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Winter Olympics Produce Upsets, Controversy - 2002-02-22

Thursday was a day of upsets and more controversy at the Winter Olympics.

Russia's delegation threatened to pull out of the Winter Games, claiming clear bias against its athletes.

Russian officials cited problems in figure skating, men's hockey and cross country skiing, particularly a women's cross country ski relay race that took place Thursday without the Russians because of a blood test infraction.

Nine-time Olympic medallist Larissa Lazutina produced a high hemoglobin level, making her, and thus her team, ineligible to compete.

In the absence the favored Russians, Germany won the gold, Norway the silver and Switzerland the bronze.

Meantime, the South Koreans planned to file a lawsuit against the referees of Wednesday's men's 1,500 meters short track speed skating event. A Korean lost the gold medal to an American when he was disqualified for an illegal move near the finish.

In women's figure skating there was an upset winner, with American Sarah Hughes, fourth after the short program, performing the best in the long free skate program to capture the gold medal. "Tonight was probably my greatest skate ever and so it was great that it could happen on the night of the Olympic long program," she said. "Going into the program I really didn't think I had a chance for gold, let alone a medal, because I know the competition is really difficult here. But being in fourth place, I didn't even think about medals, which I usually do. And I just went out and did it for the fun of it and skated because I love to skate."

Favorites Irina Slutskaya of Russia and American Michelle Kwan both had stumbles in their programs. Slutskaya took the silver medal and Kwan, who had been first in the short program, ended up with the bronze.

In women's ice hockey, Canada won the gold medal by edging their arch-rivals and the reigning Olympic champion United States, 3-2. That broke the U.S. team's 35-game winning streak, and ended Canada's losing streak to the Americans at eight.

Jayna Hefford scored what proved to be the deciding goal. "You know, we struggled a lot throughout the year, and we were expected to do well this year," she said. "And as much as everyone said we were a terrible team, and we weren't going to win this, you know, we knew that even though we were losing those games, we were working on things. We were becoming a better team. And we knew when it came down to it, we could overcome all these challenges and that we were going to be better for it and it showed there tonight."

Sweden edged Finland, 2-1, for the women's ice hockey bronze medal.

Gold in women's curling went to Britain, with a close 4-3 victory over Switzerland. Canada and the USA met for the bronze medal, with the Canadians winning, 9-5.

Star Austrian skier Stephan Eberharter won the men's giant slalom gold medal by 88/100ths of a second over American Bode Miller. It was Miller's second silver of the Olympics and he remains the only U-S alpine skier to make the podium here. Norway's Lasse Kjus got the bronze.