ken LeBlanc of Ottawa and Charlottetown’s Dave MacEachern until just before the event.

KARUIZAWA TOWN

Olympic curling takes place at Kazakoshi Park Arena in Karuizawa Town, 90 km southeast of Nagano City. Sitting at the foot of Mount Asama, Karuizawa is a popular summer destination—every year more than eight million visitors flock to the area to play tennis and golf, and view the abundant wildlife, including more than 130 different species of birds. Karuizawa hosted the equestrian competition at the 1964 Tokyo Games, making it the first city in the world to host events for both Winter and Summer Olympics.

DAY 10 16 FEBRUARY

CBC: 5-9 a.m. (repeated 9 a.m.-l p.m.), 2-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. CBS: 1-6 p.m., 8-11 p.m. (All times EST.)

H Men's and women’s freestyle aerial competitions get under way at the I ¡zuna Kogen ski area on the outskirts of Nagano City.

QTeam Canada plays the United States in what could be a preview of the men’s hockey final.

B Canadians Catriona LeMay Doan and Cindy Overland take to the speed-skating oval again for preliminaries of the women’s 1,500-m event.

SPOTLIGHT

Five-time Canadian champions and world bronze medallists SHAE-LYNN BOURNE and VICTOR KRAATZ skate their vibrant new Riverdance routine tonight, but it may not be enough to propel them to the top of the Olympic podium. The competition is extremely tough, and there is mounting concern that some countries’ judges are “block voting” in support of Russian champions Oksana Grishuk and Yvgeny Platov. “I feel that sometimes the results are already decided before the competition,” said Natalia Dubova, Bourne and Kraatz’s Russian coach.

THE M-WAVE

Set among rice paddies and apple orchards, the M-Wave speed-skating oval features an Mshaped roof that rises in increments to mirror the mountain range that provides its backdrop. Architects have borrowed from traditional

Japanese design by giving Asia’s largest timber roof the look of Japanese lattices. But the state-of-the-art arena also features 10,000 heated seats that can be reconfigured in 10 different arrangements for assorted sports at the flick of a switch.

DAY 11 17 FEBRUARY

CBC: 12-3 a.m., 4-8 a.m. (includes women’s gold-medal hockey game and will be repeated 9 a.m.-l p.m.), 2-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. CBS: 1:058:30 a.m., 8-11 p.m. (All times EST.)

Short-track speed skating begins at the White Ring in Nagano City. Canada will be without 1994 silver-medallist Nathalie Lambert, who tore ligaments in her ankle in November, but the talent pool is deep on this team. Today, Marc Gagnon of Montreal will skate for gold in the men’s 1,000 m, as will the women’s relay team featuring Isabelle Charest of Montreal and Annie Perreault of Rock Forest, Que. Also today, speed skaters Jeremy Wotherspoon, Kevin Overland and Sylvain Bouchard skate in the 1,000-m long-track final.

They are hardly household names and most work at regular jobs to support their athletic pursuits. But the members of Canada’s women’s hockey team left for Nagano with great expectations. The team has won four straight world championships, and it would take an epic upset for the Canadians to not make today’s gold-medal game. Yes, the team was shaken somewhat by a loss to the United States at a pre-Olympic tournament in December. And the much-vaunted team chemistry was sorely tested when forward Angela James challenged coach Shannon Miller’s decision to leave her off the Nagano roster. But the Canadian squad remains formidable. Led by star forward HAYLEY WICKENHEISER of Calgary and captain Stacy Wilson of Salisbury, N.B., Team Canada hopes fans will get to know them better with their helmets off and gold medals around their necks.

THE SOUTHERNMOST GAMES EVER

The weather could be a big story in Nagano. In February, the region is prone to sudden changes that can bring anything from fog and rain to blizzards and high winds. More ominous, meteorologists predict the El Niño effect will cause warmer-than-normal temperatures. Nagano is the southernmost Winter Olympics location and, in mid-December, jagged rocks and mud were still visible on the downhill course at Hakuba. But worries eased somewhat in January when the area was blanketed by several snowstorms.

DAY 12 18 FEBRUARY

CBC: 12-3:30 a.m., 4:308:30 a.m. (repeated 9 a.m.-l p.m.), 2-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. CBS: 12:358 a.m. and 8-11 p.m. (All times ESI)

Thomas Grandi of Banff competes today in the men’s giant slalom on Mount Higashidate in Yamanouchi.

In November, Grandi became the first Canadian to place in the top three at a World Cup giant slalom race. Switzerland’s Michael von Gruenigen is one of the prerace favorites, but charismatic Italian star Alberto Tomba, a three-time Olympic champion, still demonstrates occasional flashes of brilliance, winning a World Cup race last month.

On the ice, meanwhile, the men’s hockey tournament begins quarter-final play at the Big Hat.

SPOTLIGHT

Canada goes into today’s freestyle aerials with a chance to sweep the men’s medals, and the women could take two medals, too. NICOLAS FONTAINE of Magog, Que., Andy Capicik of Toronto and David Belhumeur of Montreal left no room on the squad for aerials veteran Lloyd Langlois, a two-time world champion and 1994 Olympic bronze medallist. Fontaine is renowned for the most difficult repertoire of jumps ever seen on the freestyle circuit. On the women’s side,

Veronica Brenner of Shannon, Ont., was last season’s overall women’s champion, and Caroline Olivier of Cap-Rouge, Que., currently sits in third place in the World Cup standings behind Brenner and leader Nikki Stone of the United States.

r APPLES AND INDUSTRY

Sitting at the junction of the Chikuma and Sai rivers, Nagano began as an agricultural town known mainly for its apple and peach orchards. Since the Second World War, high-tech companies such as Seiko-Epson, Fujitsu and Olympus have moved into the area because the region’s clean air and fresh water are important in the production of sophisticated electronics.

CBC: 128 a.m., 5-9 a.m. (repeated 9 a.m.-l p.m.), 2-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. CBS: 12:35-1:35 a.m. and 8-11 p.m. (All times EST.)

DAY 13 19 FEBRUARY

H Canada’s Catriona LeMay Doan renews her rivalry with American Chris Witty in the 1,000-m long-track speedskating final. Witty beat LeMay Doan in world-record time at a meet in December.

ISABELLE CHAREST, the world-record holder at 500 m, leads a powerful Canadian women's short-track speed-skating team into today’s 500-m final. The 27-year-old Montrealer won a silver in Lillehammer, and is poised to do even better despite the deep field in Nagano. “The Chinese and Koreans are very strong," she says, “but I’m very confident.” Annie Perreault of Rock Forest, Que., and Montrealers Tania Vincent and Christine Boudrias round out the 500-m team.

KEEPING THE FAITH

The original Zenkoji Temple was built in the sixth century to house the first image of Buddha brought to Japan from Korea. That bronze statue disappeared, but the subsequent copy of the Buddha is deemed so holy it is displayed only once every: seven years (the most recent showing was last spring). Fires; destroyed earlier temples; the present building, erected in 1707, is the third-largest wooden structure in Japan, and its main hall is designated a national treasure.

DAY 14 20 FEBRUARY

CBC: 12-3:30 a.m., 4:308:30 a.m. (repeated 9 a.m.-l p.m.), 2-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. CBS: 12:353 a.m. and 8-11:30 p.m. (All times EST.)

HCBS loves figure skating. In 1994, the Tonya HardingNancy Kerrigan scandal propelled the women’s event in Norway to record TV ratings for the U.S. broadcaster. And while no one has attacked a skater so far in 1998, CBS should again attract a huge audience for tonight’s women’s final thanks to the presence of American stars Michelle Kwan and Tara Lipinski, the 1996 and 1997 world champions, respectively.

□ In alpine skiing, meanwhile, the women’s giant slalom will feature double Olympic champion Deborah Compagnoni of Italy and German star Katja Seizinger.

MELANIE TURGEON is only 21, but she has been a fixture on the national ski team since 1994, when she won five medals, including two golds, at the world junior championships in Lake Placid, N.Y. But injuries, among other things, led to a string of disappointing seasons—her best finish on the World Cup circuit is a fifth in a giant slalom race. Last summer, she undertook a much more rigorous dry-land training program, but mainly, she says, she is wiser for having survived the adversity. “I’m a lot sharper mentally,” says Turgeon, “because I went through a lot of crap.”

HAKUBA VILLAGE

Hakuba Village, site of the men’s and women’s downhill and super-G events, cross-country and ski jumping, is situated in what are known as the Northern Japanese Alps. The peaks tower 3,000 m above the village and are a haven for

nearly three million skiers and 600,000 mountaineers yearly. The downhill course at the Happo’one ski area is one of the few slopes in Japan that has the 800-m vertical drop required for the event. The alpine races face possible delays because of Hakuba’s penchant for fog.

DAY 15 FEBRUARY 21

CBC: 123:30 a.m., 59 a.m. (repeated 9 a.m.-l p.m.), 2-5 p.m. and 7-11 p.m. CBS: 1:053:30 a.m., 13 p.m., 7-11 p.m., 11:35 p.m.-12:35 a.m. Because of the time difference, coverage of Sunday’s men’s hockey final will begin on CBC starting at 11:30 p.m. Saturday night. (All times EST.)

Pierre Lueders will trade his two-man sled to pilot a four-man bobsleigh in the final day of competition at the Spiral at lizuna Kogen. Veteran Chris Lori of Windsor, Ont., will pilot the second Canadian entry.

On the trails, Bjorn Daehlie of Norway is ranked No. 1 going into today’s 50-km cross-country race. iTl Indoors, the men’s bronze-medal hockey game will be ¿JSa played in Nagano.

SPOTLIGHT

At 22, short-track speed skater MARC GAGNON has already amassed impressive career statistics. The Montrealer has claimed three gold and two silver medals at the previous five world championships, and won a bronze medal at the Lillehammer Olympics in 1994. Known for his aggressive style, Gagnon is a favorite in the 1,000-m and 500-m events in Nagano (he holds the world record in the 1,000 m), and will anchor a strong men’s relay team.

HAPPY TRAILS

The cross-country skiing venue is located at Kamishiro

in Hakuba Village, 30 km

west of Nagano. The course is five kilometres long, so spectators will get to see Daehlie and others pass by 10 times before today’s race ends.

DAY 16 22 FEBRUARY

CBC: 12-3 a.m. (gold-medal hockey game), 3:30-6 a.m. (closing ceremonies, repeated 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m.),

2-5 p.m. (repeat of hockey game) and 7-11 p.m.

CBS: 12-1 p.m., 3:306 p.m., 8-11 p.m., 11:35 p.m.-12:35 a.m. (All times EST.)

the gold medal is awarded today in men’s hockey, anything less than victory will be considered a failure for Team Canada. General manager Bobby Clarke made significant changes to the squad, which last lost to the United States at the World Cup. He added size, speed and players such as forward Rob Zamuner to help counter the Americans’ tight-checking style and, in a controversial move, left off Mark Messier. In Nagano, leadership of the team is expected to shift from veterans such as WAYNE GRETZKY and Steve Yzerman to younger players such as ERIC LINDROS and Joe Sakic. The United States, Sweden, the Czech Republic,

Russia and Finland could all challenge Canada for gold.

After the men’s hockey final, the closing ceremonies will take place at Minami Nagano Sports Park. The stadium there, used only for opening and ending the Games, is designed in the shape of a cherry blossom with the seating sections structurally split from one another to resemble giant petals.