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    Thursday, February 19, 1998

    U.S. tries to break medal-less bobsled streak

     NAGANO, Japan (AP) -- Germany's Christoph Langen tried his best to send a message to the rest of the competition in four-man bobsled. Whether it worked remained to be seen.
     Langen had the fastest two runs down the 15-turn Spiral track on Wednesday, and it wasn't even close.
     "He's scary fast," said Brian Shimer, who finished second and fourth to Langen in USA 1, the Spirit of Florida. "We'll see what happens. He ran like that in two-man as well, and in the race he didn't.
     "You never know what everybody's doing in training," said Shimer, who had the two fastest runs Tuesday. "Every now and then, somebody will stick one in there like that to make you either change something or look for something different. We're going with a setup that we know is fast."
     That setup is working just fine as the United States tries to end its 42-year medal drought in bobsled. Art Tyler of Lake Placid, N.Y., was the last driver to bring home an Olympic medal. He won the four-man bronze at Cortina, Italy, in 1956.
     "My team definitely is (confident)," Shimer said. "But me, I'm always worrying. You want to be the fastest team. I'm not going to o in here overconfident. I just want to come in here feeling good about the setup, the team and my driving. If I can be consistent, I think we have a great shot."
     Also running fast in training were defending gold medalist Harald Czudaj in Germany 1, Hubert Schoesser of Austria, and Christian Reich in Switzerland 2.
     Langen was fastest by far at the start Wednesday. Nobody seemed concerned.
     "Nobody knows what games are going on in training," said Jim Herberich, driver of USA 2, the Spirit of Connecticut. "I think we're in good shape. We're certainly within our comfort limit. Nobody knows what's going to happen on race day. My team's been struggling in four-man this year, so any good result is a good result for us."
     Both U.S. teams took Thursday off to rest up for the first day of competition.
     For the 35-year-old Shimer, the break was welcome. He had acupuncture on his back and legs Tuesday night to relieve his aches and pains, but vowed to be ready at race time.
     "We need to come out here Friday and do the best job we can do, and I think everything else will take care of itself," Shimer said. "If it's a gold, hey, that would be a dream come true."
     "We'll do what it takes to win the gold medal," said Shimer's big side-pusher, 245-pound Chip Minton. "Everybody knows. You can look at their eyes, especially after the women won the (hockey) gold medal. That was all heart. They went out and won it, and it's the same with us.
     "After watching that, you can't help but come out here on fire."