Flames and Flickers: Elway feels your pain

SALT LAKE CITY -- A former NFL quarterback who knows
firsthand that you don't always win the big one called to encourage
the U.S. Nordic combined team.

"John Elway gave the guys a call to congratulate them on their
finish in the team event," head coach Tom Steitz said.

The former Denver Broncos' star, on the losing end of three
Super Bowls before winning his last two, phoned Todd Lodwick after
the American team finished fourth in the combined earlier in the

Lodwick, from Steamboat Springs, Colo., is a longtime Elway fan.

"Once Todd figured out it was for real, he got pretty
excited," Steitz said Wednesday. "It (the combined finish) was
our best result ever, but fourth is the hardest place to finish in
the Olympics."

The Americans go again in the Nordic combined sprint, with the
medals determined on Friday.

Short-track vet makes the moment last
Amy Peterson lingered on the ice before skating
the short-track race.

She wanted to fully absorb the atmosphere of her fifth and final

Peterson, 30, is the only skater to have competed in every
Olympics since short track was introduced as a demonstration event
in 1988.

Her last race was the `B' final of the 3,000-meter relay
Wednesday night. The United States finished third.

From Maplewood, Minn., Peterson ended her career with three
Olympic medals -- silver in the 3,000 relay in 1992, and two bronzes
from 1994.

The U.S. flag bearer in the opening ceremony, Peterson has
struggled with chronic fatigue syndrome since 1996.

"There have been a lot of days where I haven't been able to do
anything because of chronic fatigue," she said. "I've been very
lucky to be able to keep going."

Wrottesley just misses putting Ireland on the board
Raise a pint of Guinness to Clifton
Wrottesley, possibly the happiest fourth-place finisher in the

Wrottesley just missed winning Ireland's first ever medal in the
Winter Games when he finished .42 seconds behind the bronze
medalist in skeleton.

But Wrottesley, who financed much of the trip to Salt Lake City
himself, wasn't disappointed.

"This is wonderful," he said. "We've only been at this for 10
years. We're young at this sport."

Ireland doesn't have much snow and its Olympic committee
struggles to raise money for winter sports. Wrottesley wants to
help promote the Winter Games in his country.

During Wednesday's competition, he wore an orange, green and
white racing suit that included a large green shamrock on his

After finishing fourth, he said a celebration was on tap. "I'm
sure we might be able to wrestle a bottle up."

Delayed reaction
Some of Lea Ann Parsley's fellow
firefighters back in Granville, Ohio, wanted to wait and watch her
skeleton race on tape-delay, so they tried to avoid learning the

Visitors entering the firehouse were greeted by red signs that
read, "If you know the results of the race, keep it to yourself."

"I've had my ears closed all day," said Lt. Bob Otter, whose
task was made more difficult by passers-by honking and shouting
"Way to go Lee Ann" after she won the silver medal.

Parsley, 33, has been a volunteer firefighter in Granville for
17 years.

The firefighters moved couches and chairs into the garage where
they normally keep fire trucks and wheeled in two TVs for their
Olympic party.

Finally, some eight hours after the fact, they saw Parsley's
Olympic ride. NBC even showed a clip of Parsley in her firefighting

As they watched Parsley take the silver, the firehouse crowd
roared, with shouts of "Yes!"

Lower your firearm, please
The Japanese Olympic Committee apologized to local
authorities after a cross-country coach inadvertently pointed an
unloaded biathlon rifle at police in Heber City, near the Solider
Hollow venue.

Coach Kazunari Sasaki, who said he had never handled a gun,
asked the biathlon coaches if he could hold one of their rifles. He
pointed the weapon toward a window in their hotel room, and two
police officers in a room directly across the way saw the gun
pointing in their direction.

When the officers came to check, Sasaki was still holding the
rifle as he wheeled to face them.

The JOC commended the officers for the "great restraint they
exhibited in this manner."

Sasaki, speaking through an interpreter, said: "I didn't know
anything about gun etiquette. I heard afterward that if I pointed a
gun at the police officers, they could have shot.

"I'm so glad that they didn't."

Pregnant pause
Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann's 5,000-meter
speedskating world record likely will be broken on the fast ice at
the Olympic Oval.

She won't be the one breaking it.

The German speedskater, who took a gold and two silver medals at
the 1998 Olympics, is pregnant. She's working the games as a
commentator for German television.

Niemann-Stirnemann doesn't expect her 5,000 record of six
minutes, 52.44 seconds, set on the Olympic Oval track last March
10, to survive Saturday's race.

"This is really the best skating rink in the whole world," she
said. "Probably most of the records will not be broken again in a
different place. Even in Calgary they cannot compete with this ice,
on this altitude."

Niemann-Stirnemann has no regrets about being on the sidelines.

"Skating is great. Having a baby in a few months will, as I
hope, be an even greater achievement," said Niemann-Stirnemann.

Kurri elected to athletes' commission
Jari Kurri, an NHL Hall of Famer and an
assistant coach for the Finnish men's team, was elected to the IOC
athletes' commission Thursday.

Alpine Skier Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden, cross-country skier
Manuela Di Centa of Italy and speedskater Adne Sondral of Norway
also were voted onto the panel in balloting by athletes at the

Wiberg and Di Centa, the leading vote-getters, each will serve
eight-year terms; Kurri and Sondral will serve four years on the
19-member panel.

Prince Albert has a royal pain
His highness has a royally pulled hamstring.

Prince Albert of Monaco, competing in his fifth Olympics in
four-man bobsled, is nursing a pulled hamstring that he hopes
doesn't knock him out of Saturday's event.

"I pulled it last week during a sprint session. But in case we
don't do well, I will not use that as an excuse," he said.

The 43-year-old Albert is the oldest driver in the two-day event
that begins Friday. He said previously that these games would be
his last, but he couched that Thursday, saying only, "We're
nearing the end."